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What can we do to go plastic free?

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What can we do to go plastic free?
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Here’s a familiar pattern: you feel guilty about using plastic and for a few days you do a stellar job avoiding it, you even go ahead and buy a tote bag, but soon enough you’re back to your old ways, leaving your head spinning.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one – that’s the story for a lot of us. Plastic has crept into every corner of our lives and to help kick this habit, we can take easy steps to make a solid start.

Here are our top tips to help you go plastic-free:

BYO or dine in

If you find yourself buying takeaway coffee or bottled water every day, try taking your own KeepCup or other reusable coffee cups. Many stores have embraced these and will even give you a discount! Or take a few minutes out to dine in – cafés and the environment will both thank you. Using a reusable water bottle is a no brainer. Clean water comes out of the tap for free, so why on Earth would you pay for it?!

Go naked

Buying fruit and veggies wrapped in plastic is a big no-no. You know the kind – cling-wrapped capsicums and tomatoes on foam trays – absolutely wasteful. We’re not in the game to make you feel guilty so instead, choose from the loose section and put them straight into your basket or a reusable mesh bag and straight into the fridge when you get home. The best part about this is you can do the little squeeze and sniff test of your fruit and veg before you buy it – after all, there is nothing more disappointing than cutting open a piece of unripe fruit!

Buy bulk and BYO

Sick of having to buy everything; flour, nuts, rice and even spices in plastic? You’re not alone. There are many places now offering self-service for these essentials and many other products. Bring your own jars and you don’t even have to repack them when you get home! They just go straight into the cupboard, how neat is that?

Did you know that you can also BYO containers to the deli? Pre-packaged meat and cheese are usually sold in plastic or Styrofoam trays, but if you buy direct from the deli, you can ask them to fill your container instead.

Bag and wrap

This one is possibly the most important, with the removal of plastic bags at your local Woolies and Coles! But it doesn’t have to be a drag. Canvas bags come in many sizes and with so many amazing designs they can be useful and fashionable.

Cling wrap is another plastic item that’s used a lot (think packed lunches) and thrown straight into the bin after one use. Instead of using cling wrap, try making your own Beeswax wraps! There are heaps of easy tutorials online for both beeswax and vegan wraps. We are looking at making some in the Powershop office this Plastic Free July and we will let you know how we go!

Swap to multiple use

There are tons of reusable sanitary items on the market that have huge positive environmental impacts. For example single-use nappies can be replaced with reusable ones, sure it’s a bit more work to wash but according to Sustainability Victoria, “3.75 million disposable nappies are used each day in Australia and New Zealand, and it takes about one cup of crude oil to make each nappy. This is a lot of landfill, with conventional disposable nappies estimated to take up to 150 years to break down.”

Sometimes perspective is an alarming thing, and while we never want to get on the wrong side of exhausted parents, there are many benefits. Beyond the environmental impact, they’re also cheaper in the long run too!

What we are doing at Powershop

Around the Powershop office, we have introduced initiatives including reusable straws, chopsticks and reusable containers to reduce waste at lunchtime. We’ve added ‘borrow bags’ at the lifts to remind staff to take a tote to the supermarket and started asking for sushi in BYO containers.

We’ve conducted education sessions with current staff and added it as part of our onboarding process. We’ve also put up posters around the office about bio-plastics and waste management.

Thanks to this education, we can make more conscious decisions and separate waste streams and reduce what we put into landfill. Since we started, we are diverting around 5-6kg of food waste from landfill every day! It might seem small but together we can make a difference!

Check out some photos below of what we are doing in our Melbourne office:
Photo of Powershop office food wastePhoto of e-waste from the Powershop officePhoto of landfill & recycling bins with posters

After some more information?

Read the “Bio-plastics” blog
Read “The Great Rubbish Debate”

Sign up for Plastic Free July

Head to the Plastic Free July website to take up the challenge!

This post was originally published in July 2018.

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21 comments on "What can we do to go plastic free?"
  1. Joan, July 24, 2018:

    Hi there, so anyway how do you want us to dispose of our garbage? The stuff other than recyclables & compostibles? Just saying/asking

    • Powershop, July 25, 2018:

      Where possible, we’d encourage you to reuse. There’s always a second use for something if you get creative. Otherwise, making sure your garbage is disposed of correctly and won’t end up in the ocean.

  2. Julie Cash, July 26, 2018:

    Get rid of the disposable nappies,
    Also the pads they use in nursing
    homes they do not disinigrate
    & they keep on making the furniture
    out of plastic

  3. Susanna, July 26, 2018:

    Not having access to bulk food supplies there are still many things we buy that are enclosed in ” plastic “- like rice and oats. These bags are ideal containers for rubbish that requires wrapping or can’t be composted. Haven’t missed so called single use bags at all.

