6 Smart & Simple Swaps to Zero-Waste

Want to make some changes to waste less and save the environment but unsure of where to start?

Here is a quick list of three swaps you can do today that will make a huge difference on your daily consumption of disposables and single-use commodities. Zero-waste shouldn't sound daunting!

Swap: cling film

For: wax wrap and silicone lids

Plastic in the kitchen is unavoidable in Singapore where food needs to be protected from the humidity and heat. While useful in preserving our food, they are not healthy nor harmless and moreover cannot be recycled, thus generating huge amounts of waste. For the items to go in the fridge, safe from the ambient air and heat, cotton wax wraps (beeswax or vegan wax) are the best and most versatile solution.

You can easily make your own or order them online at Redmart or Lazada (better still if you can shop for them in store), and they can endlessly be re-waxed to get real financial benefit, or at the very least composted. They come in many sizes, and are simply moulded over items using your hands so can fit absolutely anything! Moreover, they're super handy for wrapping around vegetables and snacks to create portions. For something more airtight and long picnics where the hot weather makes wax wrap tricky (they will eventually melt a little if left in the sun!), you can use silicone stretch lids such as these that will double-up as lids for unfinished drinks etc.

Swap: plastic straws

For: durable or edible straws

There is no lack of straw usage in Singapore. While the USA might be afflicted with straws in super-size sodas and Starbucks Frappuccinos (see our Secret Menu Frappuccinos and how to enjoy them with Zero-Waste!), Singapore is a sucker (literally) for bubble tea of which no less than 17 new shops opened last year and where straws are a must-have. However, who said they needed to be made from plastic?

In March 2018, the Singapore Management University’s SMU GROW led to the ban of plastic straws in the campus’ foodcourt (Koufu), and instead offer compostable paper straws as an alternative. It's a first great step, but if you want to go zero-waste, why not grab a reusable straw?

You can now find straws made from:

• glass (they feel quite cool to use and look chic)

• bamboo / wood (lightweight but not the most hygienic over time)

• silicone (the most flexible, soft and hygienic)

• steel (for the men or clumsy-fingers!)

Starbucks themselves announced that all of its stores will no longer offer plastic straws to customers by the year 2020...and Singapore's increasing regulations on plastic waste lets us believe that places such as Koi Thé and other favourite bubble tea stores will soon be asked to do the same. So start today to get used to the idea!

And what if you have a party and not everyone has a straw to bring? Rather than splashing on 50 steel straws (although that would make for a great party gift!), get a bag of wide pasta! That's what the guys in Tanjong Pagar at My Awesome Cafe have done!

Swap: Ziploc bags

For: Silicone resealable bags

The very convenient bags you use to freeze leftovers, pack snacks and keep herbs fresh in aren't very resistant and tend to last few usages (if more than one at all). Certainly a modern convenience and perfect for the tidy-freak, they can be forgotten without heart ache with the far more durable and hygienic silicone resealable bags. Made from food grade silicone, these bags are dead easy to store anything from fresh fruits to leftover meals and even sauces as they are perfectly sealed and airtight.

Unlike traditional plastic food bags, the silicone food bags tolerate extreme temperatures and can be heated in the microwave or oven, stored in the freezer and are dishwasher safe!

You can now prep meals for the whole week and make the cookie dough for next month's birthday party without creating a plastic hell in your freezer! Oh, and by far our favourite use if to store seasonal berries for off-season so as to eat local foods all year round!

Swap: Q-tips/cotton buds

For: Ear picks

Why? Because even “natural” bamboo and cotton q-tips remain disposable and unless composted end up in landfill. Cotton moreover is typically bleached and not chemical-free. And you need to keep buying them and throwing them away, so albeit more friendly than plastic types, they’re far from zero-waste compatible.

The alternative? Steel or wooden ear picks. Not only won't you need to worry about running out, you’ll save money and avoid the build up of plastics wraps and boxes the usual disposables come in. Reduce always comes before recycling! The steel version has the advantage of being easier to clean while the bamboo is appreciated for its lightweight feel.

Swap: menstrual pads & tampons

For: silicone menstrual cup

Panty liners, menstrual pads and tampons are an ecological catastrophe. From the bleaching to make them white as snow to satisfy societal belief that white means “pure”, artificial crystals in the liners, plastic applicators and individual plastic packaging to the obvious fact that they can’t be recycled in any way.... do we need to go on?

If you’ve not skipped to the next tip we thank you because the alternative will save the earth and your bank account from dipping in red. Menstrual cups aka Luna Cups and Moon Cups are silicone cups typically in one or two sizes, washable, pesticide and bleach free, some are even collapsible for more convenience...

Finally, a menstrual cup when taken care of properly will potentially last you a lifetime. Versus over 10,000 tampons in a lifetime (and way way more pads if that’s what you’re into). Even if you failed in math you can figure that one out.

Swap: Sponge

For: brush

The typical kitchen sink sponge isa potential nest for bacteria, and so it's recommended to wash it every single week. Not very friendly, it's also impossible to recycle.

The alternative is a brush or a silicone sponge, that you can even put in the microwave to sanitise. Sponges such as these double up as coasters as they are great for isolating from heat, oven gloves etc. And they can be washed in the dishwasher - it doesn't get easier! The same exist for cleaning bottles and narrow containers too, as does this one available on Lazada also.

So there you have it, our 6 SMART & SIMPLE SWAPS for a more environmentally friendly home... and a lot of money saved too! What are your new zero-waste allies?

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