Most of our waste happens in our kitchen and our bathrooms. Those two rooms by far are the ones with the most items that need regular replacements.
But going zero-waste doesn’t have to be hard, expensive, or take up extra space.
Here are 5 easy swaps in your kitchen that will reduce your waste and can even save you a few quid in the long run.
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1. Zero Waste Alternative to Cling Film
Cling film. Literally a roll of unrecyclable plastic that doesn’t hold up well enough to reuse.
Just another disposable destined for landfills.
The truth is though; it’s handy.
A product so versatile that is conforms to any shape and makes preserving leftovers a cinch.
Well, fear not, there are easy replacements here that aren’t expensive and don’t take much space.
These wraps can be moulded into any shape as easily as cling film and can wrap anything from sandwiches to blocks of cheese to sealing the top of a half full soup can.
Beeswax has natural antibacterial properties as well as antifungal properties which are great features when we are talking food preservation and storage.
They are easy to clean and last about a year.
At the end of their life you can either rewax them with new beeswax or so long as the wraps are 100% cotton, they can be thrown in the compost bin.
The only downside is you don’t want to use these to store meat.
Silicone lids are pretty cool in that they can expand to fit any size can, bowl, baby food container, melons, you name it. I’ve even seen rectangular ones available as well.
Silicone is non-toxic and has a lower chance of leaching chemicals into your food the way plastic can. They are easy to clean and won’t take much storage space.
If taken care of you may only need one set in your lifetime.
If their lifespan doesn’t last that long, silicone can easily be recycled and if it ends up in an incinerator it reverts back to harmless ingredients-silica (which is found in sand), carbon, oxygen and hydrogen.
2. Zero-waste Alternative to Baking Paper
If you bake on a regular basis, you know the joy of baking or parchment paper.
You line your cookie sheet or pan, bake, and voilá, nothing stuck to the pan, crumple up the mess and throw it away for easy cleaning.
Only it’s another disposable item that we can easily replace.
I bought myself a set of these because I bake chicken or vegetables at least 3 nights a week and the one chore I hate more than any is doing dishes.
So before I used baking paper I would grumble at scrubbing off chicken bits or burnt on broccoli.
Then I decided to start using baking paper and my world felt better.
And then I started going zero-waste and realised baking paper was now bad.
Luckily, I found the silicone mats.
You can order sets with different sizes, but I went with three of the same because they fit my baking trays and since I use them mainly for chicken breasts and veggies that’s what worked for me.
My mats work just as well as the parchment. They are also a breeze to wash, though they are slippery suckers and don’t always want to stay in the drying rack.
To store I just roll them up and stick them in my cupboard. To take less space they can easily be stored flat as well.
I have not used these personally as I am not an avid baker, but I have been told about them numerous times.
This roll of baking paper is PTFE (akaTeflon) coated fabric sheet.
Normally I would cringe at the idea of Teflon because of effects I had read about years ago, but it turns out the biggest health risk in the chemical PTFE was the chemical process using PFOA.
Teflon has been PFOA-free since 2013, so we’re good.
Now the reason I am suggesting these is because of the very cool feature that they can be cut to any shape or size to fit your bakeware.
I feel like this could be a big deal for people who bake regularly. And with continuous use the liner can last at least 5 years.
3. Zero-waste Alternative to Kitchen Roll
Kitchen roll is another product that just seems to make life so easy. Wipe the mess and throw it away. The end.
Unfortunately, aside from the fact that kitchen roll comes packaged in single use plastic, the only thing that can be recycled is the tube.
Kitchen roll goes in the bin.
Sorry to have to break the news. Just because it is a paper towel doesn’t make it recyclable.
Often kitchen roll (and tissue) are made from already recycled paper and can’t be recycled again because the fibres are too short.
Once kitchen roll is used to wipe up, it is contaminated and can’t be recycled.
If your council has a food recycling scheme, they may allow some in there, but you would have to check.
There are plenty crafty people out there that can use scraps of fabric to make reusable kitchen roll and even go as far as adding snaps so they can link together.
I am not that person.
As a mum of a 3 year old and 1 year old, I just don’t have the time or desire to do so.
You can support crafty people that sell their wares often using recycled fabric so this is a good thing.
