Over and over and over and over and over…

The joy of reusing is never-ending!

If I had to buy something that’s pre-packed from a supermarket, I would get the ones packed in glass. The reason is I can clean and reuse it for as long as I don’t break it. These glass containers, jars, and bottles come in handy when I refill products at package-free stores. Glass never loses its quality over time and will not leach chemicals like plastic, including those that are marked microwave safe! Plastic and heat are not the best combinations for your food and drinks as well as the body. I wonder why everyone is happily taking away hot food packed in cheap, low-quality single-use plastic containers while it’s leaching chemicals into your delicious hot meal that you can’t wait to put into your body or your children’s body. Yum! Something to Rethink about!

Refill dried cranberries and goji berries at a package-free store using glass containers that were once pre-packed with sauce and jam, purchased from supermarkets.
Refill extra virgin coconut oil and cookies in a reuse glass bottle and container.

Compared to plastic, glass has a much higher recycling rate. However, if you have a surplus, you can re-gift to others to reuse before recycling instead of hoarding them in your kitchen shelves. Donating to zero waste stores is one way. Posting on free-cycle groups on Facebook to bless others directly is another. You can also contribute to those conducting terrarium workshops or making homemade sauce for sales. If you know any.

When I conduct DIY workshops, where we turned food waste into useful cleaning products, such as coffee scrubs, multipurpose cleaning solutions, eco enzymes, etc, I will get participants to bring their own glass jars and containers from home just so they can practice ‘Reuse’ at the same time, Repurposing. There’s no need to buy at all.

Reuse glass containers for DIY workshops.

I refrain from reusing single-use plastic in general; it’s for one-time use only, as its name suggests. Although single-use plastic takeaway containers can be great for organizing knick-knacks in your drawers and shelves, it’s not such a good idea to reuse them for storing food, especially hot food, in my opinion. Hence, it is also why I rather eat out with proper tableware or take away using my reusable container in the first place. As its name suggests, reusable is meant to be reused, made with better material!

At times, I see some avid gardeners reusing plastic packaging, single-use, and such for regrowing edibles and plants outdoors with sunlight and heat exposures. Again, I would not trust cheap plastics with my food, plant food included, and drinks in general, especially when some form of heat is involved in the equation. I found this link really useful if you want to learn more about the various types of plastics that are good to be used, reused, etc. Please read before putting your food, health, and this planet further at risk. 

There are good quality plastics that are safe to be used, reuse, and last forever. That’s why plastic is both fantastic and not so fantastic at the same time. If plastic is a material meant to last, why are we using, buying, and throwing away single-use plastic packaging and disposables like they will magically disappear the next day? When you throw away, it doesn’t go away. It will take 10-1,000 years to break down after that one-time use! The successful plastic recycling rate is only 9% globally! The first plastic bottle you’ve purchased is probably still on this planet, either as litter in our environment, dumped in a developing nation’s landfill or sea, if it’s not incinerated, making up 12% of the global plastic waste. Read more at National Geographic.

79% of the plastic waste will take a long time to break down into smaller plastic debris and microplastics, endangering wild lives, marine lives, and our planet Earth. Animals mistake our plastic waste for food and die prematurely from plastic ingestions, one way or another. Microplastics have already made it to the food chain and were found in human stools in 2018. To conclude, cheap, single-use plastic packaging and disposables are best to refuse at all costs! Consumers can vote with their dollars. No demand, no supply. Feedback to your favorite brand too, if you think their products contribute to our global plastic waste.

So much to say about the not so fantastic single-use plastic! Let us rewind to the subject of ‘Reuse. What else can we reuse? Leave a reply at the end of the page!

A paper bag found in my friend’s store room in Australia.

Reuse by using Reusables! At the beginning of my zero waste journey, I rethink my consumption habits and replace all things disposables with reusables. I carry a tote bag filled with reusables most of the time. It does take up quite a bit of space in my weekend bag or become an extra load to carry around. However, it’s better to fill my bag with reusables than to contribute more trash to the landfills. Zero Waste lifestyle is an inconvenient lifestyle that some of us, including myself, are willing to take, in order to preserve our Earth’s resources and for the sake of our planet’s health. Convenience is at the cost of our planet. Let’s be inconvenient!

Reusable items my friend and I prepared before going to a Ramadan market in Malaysia.

During the pandemic, many people may end up ordering more food delivery. Do you know the virus will stay in the air for 3 hours, on cardboard 24 hours, on plastic for 72 hours? Read more in this article. I choose to cook at home more and take out food using my clean enamelware and reusable glass containers when I don’t feel like cooking. It’s also a good excuse for me to step out of the house for an essential walk, mask up, of course. There’s an undeniable perk in using your own reusable. You’ll often end up with an extra portion or extra piece for the same price because your effort to save the planet is not left unrecognized. Recently, I take away Nyonya cendol with my own container. The seller filled it up and charged me the same amount. I did not expect that, but it has happened a few times on different occasions. 😉

To reduce waste further, I’ll bring my own reusable bags and containers of all sorts to the wet market (it’s dry by the way) to stock up my weekly food supplies; Vegetables, fruits, eggs, coffee ground, and so on. I would also use my own containers to takeaway brunch from the hawker food center upstairs before heading home.

One time, I ran out of containers to take away food after my ‘marketing’ shopping. I then opt for a dumpling and nasi lemak for lunch to generate the least waste. I can compost the dumpling leaf wrap and reuse the natural string (it’s not raffia string which is plastic) to hang the bananas. I can also compost the leaves inside the nasi lemak and recycle the white branding paper. Brown paper is lined with a layer of wax. Hence, it’s not recyclable. It was the only general waste created! Yes, I finished my food. So, no food waste.

Low Waste Marketing Strategy – BYO!
10 Kampong eggs for only 2.60! My egg container can only hold 8. No worries! I’ve got another container. Happy to find my favorite Portobello mushrooms at the wet market. They were pre-packed in a plastic bag which I politely ask the seller to pour them into my container and keep the plastic bag for reuse. I also returned the raffia string to the bananas seller for reuse.

I will buy just enough for the week and finish the supplies in time for the next trip. Shopping at the wet market has helped me save lots of time and energy to manage those unnecessary packaging one would accumulate from the supermarkets for recycling (or incinerated)! Products from the wet market are primarily presented in their naked form. Even if it’s pre-packed, you can always return it to the seller to reuse. Ie: Plastic bag, raffia string, rubber band. 

Isn’t it troublesome? Sorting and dealing with the recyclable waste would be! Shopping with my reusables? Not at all. It made me happy to know that I can buy my necessities without generating unnecessary waste. All it took for me was to grab my reusable bags and containers and go! How troublesome can that be? It’s about the same time and energy to grab your handbag and keys. 

And it all started by Rethinking my consumption habits, reassessing the way I shop and where I shop. I am also thinking about our only trash island, Pulau Semakau’s expiry date, which is 2035 (was 2045 shortened by 10 years). A lot more needs to be done to prolong the lifespan of our landfill beyond its estimated expiry date. Thankfully, habits can change. Let’s make BYO reusables the new norm and a new way of shopping! Reuse our resources over and over and over and over and over again and again and again and again and again!

Published by jsmntuan

A self-confessed shopaholic, hoarder, collector and a well organized one, Jasmine Tuan, a designer, a creative brand consultant, co-owned and ran a fashion concept store in Singapore featuring the best of Asia designers, went from having a walk-in wardrobe, downsized to a rack full, to zero shopping on new fashion items in 2018. She also began her zero waste journey the same year, by applying the 5Rs principles in this order: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot daily. She added 'Rethink' in front of the 5Rs as she believes everything begins from the head.

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