In just five simple steps, you can drastically reduce to nearly zero the amount of waste you produce in your kitchen (aside from any food packaging waste). See my guide to shopping for food zero waste (without access to bulk stores!) if you want some tips on that. See all other posts relating to zero waste here.
1. Refill your washing up liquid.
It’s so simple, and often cheaper! Many places now have refills on washing up liquid and laundry detergent – in the UK, try health food shops and independent zero waste shops in large cities. If you don’t have access to a store offering refills, just buy washing up liquid in bulk – you will still drastically reduce the amount of plastic waste you produce and save money. You can also make your own washing up liquid by grating blocks of solid castile soap and mixing together with water – I haven’t tried this, but it sounds like a great way to use up the tiny leftover bits of soap at the end of a bar!
2. Replace washing up items with reuseables / compostables.
Loofahs are a great all-natural alternative to washing up sponges – and you can just compost them when finished! I buy long ones from Wilko (only £1!) and cut into smaller pieces for use. Also switch to washable dish cloths and floor mops (try Ecloths) instead of disposable ones. You can sterilise dish cloths and loofahs by regularly running them through a 60 degree wash cycle when you wash bedsheets and towels, or soak them in boiling water with a drop of washing up liquid. Other great zero waste washing up items can be bought here. I love my wooden and metal dish brush with a replaceable head that is compostable.
3. Clean with refillable cleaners, and/or use vinegar and bicarbonate of soda.
Many shops now stock refills for kitchen and bathroom cleaners. If you don’t have access to these, you can easily make your own all-purpose cleaner by mixing water and white vinegar together in a re-purposed spray bottle in a 4:1 ratio (buy your white vinegar in bulk, or in a glass bottle, to reduce waste). Bicarbonate of soda is readily available to buy in card packaging (easily recyclable) and is a great all-purpose cleaner. I use it to keep plug holes fresh (1/2 cup of bicarb followed by 1 cup vinegar + a kettle of hot water) and to remove stains from surfaces and sinks (simply make a paste with water and bicarb, leave on for a few minutes, then scrub off the stain. Voila!).
4. Switch from disposable kitchen roll / paper towels to tea towels.
It really is a no brainer! Just keep a stack of clean tea towels handy at all times.
5. Recycle properly.
This applies to everything in your home and the kitchen is no exception! Make sure you properly clean recyclable food packaging (such as metal cans) before recycling. Sort the rest of your waste according to whether or not it is recyclable kerb side or not. You can take plastic carrier bags to designated recycling points at large supermarkets. Save other items such as hard plastics to recycle at a waste disposal unit (a yearly trip is all that’s needed!).
One last tip to reduce your kitchen waste – when looking for kitchen equipment, try and source things second hand first before buying new. If you want to buy new, look for items with lifetime guarantees, and that are made of a single material only (preferably metal or glass) which will make it easier to recycle when it reaches the end of its life.