Plastic-Free Kitchen

The kitchen is a great place to start if you want to reduce plastic in your home. From single-use food packaging through to larger items like cleaning equipment, there are lots of simple and inexpensive household swaps which will make a real difference to your plastic waste. Ruth Walton from The Green Shopper website explains.

Dirty dishes?

Get a refillable bottle for washing up liquid and find a UK-manufactured environmentally friendly brand to refill it with. Check out our guide to washing-up liquid for our recommended brands.

Washing up sponges are usually made from expanded polyurethane foam with a nylon scourer. As these break down during everyday use, tiny plastic particles are washed down the drain and enter the environment through waste water. Here's a list of simple and inexpensive alternatives:

  • Cellulose Sponge Biodegradable. Machine washable. Beware: some contain a hidden nylon mesh for extra strength.
  • Wooden Scrubbing Brush Check the bristles are made from non-animal, natural fibres – lots of wooden brushes have plastic bristles!
  • Coir Fibre Scourer Inexpensive. Long lasting. Fast drying. A robust favourite by The Green Shopper's sink.
  • Loofah Plant based scrubber. Fast drying. More prone to clogging than coir fibre scourer.
  • Knitted String Squares A nifty 'make your own' option. Slow to dry.

Waste disposal

As an alternative to plastic rubbish bags, try lining your bin with newspaper and emptying straight into the wheelie bin. If you must use plastic, switch to a smaller bin that fits old carrier bags, or find recycled plastic bin liners. If you use 'degradable' refuse bags, it may be worth a rethink: degradable plastic isn't the same as plant-based biodegradable alternatives – it's just regular plastic which breaks down into microplastics more quickly!
 

Hardware and kitchenware

Most hardware stores stock metal dustpans, wooden brooms, brushes and traditional mop and bucket sets. They may cost more than plastic initially, but they are more durable so will last much longer.

When replacing pans, look out for metal handles and knobs. A good quality cast-iron frying pan will last a lifetime and develop a natural non-stick surface rather than relying on polymer-based coatings such as polytetrafluoroethylene. Enamel bakeware is very durable and won't scratch like non-stick trays do. Choose metal or wood for sieves, colanders, chopping boards and utensils.

Food: packaging and storage

There are lots of ways to reduce plastic waste in the choices we make about what to eat and where to buy it. It can be helpful to monitor your food packaging for a week and see what is generating the most waste. Is it that sneaky mid-morning snack habit, or the ready-made dinner from that evening you were too tired to cook? Try to think of creative solutions: keep a handy jar of nuts and dried fruit to nibble on, or batch cook and freeze your favourite soup or stew. It will save money as well as helping reduce plastic waste.

Lightweight cotton drawstring bags are brilliant for buying loose fruit and veg, grains, nuts, as well as bread and pastries. At home, store in lidded glass containers or repurposed jam jars. Take reusable containers to the market or deli counter with you: many supermarkets are happy to fill them for you. Use unbleached, compostable greaseproof paper to wrap food, or try natural waxed cloth wraps.

Switch to milk in reusable glass bottles. Many delivery services offer an organic option and will collect your empties. You can find your local milk delivery online. In some cities you can get fresh vegan milk alternatives delivered in glass bottles! In London, Mylkman does a big variety of nut milks and will deliver nationally but the postage is quite pricey. Bristol has tiger nut milk available online whilst Brighton has Katie's Nuttery.

It's a popular myth that glass uses more energy than plastic due to its weight, but studies have shown that as long as it's reused enough, it's kinder to the environment.

Quit plastic containers! Lidded heatproof glass containers work wonders for storing and reheating leftovers. Round 'tiffin' tins with stacking compartments are great for packed lunches. Indian supermarkets are a good place to find stainless steel tins.

Plastic-free fruit and veg – If you can get produce from a local community garden or farm, it will save on transport-related carbon emissions as well as packaging. Otherwise, national veg box delivery services will often collect packaging with the following week’s delivery.

Hidden Plastics:

  • Chewing gum – surprisingly, most chewing gum is plastic-based. Your mum was definitely right when she told you not to swallow it! If you do chew gum, it is recyclable into things like wellington boots, mobile phone covers, stationery, packaging and much more. Look out for pink Gumdrop bins at railway stations.
  • Drinks cans, food tins and jar lids are often lined with a plastic resin mixture.
Image: Less plastic in the kitchen guide

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