Reduce your waste: 10 Plastic items you can quit

how to reduce your waste to landfill and live a zero waste lifestyleQuitting these 10 plastic items will make a significant difference whether you are trying to achieve a zero waste lifestyle or simply reduce the waste you send to the landfill. The key is to avoid single-use plastic items altogether. You will be surprised at how much of your waste is reduced if you can manage to avoid these ten plastic products. After all, every little bit helps.


1.) Plastic toothbrushes

Replace with: A bamboo toothbrush.Environmentally friendly bamboo toothbrush

Everything about this product is biodegradable – the handle, bristles and packaging! It works just like any other toothbrush and lasts just as long. The Environmental Toothbrush is available in adult and child sizes, as well as a bulk pack.

Cost: R40 for a single toothbrush (any size), or R115 for a bulk pack of 3 toothbrushes. (Buy here).

2.) Plastic fresh produce bags

Replace with: Fresh Bagssingle-use plastic bags alternative

You can now finally replace those thin plastic bags you use to weigh your fresh produce at the grocery store. Fresh bags are made out of light-weight nylon mesh and are sealed by pulling the coloured ribbon (kinda like a drawstring bag). Yes, it means that you need to remember to take these into the store with you, but you could always leave them in the car so you don’t forget them at home. You can also avoid using these plastic bags by asking the store clerk to weigh the item and just slap a sticker directly onto it. I do this with single items like garlic, ginger etc. 

Cost: R69 for two Fresh bags – 26cm x 24cm. (Buy here).

3.) Plastic grocery bags

Replace with: Material bags or Trolley Bags.

Trolley Bags are now available in South Africa

We’ve all seen these material bags for sale at the checkout counters of grocery stores. Some of us have a pile of them that never leave the house or car. Again, the point is to remember to actually take these into the store with us. You can do it! It’s just a matter of making a habit of not buying plastic bags.

Trolley Bags use a similar concept to these fabric bags, except that they spread out to fit perfectly into your trolley, making it more convenient to check-out. Four fabric bags are attached together with Velcro so that you can rack them in your trolley (pictured above). They are also detachable so that you can easily pack your groceries into your car.

Cost: Trolley Bags cost R399 (for a set of four bags). They are available online . Standard fabrics bags are about R15 each at most grocery stores, but you can use any material bag. The point is to stop buying single-use plastic bags.

4.) Cling wrap

Replace with: Abeego reusable food wrap, or Buzzy Wraps.

Say goodbye to cling wrap once and for all with these two alternatives:

buy abeego food wrap in south africa

Both Abeego and Buzzy Wraps are made out of beeswax, tree resin and jojoba oil infused into hemp and organic cotton cloth. It is fully compostable and can be used to create a relatively airtight seal on food items. It is used in much the same way as cling wrap. They are available in a variety pack with three different sized wraps (18x18cm, 25x25cm, 33x33cm), or a large pack with two large wraps (33x33cm).

Cost: Abeego wraps cost R295 per box. (Buy here). Buzzy Wraps cost R165 per set (Buy here).



5.) Ziploc bagsalternative to ziploc bags

Replace with: Good for the Ground Compostable Film Bags

It looks like plastic, feels like plastic and works like plastic, but it’s not plastic! This packaging is completely compostable and biodegradable. These film bags are made from a starch derivative of corn, sugar cane, straw, wood or other annually renewable resources and will break down in 45 days. Although these bags don’t seal like Ziploc bags, I find that using a peg to close them works perfectly too.

Cost: R19.50 for 10 small bags (200x100mm). R33.50 for 10 large bags (300x130mm). R115 for 100 small bags (Buy here).

6.) Plastic straws

Replace with: Glass, bamboo or stainless steel straws.

Make the effort to rather carry one reusable glass, or stainless steel straw around with you in your handbag or car. You can also buy a straw cleaner which makes it easy to really scrub inside the straw. Stainless steel straws are the most affordable and practical option to carry around, whereas glass straws make a beautiful alternative when hosting parties at home etc.

