The 5 'R's of zero waste in the kitchen

Moving towards a zero waste lifestyle is essential for people and planet. We all need to think more about our impact on our environment, and about the waste we generate. In sustainable waste management, following the five 'R's in order can help you stay on track. To help you to start taking steps in the right direction, we will go through the five 'R's in the kitchen:

1. REFUSE – Ditch single-use plastics and disposables

For a zero waste kitchen, the first R is 'Refuse'. Refuse to buy single use plastics, disposable items and anything that poses a waste problem at the end of its useful life. Refuse to accept products that cause waste – it includes all stages of a product's life cycle.

Remember, when we talk about waste, we're not just talking about plastic waste. Food waste, and the waste of energy, water, land and other resources are also things to consider when trying to move towards a truly zero waste lifestyle.

refuse single use plastic - woman is buying using a reusable mesh bag

2. REDUCE – Downsize consumption – think twice before buying

The next R is 'Reduce'. This step towards a zero waste kitchen is all about downsizing consumption. The less we buy, the less impact we will have on our planet – and the less waste there will ultimately be.

Make lists when shopping – and stick to them to avoid impulse purchases or buying things you don't really need. Be organized, use up leftovers, and think about growing your own food to reduce the amount you need to buy. Even without a garden, you can grow at least some food at home. All you need is a sunny windowsill. Don't purchase any gadgets or other kitchen equipment you don't really need.

3. REUSE – Choose reusable containers and bags, reuse packaging

Reuse is perhaps the most important step on the route to a zero waste kitchen. We should always choose reusable containers, bags and other items, and reuse all the kitchen items we own for as long as possible.

From upcycling kitchen furniture, to reusing unavoidable plastic food packaging to grow our own food, there are a huge range of different ways to keep items in use for as long as possible. The longer we can use them for, the longer we can keep them out of waste streams.

reuse Single Use Plastics and Disposables, reuse what you have

4. REPAIR – Keep items you already own in use as long as possible

This is a zero waste strategy that is often overlooked. Developing the right skills is crucial for transition to a zero waste lifestyle. When it comes to your kitchen, gardening and growing your own, simple home cooking, and food preservation are all important skills to hone. But it is also important to learn how to repair items that you already own. Learning how to repair items and keep them going for as long as possible is also key.

When purchasing new items, always consider whether you will be able to repair them yourself. The simpler you can keep things, the easier it will be to maintain them and repair them over time. Complex gadgets are obviously far more difficult to repair. Choosing low-tech options can make it easier to go zero waste. Learn how to, for example, refurbish skillets and pans, and sharpen knives. Age-old skills really can make a big difference to how sustainable your kitchen can be.

repair the stuff you have in the kitchen, fix your things

5. RECYCLE – Recycle whatever you can, compost food waste

The last of the five 'R's is recycle. In order to go zero waste, we need to loop waste back into the system.

When it comes to plastic waste, of course, recycling can only go so far. Plastic can usually only be recycled a finite number of times – often only once or twice before it is downgraded and is recyclable no more. Not all plastics can be recycled. Though we should first always try to avoid bringing them into our kitchens in the first place, we should also recycle whenever we can through municipal recycling schemes.

We should also be sure to recycle metals, glass and other materials, sorting and cleaning everything to increase the rates of recycling in our area.

recycle what you have in the kitchen, avoid to use plastic in the kitchen, recycling

Finally – make sure you set up a home composting system, to deal with food waste and other biodegradable material.

Follow these five steps and you should find it easier to take the small steps towards a zero waste kitchen.