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How to reduce and recycle plastic film waste

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how to reduce plastic film wasteAmy contacted me recently. She’s a real waste warrior and is doing brilliantly with reducing waste but still has a few annoying items left to deal with.

She writes…

“I would most like to know what I can do about:

  • Film lids found on yogurt or ricotta
  • Plastic labels that go around waitrose juice bottles
  • single use chocolate bar wrapper that can’t be recycled – bulk bought/baked doesn’t work for me, I have tried but I’m a glutton!!”

Keep checking local facilities

The first thing I’d suggest is to keep checking the Recycle Now database. Every month or two type in your postcode and check you are up to date the latest recycling facilities in your area.

For example, when I started my zero waste journey I could only recycle paper, tins and glass from the kerbside. Now I can recycle batteries, green waste, food waste, plastic bottles and textiles.

Also, I used to have to put Tetra Pak cartons in the bin. In recent years I’ve found a local recycling bank where I can recycle all of these cartons.

So the thing to remember is recycling facilities are changing all the time.

Plays swapsies

The other thing to remember is that local authorities offer different facilities to their residents. So perhaps there is a friend or family member you can swap items with!

One of my friends lives just 12 miles away but it under a different local authority. He can’t recycle Tetra Pak cartons. We meet up about once a month, so he brings his cartons to me and I add them to my collection. Likewise, he has access to plastic yogurt pots and fruit punnets recycling which I don’t. Off he goes with my old pots and punnets to put in his local bring bank.

Yes, it’s most probably technically not ok to do this, but who’s looking? (oh, apart from all the county councils reading this blog – in which case – perhaps it’s time for some uniformity across the UK).

Local pre schools

One man’s trash can be another’s treasure. Ok, so this is only extended the use rather than dealing with the root issue, but materials like this can be wonderfully creative and become art materials for little fingers doing a ‘junk modelling’ project. Is there a local school or nursery that could make use of your materials for an environmental awareness project?

Artists

Grown up artists might love these materials too!

During Zero Waste Week 2015 artist Hong Dam – who has worked as Digital Artist on major Feature Films including: Babe Pig in the City, 10,000 BC and Gladiator – helped the residents of Hangleton make a mural from materials that might otherwise end up in the bin:

artist hong Dam recycled mural

Make your own

While I accept you don’t want to bake your own biscuits and cakes for fear of being zero waste, but not zero waist, you could try making your own yogurt!

It’s simple to make and should save you money too.

All you need is milk, a little of your old yogurt to get the new batch going and a thermos flask.

Google instructions and you’ll see how simple it is.

And incidentally, I have seen yogurt in glass jars with a foil lid. Expensive, but brilliant packaging.

Switch brands

For single use chocolate bar wrappers it might be a case of switching products.

For example a creme egg comes wrapped in just foil, smarties come in cardboard and I’ve seen small chocolate bars in my local co-op that are wrapped in paper and foil.

For the Waitrose juice bottles wrapped in plastic, is there an alternative? You might be able to buy a product in a Tetra Pak carton and recycle the carton. Or, if your budget allows, you could consider juicing – this is a brilliant way to use up fruits and vegetables that might otherwise be wasted AND, with a good quality juicer, you can make use of the peels and skins too. Plus you get much better nutrition from a freshly squeezed juice. Oh AND you can take advantage of reduce prices fruits and veggies from a local market! See if you can get a juicer for free with a community group like Freecycle or Freagle or add it to a wishlist for your next Birthday 😉

Return to sender

Finally, if you don’t want to change the products you enjoy, but don’t want the packaging either, it’s time to be an activist.

If you’re unsure what the packaging is, begin with a letter along the lines of:

Dear xxxx

I recently bought your product xxxx and am concerned about how I can responsibly dispose of the packaging. I have looked on your product for information but not found any information to help me.

Could you please tell me two things:

1- WHAT the packaging is

2- HOW to dispose of it responsibly.

I look forward to your reply.

Yours faithfully

xxxx

If they write back with a favourable response then great.

But if they write back saying their packaging cannot be recycled try returning it with this letter:

Dear xxxx

Thank you for your letter / email / phonecall of [insert date and ref]

You mentioned that the packaging was [insert type of packaging]. This means you have chosen a non-sustainable material for packaging your product and in today’s climate, where people are very concerned about the environment, I find this unacceptable.

