Single-use plastic sucks. These days, using something once and then throwing it away seems crazy, particularly if it isn’t able to be recycled or composted.
Take the humble plastic fork. You could literally use that for 10 minutes whilst you eat lunch and then throw it in the bin to become landfill for eternity (or thereabouts!). And that’s just sad.
So what can we do?
Well firstly, skipping single-use altogether is the best option. No more plastic cutlery, takeaway coffee cups, little soy sauce fish, takeaway containers, sandwich bags, plastic water bottles… and so on. And most of these things are pretty easy to skip most of the time, but what about other single-use items that are unavoidable?
Everyday shopping items such as yoghurt, pasta sauce, ice cream and butter all come in packaging that is mostly considered single-use. If you grab a bottle of water or soft drink, usually it will head straight to the recycling bin once you have finished (which isn’t a bad thing but…). The trick here is to get more use out of this packaging; make them ‘multiple-use’ before you discard them to the recycling or landfill bins.
Read on for some creative ways to reuse single-use items so that you can get more out of them, delay their trip to landfill heaven and also save yourself some time and money in the process! There are actually hundreds of ways to reuse some of this stuff, but I’m focusing on just a few for each and have chosen the ones that I think are practical and useful for everyday life.
- Plastic cutlery – whilst we no longer buy this, we had a bit of a stash in the cupboard for years that we are still using and reusing as I cannot bare to chuck them in the bin. I have found them perfect for little ones to use when learning to eat with cutlery. They are also great for:
- kids’ play – try them out in the sandpit, with playdough, for dollies to eat and so on
- seedling or plant labels; just label the handle and stick them in the soil upside down
- actual gatherings/parties when you don’t have enough cutlery (brainwave!)
2. Plastic tubs/containers (yoghurt, butter, honey) – containers are just so handy inside and outside the house and if they come with a lid, even better! Use these:
- to grow seedlings for the garden
- to carry berries, tomatoes and other small produce in from the garden
- as a compost container on your kitchen bench
- to make a hanging garden for your balcony; grab a few, attach some string and fill up with soil. You can label each with a marker so you know what you are growing.
- to store trinkets and toys for kids, paints and pencils
- to collect your aluminium foil and/or batteries for recycling
3. Plastic takeaway containers – these clear, plastic containers are very handy for storing things you want to be able to see, which makes them perfect for:
- freezing leftovers to be reheated and/or taken to work
- kids’ lunches
- freezing slices of homemade bread
- homemade bikkies and lunchbox snacks
- homemade bath bombs, dishwasher tablets, cleaning supplies
4. Seedling pots/trays – these are great to reuse for their intended purpose! Reuse for:
- growing new seedlings or cuttings from plants
- growing a food scrap garden with kitchen scraps (check out my low-waste living course on how to do this)
5. Plastic water bottles – whether it be a water or soft drink bottle, if you have ended up with one or two of these, consider making:
- a watering can by piercing holes in the lid, filling the bottle and then spraying the plants (great for little gardeners as well as washing your pet!)
- a sprinkler by attaching a large bottle with holes in it to the hose
- a terrarium
- a hanging garden (cut off the spout end and use the bottom for your soil and plants)
- make maracas by filling with rice
6. Spray bottles – spray bottles are so handy that I think they should never be thrown out! You can reuse them for:
- natural homemade cleaners (for recipes, try my free 5-day DIY challenge here)
- bathtub or outdoor water play
- watering indoor plants
- spraying hair before styling
- homemade air freshener, insect repellent, salad dressing
7. Jars – I LOVE JARS! There is something about glass that is just so clean and fresh and sterile. It takes no time at all to wash out some jars and reuse them as they don’t retain any smell or residue of food. So however you get your jars (pasta sauce, jam, honey) definitely keep them and reuse them. Here are some ideas:
- take them to the bulk store and fill them up
- store your bulk store purchases
- use as a shaker for protein shakes
- store leftovers
- make a layered salad to take to work and just tip the dressing in at lunchtime
- store homemade sauces and jams
- store buttons, sewing stuff, toys, pencils, etc.
8. Glass bottles – if you ever buy drinks in glass bottles, hang on to the bottles! Once the labels are removed, they look amazing and can be used as:
- a vase for your flowers
- candle holders
- craft (coloured water, layering sand)
9. Squeezy sauce bottles/dishwashing liquid bottles – these used to go straight in the recycling at our place until I realised how awesome they are! Use for:
- homemade condiments/mayonnaise/sauce/dressings
- filling up with liquids at the bulk store (honey, shampoo/conditioner/olive oil/washing liquid)
- fill with soy sauce so you can avoid the little plastic fish when you go out for sushi
- mix your own paint colours for craft activities
10. Paper bags – if you ever end up with these (okay, technically not single-use plastics, but often single-use), there are great ways to reuse them. I keep them in a drawer in the kitchen so I can grab one when I need. We use them for:
- seedling pots – these are great to fold down, fill with soil and grow seedlings in. Once they are big enough, you can transfer the whole thing to the garden as the paper will break down in the soil.
- lunch and/or school snacks (write a message or joke on the outside for the kids)
- dry material for your compost pit
- to carry small items to work or school
- wrapping paper for gifts – decorate them or write the recipients name on the paper and voila!
- craft activities and origami