Using Plastic Alternatives for a Zero Waste Future

Our continued behaviour around sending waste to landfill is a crisis for the planet. This too-high mountain of waste has made shifting attitudes towards zero waste and plastic alternatives more important than ever. Remember the 3 Rs initiative: to reduce, reuse, and recycle? This waste management framework has undergone an overhaul in recent years to reflect additional steps to achieving truly sustainable goals.

The 5 Rs of Zero Waste were introduced in Bea Johnson’s book, Zero Waste Home – the go-to text for anyone looking to go green. The book explores how Bea and her family reduced their waste to one litre per year. While this is certainly an extraordinary feat, these principles can be easily applied across households and businesses to take crucial steps in working towards a zero waste future. 

The 5 Rs are:

  • Refuse: Say no where you can.
  • Reduce: Adjust behaviour to only use what you need and minimise waste creation.
  • Reuse: Throwaway behaviour needs to change. Opt for reusable products over single-use and disposable ones.
  • Recycle: Divert as much as possible from landfill.
  • Rot: Composting at home and/or as part of an industrial composting framework is the gold standard when it comes to waste management.

The History of the 3 Rs of Waste Management

Refuse, reduce, recycle. The 3 Rs of waste management were an incredibly useful tool employed to educate the general public on responsible waste management. The impact of the 3 Rs campaign was initiated in the 1970s and its effect was widespread. It served to grow global awareness around the impact of waste behaviour on the environment, as well as the relatively new concept of recycling. However, while it inspired us to think about our behaviour, the environmental damage over recent decades is proof that something more needs to happen. 

Zero Waste, Plastic Alternatives, and The Inadequacies of the 3 Rs

According to the World Bank, unless we change our behaviour, global waste will increase by 70% by 2050. Growing populations and urbanisation account for the estimate, which foresees annual waste generation of 3.4 billion tonnes in the next 30 years. This upward trend is indicative of the need to revisit the 3 Rs with renewed urgency.

WHERE HAVE WE GONE WRONG?

We need watchdogs

While growing government regulation around environmental concerns is encouraging, governments mustn’t lose sight of the importance of the green agenda to the future of the planet. Continued regulation and checks, balances, and accountability are going to be important to achieving change and meeting benchmarks.

Green potential beyond recycling

Additionally – and very importantly – existing recycling systems are failing us.  In England, we recycle 44% of our waste. The aim is to increase this to 50% by 2050. However, the infrastructure and the system are simply inadequate. Despite best intentions, many of the items put in recycling don’t end up getting recycled – or end up being shipped to other countries where our waste becomes someone else’s problem. In the case of plastic, there is also a limit to the number of times it can be recycled as it loses quality along the way. The shortcomings of the system are contributing to the enormity of our waste crisis and underscore the preference for compostable alternatives that won’t find their way – by hook or by crook – back into the waste system.

Greenwashing

The emergence of green solutions is exciting. However, not all sustainable solutions are made equal. Some are better for the environment than others. Recycling, when it works, is better than landfill. Degradable solutions often do not exclude micro-plastics. Biodegradable products are a strong step in the right direction – breaking down into natural elements. A very big caveat is that some of these natural by-products are undesirable (such as methane), with long-term environmental disadvantages. 

This is where compostable single-use plastic alternatives are disrupting this system of waste. Made from vegetable-based materials, they break down into natural elements of water, biomass, and carbon dioxide without releasing toxins into the environment. Visit our online store and start making sustainable changes by shopping for compostable plastic substitutes today.

The 5 Rs: A Step-By-Step Guide to Plastic Alternatives and Zero Waste

1. REFUSE

Simply put, just say no. Being mindful around what constitutes waste is the first step in turning down the unnecessary waste items in our lives. Single-use plastic is a great example. Straws, disposable plastic cutlery, coffee lids, bottles, cling wrap, bin bags are all creators of superfluous, damaging waste. Your power to refuse is easy with environmentally-friendly, sustainable single-use plastic alternatives. 

2. REDUCE

Return consumer habits to what you need.

Remember the adage that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure? By donating unwanted items, you remove the need for someone else’s demand – and so the waste that goes with it. 

When you’re restocking, try to remain focused on only getting what you need to avoid extra wastefulness. Clever marketing and consumer culture makes overbuying easy. By fighting the urge to buy impulsively, you are making small and meaningful differences to the environment by reducing waste.

3. REUSE OR REPURPOSE

 When it comes to things like plastic, our disposable days are done. Single-use items are at the very peak of wastefulness. This makes items you can use over and over again an important waste-saving consideration. It also makes investing in the longevity of our goods more important than ever. 

However, an important caution here is to think about the lifecycle of the reusable. Will it inevitably end up in the trash anyway? Broken handles on carrier bags are a good example of this. If so, while certainly being an improvement on straight-to-waste, environmentally-friendly disposable products will be more effective in the long term.

4. RECYCLE

Diversion from landfill is central to meeting zero waste ambitions. However, recycling has its limitations – as covered above. To make a real difference to the environment, consider what happens to your waste once it hits your bin and make choices that are as environmentally kind as possible.

5. ROT

 Think about how much organic waste ends up in our waste stream. The conditions in landfill are often such that this releases harmful methane into the atmosphere. Composting recycles organic resources and reduces landfill strain, which means it is good for the planet. It also holds a range of water-conserving and soil quality benefits. When applied to gardening and agriculture, this creates positive processes that reduce the reliance on chemical systems and additives.

Plastic Alternatives are the Key to Zero Waste

As we become more green-minded, the shift towards products that decompose into natural elements will play a central role in sustainable change. At Bonnie Bio UK, we are creating a wave of change with our international certified compostable alternatives to single-use plastic. Composting is the final step in the 5 Rs of waste management – but every step stands to be mitigated by replacing traditional waste items with compostable alternatives. 

No matter how responsible your waste content is, packaging it in plastic creates plastic waste. Replace plastic waste bin bags with compostable multi-purpose bags

Visit our online store today to shop for compostable multi-purpose and pet waste bags, face coverings in a surgical mask design, plastic straw alternatives, cling wrap, and other plastic substitutes.

Image 2, Bonnie Bio

Frequently Asked Questions

What will replace single-use plastic?

The single-use plastic alternatives available today take different forms. These include reusable products and natural replacements. PLA and vegetable-based solutions from Bonnie Bio UK offer the same high performance of plastic without the damage to the environment.

What is a zero waste product?

Zero waste takes the full lifecycle of a product into account. This includes resource conservation in the production, consumption, reuse, and recovery – with no negative impact on the environment or human health during the lifecycle of the product.

What is zero waste and why is it important?

Zero waste is an approach to responsibly conserve resources in the manufacture and consumption of goods and to mitigate environmental damage. Zero waste and diverting waste from landfill is important to reduce emissions, greenhouse gases, and the release of toxins and chemicals into the environment.

How do you start a zero waste lifestyle?

By using less, we create less waste. Be ruthless in cutting unnecessary waste from your life. By adopting compostable plastic alternatives in place of traditional plastic products, you ensure shortcomings of the recycling system are overcome and environmental goals are met. In giving an experience much like traditional plastic, this is the sustainable way to live sustainably.