Or if you have a set of cotton tea towels these can do the trick, too.
Let’s think about why we use kitchen roll. My biggest guess would be you use them for mopping up spills and messes.
Any towel can do the same job just as well. Toss them in a sanitary wash if you cleaned something extra mucky and that’s it.
Kitchen roll restocked every time you do a wash.
I’m sure you will find that one tea towel can mop up as much as multiple sheets of kitchen roll.
When the towels break down, cut them into cleaning rags. When the cleaning rags break down, if you are using 100% cotton, compost.
Reusable and zero-waste. This is one that saves so much money in the long run as well.
I used to buy kitchen roll in bulk at Costco and spent about £40 a year on just kitchen roll.
It may not seem like much over a year, but what could you do with an extra forty quid in your pocket?
4. Zero-waste alternative to Kitchen Sponges
Another easy to use, easy to throw away item. I enjoyed my sponges because of the mildly abrasive side made scrubbing easier.
Now that I have gotten better at cooking, became willing to let stuck food soak overnight, and of course my silicone baking mats, I’m finding I’m not using as much elbow grease as I used to, so the reason for needing the sponges no longer exists.
My mom always used dish cloths. Still does. Why I didn’t do the same given I grew up learning to wash dishes in her house is beyond me.
Well better late than never.
Here I am using dish cloths just like my mom. I can easily wipe worktops, table tops, and clean the dishes with one rag.
Pop it in the wash with the next load of towels and I end up with a never ending supply.
Again, like with the tea towels, if you get 100% cotton these can be composted.
If you need to do some scrubbing, why not try coconuts?
They are safe for non-stick items and each one lasts at least 3 months.
Because they are made of the husks of coconuts, they are biodegradable and the metal wire inside can be recycled.
Coconut scrubbers do tend to shed at first, but rest assured it is a natural fibre going down the drain and not microplastics.
They seem to be a bit big for cleaning things like glasses and bottles, but bottle brushes are also available.
At the moment, I have a sad plastic brush that really should go to the bin, but it still does the job when I need it. So, when the time comes to replace it this will probably be what I try next.
Unfortunately, coconut scourers are an item that does cost more than the cheap kitchen sponges, but you did just save £40 on kitchen roll, and of course, no plastic.
5. Zero-Waste Alternative to Hand Soap
You probably thought I would have said dish soap next, but I am trying to make this easy for you and unless you live by a zero-waste shop that does refills of washing up liquid, this isn’t as easy of a swap.
Hand soap, on the other hand, is an easy swap.
• Bar Soap
Bar soaps were often demonised as being bad for your skin, it dries them out, etc.
But I would like to think that bar soaps have come a long way since then. Lots of natural ingredients, lovely smells, and they simply wash away leaving no waste.
Every store I’ve been in has at least one soap available without plastic, so no excuses.
Look for soaps sold in just a box or even better, naked! Gasp!
Check out your local Maker’s Market; you are bound to find at least one soap maker.
I found lovely soaps in a National Trust shop.
You can even pop into Lush for some heavenly smelling soaps.
None of them have packaging.
So, bring a soap container or a paper bag with you and make soap buying the ultimate zero-waste purchase.
Now I realise you can’t just leave soap by the sink or it will turn to mush, so the switch does require some kind of soap dish.
I am currently using a travel case in my kitchen until I find one I love.
I stumbled across a cute one for my bathroom in a charity shop, but haven’t come across anything I love for my kitchen sink.
There are lovely handmade and upcycled soap dishes out there, but they can be pricey so I may have to save that for a special treat if I do find THE one.
Until then my travel one does the job and Lee has yet to complain.
Hopefully you have seen some easy simple swaps to get you going on your zero-waste kitchen. These swaps don’t require special shops or crazy amounts of money.
Start slow, one item at a time as you run out of each item. That way you won’t have a big extra expense all at once.
Use what you have even if it’s not zero-waste. There’s already a carbon footprint created, you already have the item, so don’t let it all be in vain by throwing it away to buy an eco-friendly alternative sooner.
As always, leave me a comment below and let me know how your journey is going.
You can also follow me on Instagram where I share tips, news, and some motivation to help you along the way.