  4. Jan, August 1, 2018:

    Prior to garbage liners or reusing shopping bags for your rubbish the rubbish was wrapped in newspaper and then into the garbage bin. Although this has drawbacks ie moisture penetrates the paper and it collapses, the paper is a more environment friendly option for decomposition and you may need to hose your bin more often but do it on the grass to water it and save water.

  5. Chris Landale, August 12, 2018:

    As with so many good initiatives” think GLOBALLY..ACT LOCALLY for instant results.

  6. Alison, September 21, 2018:

    I keep all my cereal bags and reuse. I would rather they be made from corn starch or some other biodegradable / compostable material but at least its NOT going straight into the bin. I have repurposed a spare toilet roll storage bin to use the cereal and bread bags for the icky sticky rubbish. Everything else not recyclable can be put in the now bag free bin.

  7. Dionne Millar, November 13, 2018:

    Compost a Pak sells corn starch garbage bags online, which is good 😊😊

  8. Marian, November 15, 2018:

    How do you find a substitute that’s plastic free for continance aids? Elderly and disabled need these to protect their skin and do not have the mobility to go more frequently and often flood so a cloth substitute is not likely to suffice. Who is going to do all the washing…water detergent and power to wash uses vital resources too that are diminishing.

    • Powershop, November 15, 2018:

      Hi Marian, while we’re passionate about being sustainable and making decisions that support a greener society, at Powershop the health and safety of our customers is our number one priority and effective healthcare products is very important to ensure quality of life so we would not recommend an alternative. Feel free to find other opportunities within the home that leads to a greener lifestyle, like buying in bulk, getting your enviro bags in check and sorting some great reusable water bottles and coffee cups on trips to cafes.

  9. Veronica Wilson, November 18, 2018:

    I have 2 netting bags (crocheted from kitchen twine) for my fruit a veg and use brown paper lunch bags for cereals, nuts,etc. when shopping. Get some funny looks at the checkout but have been doing this since I was a kid shopping with Mum (I’m 70). Have home made canvas and cloth bags for general goods. The canvas will take heavier items and all but the paper bags are washable.

  10. Kare, December 8, 2018:

    Supermarkets could provide paper bags for packing groceries as they did in the 60s & 70s

  11. Liz, December 21, 2018:

    Bought my grandchildren aluminium straws, complete with brush to clean them….reusable and not plastic

  12. Mina Pires, December 22, 2018:

    We are still to see some conversation about govnments pushing for a more environment friendly kind of “plastic” to be used for wrapping.
    Also dosen’t make sense to have supermarkets selling plastic carrier bags ( seaker than the ones now out of reach) instead of the old style washable bags we being having for more than 10 years

  13. Ailsa, January 1, 2019:

    Plastic containers that strawberries & blueberries etc come I reuse in the garden for seedraising trays & mini hot-houses. Havent bought cling wrap for 30yrs as reuse bread bags & plastic bags things come in (that we can’t avoid) for lunch wrap & freezer bags 👍

  14. Jocelyn, January 9, 2019:

    To Marian – I have a disability and I have found that the heavy-duty absorbent underwear such as thinx and modibodi work for me. They might not work for everyone, though, depending on their level of need. They are quite expensive to start, especially if you need a lot, but if you get any funding for continence aids from insurance or such, they may qualify. Modibodi also has swimwear – I’m Australian so I use modibodi for convenience. Thinx is US based I believe, and I have seen a third company with this product but I don’t remember the name.

  15. Joan Couper, January 12, 2019:

    Growing up Mum always wrapped garbage in newspaper just save your old papers all the plastic bags were not around back then also used string bags and brown paper bags my concern with brown paper bags is early on we also didn’t have all the frozen food bags I could imagine frozen vegetables etc bursting out of the bags linen bags and home made cloth bags are the best

  16. Carol, January 15, 2019:

    I grow as much of my own fruit and veg as possible but when I have to buy, I prefer organic. I don’t have access to markets, just the big supermarkets. It’s so frustrating that the organic produce is almost all wrapped in plastic.

  17. Robyn Fowler, January 17, 2019:

    It’s fine to reuse and recycle. I now use the bags the bread comes in. Using paper bags is cutting down trees which leads then to where do the animals go after the trees are cut down and there’s nothing to hold the soil together.

  18. Val Gascoigne Maitland. NSW, January 22, 2019:

    I am very upset as to how the major supermarkets, Woolworths, Coles and Aldi package fruit and veggies. These packages create waste that I’m sure will take longer to breakdown. In my local Woolworths they have just introduced new shopping trolleys, they have 2\3 more plastic handles that the previous models, what a waste. Get wise Woolworths.

  19. Rita, January 24, 2019:

    I use strong, durable netting bags for fruit & veg and a bread bag, all made from recycled plastic water bottles. My daughter and I use ModiBodi (period proof underwear) which saves on plastic-backed liners and stain removal chemicals. Carrying foldable totes has saved us taking so many plastic/paper bags when making purchases.

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