I feel you are not taking this area of your business seriously. In essence, you are passing on the responsibility for disposal of your packaging to the consumer – and the only option you are giving, for this particular product, is landfill. Responsible Trading covers the end disposal of your packaging and if you cannot offer your consumers a way to recycle or compost the packaging, you have no right to be producing it.

I am returning the packaging for YOU to dispose of and urge you to consider swapping the packaging you are currently using for something more environmentally friendly.

Yours sincerely,

xxxx

What about you? What ideas do you have to help Amy slim her bin?

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Rachelle Strauss

8 Comments

  1. Avatar Mary on July 6, 2017 at 1:28 pm

    Hi all. I was thinking about cling film and how it is used to cover things in a microwave to prevent splatter.
    Most of the time I make sure I am using a dish with a lid but if not possible then we just cover items from jacket potatos to sausages or bacon with Kitchen roll. At least that doesnt end up persisting in landfill.

    • Avatar Rachelle Strauss on July 7, 2017 at 6:07 am

      Hi Mary, that’s a great idea; thank you for sharing. I don’t personally have a microwave, but for the oven I use a couple of pyrex dishes that have glass lids – these are easily washed and reused. I didn’t realise you had to cover a jacket potato in a microwave – you learn something new every day! Fortunately, that isn’t necessary in a conventional oven, although I appreciate it takes a lot more energy to heat up and run.

    • Avatar Gill Quinn on July 7, 2017 at 7:45 am

      Keep checking your councils recycling policy. Ours has just added clingfilm to the list of things that can go in kerbside recycling. They don’t inform residents though – just update the list on their website.

      • Avatar Rachelle Strauss on July 7, 2017 at 11:02 am

        Brilliant for you, Gill. I agree we need to remind people to check their local sites. Ours introduced Tetra Pak carton recycling without much fanfare – I was over the moon!

    • Avatar Laura on April 20, 2021 at 7:06 am

      I’ve obviously come across this article several years too late but just in case this helps anyone else… please DON’T put foil in the microwave! You can’t put any kind of metal in the microwave. You can use silicone lids instead of cling film though..

  2. Avatar Jo on August 15, 2017 at 1:29 pm

    you can buy a spatter guard for the microwave, and you can also buy biodegradeable cling film but that does of course generate waste. i’ve never covered a jacket spud in the microwave and they do just fine.

  3. Avatar Karen compton on April 30, 2021 at 6:02 pm

    Great suggestions in the post and in the comments….I don’t have a microwave so no problems there. I do make all my own bread, cakes, biscuits & muesli using organic sacks of UK oats and flour milled within an hours drive (nice day out 2 or 3 times a year!), I also make my own yoghurt and ice cream / sorbets, wines, beers, jams. pickles and marmalade. I am a Teracycle drop-off point for about 8 streams of waste and return any bulbs, batteries, blister packs and stretchy plastic to retailers collection points. I recently picked up a free soda stream so now we carbonate water to add to fruit juices and spritzers. I buy books, furniture and many clothes from charity shops. I have made washable sanitary pads for myself and daughter. I have organic box deliveries for my fruit & veg and milk in glass bottles which also offers a refill pantry service. I have 2 hens for eggs!

    Is there anything else anyone can think of that I can do to get better? To be more self-sufficient. No matter how small or large, your suggestions would be valuable for my journey to leave a lighter footprint on the planet…thanks x

    • Rachelle Strauss Rachelle Strauss on May 3, 2021 at 12:31 pm

      Hi Karen, welcome and thanks for sharing all the inspiring things you do! I have a suggestion for you. I’m collating responses for a book to inspire others to start a zero waste journey. So, if you are willing, you could fill in the questions sand add your voice to the book. This will ensure all that knowledge and experience you have can help other people to make changes too.

      Another suggestion would be for you to take our Waste Warriors course. it’s a five minute audio every day for 30 days. Each audio has a daily challenge. Our participants find it a lot of fun. If you’re interested, get back to me here and I’ll send you a discount code of 75% off. THat means you can buy it for £15 instead of £60.

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