Straws may seem like a small and insignificant piece of plastic, but when you consider that Americans alone use over 500 millions straws every day; then it becomes an obvious plastic item to avoid. It’s these small pieces of plastic that end up in the stomach’s of our precious wildlife and kills them.

R95 for a stainless steel straw and R57 for a straw cleaner (buy these here). R39 for a bamboo straw (buy here). From R205 for a set of two glass Stream Straws. They are available in a variety of styles. (buy here).

7.) disposable plastic cutlery

Replace with: Wooden cutlery or compostable cutlery.

wooden cutlery is an alternative to disposable plastic cutleryBoth individuals and businesses can replace their disposable cutlery with affordable and biodegradable alternatives. Green Home is a local business that offers businesses both wooden and compostable cutlery in bulk. Their wooden cutlery is made from FSC certified sustainable plantations, and their compostable ‘plastic-like’ cutlery is actually made from renewable plant based raw materials like corn starch. (View their cutlery range here). Prices range from R16 – R30 for their packs of 10.

For a picnic, party or braai, you can find an 18-piece wooden cutlery set here on Takealot, which includes six forks, knives and spoons for R80.

8.) Plastic bottled water

Replace with: A reusable glass or stainless steel bottle.


Start carrying your own re-usable bottle around, instead of buying bottled water. It’s cheaper and eco-friendly. Glass or stainless steel bottles are best. If you buy bottled water because you cannot drink your tap water, you should consider investing in a good water purifier or filter. Remember to look for BPA-free bottles to ensure that no harmful chemicals will leak into your water.

R49 for a 500ml glass Consol Grip & Go water bottle (buy here).
R139 for a 600ml stainless steel water bottle (buy here).

9.) Disposable coffee cups

Replace with: Ecoffee Cup (for individuals) or Green Home’s compostable takeaway cups (for businesses).

100 billion paper cups are thrown away (not recycled) every year, and 20 million trees are cut down in the process of manufacturing paper cups. The amount of water used in the process is approximately 12 billion gallons.

ecoffee cups south africa

You can make a difference to this horrifying statistic by choosing to use a reusable coffee cup. If you often buy coffee on-the-go, then take your reusable cup with you into the café and ask the waitron to fill that up instead. There are various options of reusable cups to choose from – ceramic, stainless steel and plastic. Ecoffee Cups, on the other hand, are reusable mugs that are made out of organic bamboo fibre and non-GMO corn starch. They are also BPA free. These cups are available in a variety of stylish and fun designs.

Cost: R199 for 340ml, or R209 for 400ml Ecoffee Cup. (buy here).

You can also recommend a biodegradable packaging option to your local café . Businesses should consider replacing their takeaway packaging with Green Home’s eco-friendlier packaging options. Their cups are completely compostable and they also offer other products like coffee cup holders made from recycled paper and wooden stirrers made from certified sustainable plantations. Their products are available in packs of 50, cartons of 500 and 1000. (View their product range here)

10.) Foods packaged in plastic

Replace with: Foods in the Goodness Me range.

zero waste food packaging

Foods like popcorn, lentils and beans that are typically packaged in plastic are now avoidable since brands like Goodness Me have introduced their recyclable and affordable alternatives.  Goodness Me offer a small selection of very affordable, non-GMO foods that are also packaged with the environment in mind. The inner packet is made from GMO-free annually renewable plant cellulose, which is compostable and fully biodegradable. The outer box is made from a minimum of 70% recycled plant fibre, which is renewable and recyclable. Their product range includes: Popcorn, lentils (red and brown), chickpeas, haricots, black-eyed beans, polenta and split peas.

Cost: From R25 – R40 for a 500g box, depending on the food. (buy here).

Another grocery shopping tip that will reduce your plastic waste is to take containers with you to the butcher and ask them to put your meat in there instead. This way, you will avoid the nasty Styrofoam trays and cling wrap that meat is typically packaged in.

Do you have any helpful tips to reduce plastic waste? Please share your ideas in the comments below.

Photo credit: Neil Moralee via Compfight under creative commons license.