My zero plastic waste November

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Here are my results and conclusions after one month of trying to avoid plastic waste like hell.

The goal

Produce zero plastic waste

The 4  methods to achieve the goal

  1. Buy vegetables mainly on farmer’s markets.
  2. Actively look for plastic-free packaging. And avoid anything that comes in plastic.
  3. Making things that come in plastic by myself. Or find alternatives.
  4. Collect all the plastic garbage that I end up with to measure my sucess

Results

1. Buy vegetables mainly on farmer’s markets. (+ Avoid anything that comes in plastic.)

  • Worked really well. Buying from the farmer’s markets helped me reduce plastic garbage for food by 90%. The only plastic item I acquired on a market was:
    • A bag of herbs, and at least that will last me a long time. The bag itself can be reused, so I plan to store little snacks or other stuff in it.
    • I’ve also tried to figure out how to avoid this: If you bring your own container and talk to the sellers, you could arrange for them to fill it up and you pick it up on the next market day. I’ve not tried this, but sellers are often very accommodating. It might also depend on the country and how strict food safe regulations are – it seems to work in the US. But I’m not sure about Germany. So I’ll have to try it out.
  • The best way to avoid receiving plastic bags at farmer’s markets is by bringing your own re-usable bags. Make sure to bring a few, just in case you get carried away like me 😉

2. Actively look for plastic-free packaging. Avoid anything that comes in plastic.

  • Worked well enough. I’ve been able to reduce plastic waste by about 80% by this. Unfortunately, there is a lot of ‘hidden plastic’. Often you can tell from the outside whether there’s plastic inside or not by shaking or squeezing the package. But a few things still sneaked into my household.
    • Washing powder : I’m planning to solve this by making my own in the future. It’s supposed to be quite easy and cheap. Win-win!
    • Cocoa powder: Just because one brand I always used puts their cocoa into some sort of waxed paper, doesn’t mean everyone does. I got carried away and bought organic cocoa on sale assuming it too would be packed in paper…
    • Tofu. Actually this happened only two days ago, so technically it was already December, but I must admit I was a bit naive here. Just because the outer package is all cardboard (no plastic ‘windows’ to see the product), and squeezing the package didn’t give away the plastic, to believe tofu would come without plastic… was very naive. I think the only option here are are bulk stores or places that sell cheese, meat and other things ‘over the counter’.
    • Dried goods – some stuff like certain types of flour might simply need a ‘plastic lining’ inside to keep them fresh long enough. Fair enough. Buying at a local bulk store could help avoid these products, if they have it.
    • Ready-to-eat products – are usually found in plastic packaging, so I tried to cook and bake as much as possible by myself.
  • In order to void plastic I tried to say ‘No’ to most freebies that were offered to me .
  • Single packaging items and anything that could be considered convenience items were avoided at all cost. – Helping me reduce garbage in this category by 95%. The only thing that slipped in was a plastic lid and chocolate-on-a-stick that I received from someone in my family.

3. Making things that come in plastic by myself. Or find alternatives.

  • I had bread, pasta, cookies and other things on this list and tried my luck at most of these.
    • Bread mixIn Germany it’s pretty easy to find these without plastic packaging.  In order to make it also energy efficient I made two at once. It works, but it does take some time!
    • Cookies

      I had some fun experimenting here: Sugar free cookies to eat during sugar cravings. Though they turned out a bit bland, I still enjoyed them. Christmas time is also the time when people are most likely to make cookies themselves – so it is a great excuse to not buy them in the store. It’s much better to make your own, healthy and nutrious cookies anyways 🙂

    • Pasta

      I failed pasta. It was too far out of my convenience zone. I kept buying semolina to make it, but I found it much easier to just cook the semolina as it is. It’s so easy to make simple, fast, yet delicious meals with it!
      I also went shopping in a supermarket I haven’t been in for a while as it lay on the way to my grandma. I was SO happy to see that in this market, which has it’s own store exclusive brand, the need for ‘plastic free’ pasta/prodcuts had been recognized. They were all roughly about 2€ for 500g, which is quite a lot, but it made me really happy to see it! (Of course I bought one, to celebrate my efforts for going plasticless with a good bowl of pasta.)
      I wonder if the EU’s decision to reduce plastic garbage by 2021 has been part of it?

    • Milk

      I also tried making my own milk. There’s lots of recipes. It was fairly easy, but during each attempt (using oats, or almonds) I learned that it’s best to use a cloth or similar to filter the milk. Otherwise it becomes thick, like a pudding. This makes it difficult to get out of the bottle, especially if the opening is very small.

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