So much of our lives contains plastic. I’m not talking Mean Girls here. I mean single-use plastic that accounts for 30 - 50 kilograms of waste produced per person per year in South Africa. The kitchen space is the largest culprit with food packaging and containers, cutlery, and dishes being some of the items producing the most plastic waste. Most of these items aren’t reused or recycled and much of it ends up in the marine environment.
There are solutions, though. You can incrementally rid your kitchen of single-use plastics, and eventually replace plastics entirely. Here are some tips.
Ditch the plastic bags
Invest in a few cloth bags for your vegetables. Along with your shopping totes, choose fresh vegetables from the produce bins rather than the individually packaged veggies in the aisles. You can find some of these at Faithful to Nature or Shop Zero. These cloth bags should be made of natural fibres rather than synthetic materials but recycled, reusable plastics make for hardy items.
Give up the bottled water
Make it a habit to carry stainless steel or reusable glass water bottles like this one. Aside from being naturally BPA-free, metal or glass is infinitely reusable, rids your kitchen of unnecessary plastic and saves you money on the bottled stuff that pollutes the planet.
Switch to silicone or silicone-coated steel/wood
Plastic utensils might be a great idea for those who can’t stand the sound of scraping pots (I hate it) but these need to be replaced quite regularly and cannot be recycled. Instead, you could go for silicone. If you’re going for style, wood and silicone are beautiful and silicone-coated steel will last you forever.
Replace the containers
Sorry, mum. I know you’ve had the Tupperware for decades, but it has to go. This is a bit more difficult, but it can be done one by one. Although glass may be expensive, it is a worthwhile investment to replace each container with a glass one, especially when they go on sale. You can even get them in bulk at warehouse sales.
Reusable lunch items
The ideal is to prepare lunch before going to work in glass with steel cutlery, carrying them to work in a lunch bag instead of a packet. While this is a great idea, it’s not always possible. So carry a glass container and steel cutlery for when you do get that quick bite on the run between meetings. Say no to the plastics at restaurants, give back the plastic straw, and even take your own cup to Vida.
Eliminate single-use plastics
Single-use plastics enrobe almost everything we bring into the kitchen, from pasta to lentils. The solution doesn’t have to be making your own pasta (though it’s tastier). There are stores like Precycle in New York that allow you to bring your own containers and bulk buy by weight. Closer to home, plastic-free stores like The Refillery, Nude Foods and Shop Zero let you bring your own containers when grocery shopping. You can also wrap your food in cloth wraps instead of cling film or make your own.
Going plastic-free might be a long-term investment but it’s a worthwhile one, especially if you’re aiming for a green kitchen, the heart of any home.