Plastic-free: Living with ‘zero waste’ for a week

One week, no single-use plastic – it all sounded so simple.

I went in to this challenge thinking I was already avoiding a lot of plastic in daily life – I had a re-usable water bottle and coffee cup. I was doing my bit, wasn’t I?

The answer was a single-use no.

Take the very first day, when I popped into my corner shop on the way home from work. “I’ll just grab a couple of things for dinner,” I thought. No such luck.

I went home with an apple, a banana and a box of eggs.

Absolutely every other thing in the shop had some sort of plastic on it.

Shampoo bar

It wasn’t long before I realised that almost all snacks were out of bounds. Try walking past a vending machine on a late shift and not being tempted by a chocolate bar.

Washing my hair with a shampoo bar was probably the thing that bothered me most – I couldn’t get up the lather I was used to and I didn’t really feel like I was getting it clean.

Thankfully, I had settled into the challenge by the middle of the week, which is when I took a visit to a zero-waste shop, where customers bring their own containers, buying food and cleaning products by weight.

It even had a machine for grinding peanuts in to peanut butter, with smooth or crunchy options, no less.

Finding fresh food without plastic packaging meant shopping around in my local area and using more independent retailers – and this was actually really enjoyable, exploring my little Belfast neighbourhood, discovering shops I hadn’t known about.

Facing up to climate change

Over the week, I spoke to lots of people about going zero waste and plastic-free – but the issue of convenience came up time and time again.

Convenience seems to be the main reason plastic has become such a huge part of our lives, and that might also be the reason so few people could conceive changing their lifestyle.

But those who have made changes say they love the challenge and consideration involved – planning ahead, shopping around and finding creative ways to replace plastic.

I learned a lot about how much waste we create living a pretty ordinary modern life, and I will certainly be trying to hold on to at least some of the changes I’ve made.


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