The plastic problem around the world isn’t just in our oceans threatening our wildlife. It’s also invading our kitchens. According to National Geographic, microplastic has been found in a whopping 90% of table salt. There’s no one else to blame but us humans and our unbridled use of plastic. The Philippines is actually one of the worst offenders, coming out as the third largest contributor to ocean plastic!
We found ways you can reduce your plastic use in the kitchen. Going completely zero-waste might be too big of a challenge at first, so we’ve thought of simple and easy yet doable plastic waste management practices that you can still do. It’s not all-or-nothing. Every little change counts if we all work together.
Plus, there’s a little incentive that comes with giving a little love to the planet. These green practices will actually help you save money in the long run. Here are those simple practices to help you use less plastic in the kitchen:
1 Bring containers you already have when you shop.
The key to less waste is to use less—so use what you already have. If you’ve got glass jars, plastic containers, and bento boxes, then use those. Whenever they’re not in use, store them in your car or in one bag that you can grab and take with you when shopping. If you really don’t have enough containers or if you’ve worn them down completely, then be mindful of the new containers you eventually find yourself buying (more on that later).
2 Note the plastic containers of the goods you buy.
Plastic use actually starts when you start shopping. Single-use plastics abound when we do our groceries: whether it’s in the sando bag we carry home or in the flimsy cellophane plastics they use to wrap the veggies. Plastic containers for products also come in by the number: think plastic bottles and sachets our condiments come in. How do you work around these challenges then? Ask your grocer – or do it yourself! – to place your goods in those containers you brought instead of using the provided plastic bags.
3 Cotton tote bags are not the answer but don’t throw away the ones you have.
If you already have cotton tote bags, go ahead and use them but don’t buy new ones. Cotton actually requires a lot of water and resources to be produced. So much so that you’ll have to reuse a cotton tote bag 20,000 times before it evens out with the resources used for a single plastic bag. The good thing, however, about tote bags is that once they can no longer be used as a bag, you can cut them up and turn them into a rag.
4 Paper bags are also not the way to go. Recycle old paper instead.
Paper bags are not actually eco-friendly. Worse still is that they easily disintegrate with moisture and baggers will often use another paper bag for frozen goods. Keep in mind that manufacturing paper cuts down trees, consumes a lot of water to recycle and manufacture which, in turn, actually releases harmful substances into the environment. If you need a sort of wrap, go for old newspapers or scratch papers. Reusing is always the best way to go.
5 Consider a reusable polyester bag or traditional bayong.
These bags use fewer resources and are more durable than your standard eco or cotton bag. This will allow you to reuse them more often. In addition, a traditional bayong is made of compostable material.
6 Reuse carton boxes.
A lot of groceries will offer to reuse their carton boxes for packaging. Jump right on board with these as these carton boxes would otherwise be disposed of. You can even bring carton boxes that haven’t been completely disintegrated. Once the carton box can no longer be used, you can shred it into your compost.
7 Choose glass jars over plastic bottles, plastic packaging and laminated cartons.
If you’re buying condiments, you’ll most likely run into a lot of sachets, plastic or aluminum packaging, and other single-use packaging. Buy ones in glass jars instead. Glass jars are more easily reusable and recyclable.
8 Buy in bulk.
Some staples such as corn oil can be bought in large tin cans instead of plastic bottles. Just remember to make sure to store your bulk items correctly so they don’t spoil and lead to even more wastage. Buying in bulk may be expensive at first, but these purchases save you money in the long run.
9 Buy leaf-packaged veggies.
Dizon’s farm now sells their veggies wrapped in compostable, plastic-free leaves! These are the best possible non-plastic packaging for your vegetables.
10 Go to local wet markets as much as possible.
Not only do they offer better prices, but there’s no packing involved that you can’t refuse. You can buy 30 eggs which you can store in a carton box you bring or in a recyclable egg carton instead of those plastic shells. You can buy beans, meats, veggies, and rice and use your choice of container. If you’re having trouble with the heavy containers at the wet market, though, we strongly advise you buy a trolley to help you with your many purchases.
11 Forgot to bring your stuff? Here’s a hack.
When buying fresh produce, of course, you need to go with the naked ones, free of plastic wraps and meshes. Still, these goods need to be weighed and then given a sticker for the price. Yes, it’s better if you carried your own containers, but if you hadn’t, here’s what you can do to at least minimize plastic use:
First, gather all your fresh produce in one cart. Have each weighed per fruit or vegetable. Then, place all the leafy veggies, soft fruits, and any tiny pieces in one plastic bag with the different sticker prices placed on the plastic. The hardier ones can even stay naked with the sticker stuck on each one to lessen your plastic use even more. This way, you’ll need the least amount of plastic bags instead of individually wrapping them.
12 Try Zero-Waste Shops.
Ritual and Humble Market are two zero-waste shops you should try patronizing as they offer package-free shopping. You can also buy cleaning products that come in reused containers or better yet, bring your own container to simply have a refill.
13 Don’t throw away the plastic materials you have—instead, upcycle them.
Plastic, in itself, is not the problem. It’s throwing away plastic that results in trouble. So, if you’ve got plastic items in your kitchen, don’t throw them out. Instead, use them again until they can no longer be used at all. Even then, you can find a way to reuse them. This goes for those peanut butter jars, ketchup bottles, and plastic utensils.
14 Skip plastic wrap or buy or make your own beeswax wrap.
Single-use plastics, such as cellophane wraps and plastic wraps, to be honest, make kitchen life really easy. However, they are one of the worst offenders. Instead, you can buy recyclable, reusable beeswax wrap that mimics plastic wrap from Island Happy Zero-Waste Products and Beauty MNL.
15 Consider changing your cleaning products.
Don’t throw away your cleaning materials just yet! Wait until you’ve completely used it and then switch to plastic-free, eco-friendly alternatives. Instead of artificial sponges and brushes, try a coconut husk dish scrubber or dish brush. Instead of steel wool which eventually disintegrates, get a stainless steel scrubber. These alternatives are fairly easy to do. You can find these at Paralúman or Ritual PH.
16 Manage waste by making eco bricks.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: the main problem with plastic is not so much plastic, but waste management. The combined lack of infrastructure needed to properly recycle plastics and our own lack of proper waste disposal practices is what may contribute to the environmental disaster we’re trying to forestall. You can attempt to reduce your plastic use as much as you can, but you’ll still find yourself with some plastic you do need to throw away.
That’s where eco bricks come in. It’s basically a plastic liter bottle that you densely fill with clean, dry, plastic waste. These bricks are then handed to organizations which will turn your plastic waste bottle into a stable and free brick used for housing.
Keep in mind that every little change you make counts. In the society we live in, the changes you make in your lifestyle will take time. Be patient with yourself. Yes, it takes a little effort, but it’s so worth it. When we give our environment the love and respect it deserves, it will eventually love us right back.
Do you have any more kitchen hacks for a plastic-free life? Tell us below!