Plastic free kitchen (almost)

13 October 2013
I am excited this week. You might think it is because I have my impending trip to sunny Myanmar in six days. My excitement is about something else. The excitement is for the fact that we are almost free of plastic packaging in our kitchen.

That’s right, this is what had me doing a happy dance the other night. As of next week, there will be no more foods in plastic packaging. Our pantry and fridge is now void of packaged pasta, rice, noodles, and frozen vegetables.

The last remaining items are rice paper rolls. Hurrah. We have spices still living in plastic. Until they run out, that is where they will stay. I’m not going to through out food for the sake of my crusade. I have accepted this is a slow process.

We have been making our way through the remaining packaged foods. And of course there has been plastic packaging leftover. Some bags I have kept as they serve as great carry bags to put vegetables or grains in when we do our weekly shop. We buy our grains, beans, rice, flour, nuts, cereals in bulk now. The vegetables are from a grocer. We always take our own packaging and once used, it is washed, dried and used on our next shopping trip. The builder and I high-five each other when we complete a shop with no packaging. It’s kind of a kick knowing you won’t be tossing any food packaging into landfill.

Let’s get back to these plastic packages I have been left with while we ate our way through the last of the packaged pasta, rice, cereal and biscuits. The packages fall into the soft plastic category, meaning they cannot be tossed into the usual recycling that Australians use. So the packaging that could not be reused on our shopping trips was not tossed into the garbage but instead they went back to the supermarket. To be more specific, they went to Coles a local chain of supermarkets similar to Kroger in the US or Tesco in the UK. 


recycle plastic australia

The people at Coles have partnered with the handy people at RED Group to turn food wrappers into furniture. The innovative group created a program called REDcycle that allows shoppers to return their packaging to be recycled into outdoor furniture and signs. REDcycle bins are found at a variety of Coles around Australia.

What can be recycled at REDCycle bins?
  • Shopping bags
  • Fresh fruit and veggie bags
  • Bread bags
  • Biscuit packaging
  • Confectionery packaging
  • Rice & pasta packets
  • Frozen food bags
  • Reusable or ‘green’ bags
Image from redgroup.net.au

We are keeping a box in our pantry to collect any incidental soft plastics that may find themselves in our kitchen. It is essentially there for emergencies including any soft plastic i pick up on my walks, and if the builder buys food that is carried in soft plastic. While the builder supports my decision to say no to plastic packaging I realise this is my journey so I don’t beret him if said plastics end up on our pantry shelves. As I said before, it is a slow process and its great to know that the food wrappers are being turned into a useful product.

Habits are had to break and giving consumers the option to recycle is fantastic. Seeing innovative ideas to solve waste like this and companies that create much of this soft plastic. 

I will share more on how I shop soon and how I am slowly creating a plastic free kitchen. Hint, it involves a lot of glass bottles.
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4 ways to say NO to plastic bottles when you travel

5 October 2013
I have a holiday to Myanmar coming up. I am eagerly counting down, until I get to shut down my computer, ditch my phone and spend two weeks in a new land.

I also plan to say no to plastic bottles.

Myanmar (also known as Burma) lays snugly between Thailand, India, China, Laos and Bangladesh. Besides being worried about snakes (I hear they have many) I am also worried about, the waste I could potentially create while I am there from plastic water bottles.

Why am I thinking of buying water bottles when I can use my trusty Sigg bottles? Myanmar does not have safe tap water and buying plastic bottles is the easiest way to avoid getting sick.
Water is kind of a necessity so I’m in a little bit of a panic mode thinking of how I am going to combat this issue. Especially with the heat, I know my water intake will be higher than normal. A lot higher.

I cringe thinking back to how many plastic bottles I went through in India or Cambodia. Often these countries do not have adequate tap water and your reliance on a disposable bottle of water becomes greater. Then you travel around these countries and see where these water bottles end up in make do landfill on the side of the road, discarded in local environments and clogging up waterways.

alternative to plastic bottles travelling
Image from ecosalon.com
And here I sit, sipping water from my glass realiSing with uneasy guilt just how much we take water for granted. Not just clean water, the ability to reuse the vessels it comes to us in.

So what am I going to do?

I researched a whole bunch of methods to remedy this, exhausting google with terms like ‘how to purify’ or ‘how can I drink water safely in Myamar.’

The internet coughed up results like tablets, purifiers, LifeStraws, and boiling water.

Tablets were my first go to option. But then reading in more depth, the chemical factor got to me. The tablets varied between iodine and Micropur, each with drawbacks like the chemicals going into my body and high iodine levels. But the ease of popping tablets into water and waiting for them to work their magic does make them an easy and carefree option. Then I think of the packaging of the tablets. It all got a bit much and I put them into the ‘might be good in case of emergency’ list.

Filters looked great. The total filter especially ticked yes boxes. The price and size of the ones that offered filtration of parasites made me take a step back. If I was going somewhere for a longer period of time I wold definitely go in this direction. Plus Cheryl Strayed made working filters sound like fun. Really, she did. Yep, they are made with plastic but can be reused many MANY times. It’s disposable plastic I am trying to avoid here after all.

LifeStraw is a miraculous device that works as a straw but with a built in filter. Check it out, because it is awesome. The straw lasts for 3-5 years, depending on how much it is used. So the potential for it to be used over a long period of time is definitely a bonus. Plus the price is affordable. There are different styles but I am having a hard time reading their website, so will need a little more investigating.

Boiling water seemed like the best option and most effective. Boiling water will kill all the harmful things that make people sick. Then all I need to do is transfer my boiled water to my Sigg water bottles. So simple and I know I can boil water. The only problem is finding a place to boil water. The logical step is to email places that I am staying to see if they have kitchens that I can use. The downside is if I want to make the time in my busy schedule to sit down and boil close to 2L of water each night.

As you can see, there are options.

I know there will be instances when I will need to buy a plastic water bottle. There is nothing worse than being sick, even more so when you are in a foreign land and can’t speak the language. If I have to choose between myself and a plastic bottle, I will ultimately pick what is best for my health. Until I am faced with that decision I will do the best I can. I have seen what a country looks like with consumption of plastic being tossed aside and forgotten. I don’t want to leave my waste behind for them to deal with. I want to explore this country with purpose and tread lightly.

Have you used any of the above methods for dodging plastic consumption while travelling or use for other reasons? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

If you want to help get clean water to Myanmar check this article here and here (I know the last link are a company that produces plastic products, but hey, they are trying to help).
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