This week in our zero waste series, we will focus on reducing waste in the kitchen. Like the bathroom, the kitchen is a room filled with disposable objects, that need to be replaced regularly and cause a lot of waste, but this does not have to be the case. Here are a few simple swaps you can make to reduce waste in your kitchen.

Following on from the first week's article on reducing bathroom waste, the follow-up deep-dive on the same subject, and the third instalment in which we took a look at how to reduce waste when it comes to feminine care. This article contains links (of the non-referral kind, so no kickback, no sponsorship) to some of the products discussed, but other brands and options are available - and will usually be carried by zero-waste shops, such as Ouni. Many can also be found in regular shops and supermarkets.

No more paper towels

One of the most wasteful kitchen items are paper towels, I myself was a big fan of them because they are incredibly convenient if you just want to quickly wipe something up. However, they are also incredibly wasteful, not only has each sheet to be thrown away after only seconds of use, kitchen roll also comes in plastic packaging which we are trying to avoid. The easiest solution to this is swapping kitchen roll with cloths, which you are probably already using in your kitchen anyway, to wipe bigger surfaces, such as the hob, for example. The cloths can be thrown into the washing machine with the rest of your towels and then used again. You will notice a difference in use but only a minor one, as for most of the time you will just have to remember to put the cloths in the wash instead of the bin.

If you would rather keep your cloths for other uses and cannot bear the absence of kitchen roll, you can opt for so-called ‘unpaper towels’, these are made of bamboo or cotton and are therefore much thinner than cloths, coming closer to actual paper towels. They can be used just like the normal version with the advantage that they can be washed. If rolled around a kitchen roll holder the difference will be even smaller. This option might be slightly more expensive, as you probably already have cloths that can be used.

In case you occasionally used paper towels as napkins the swap would be to opt for cloth napkins which are not only sturdier but can again be washed and then reused.

Unclinging the clingfilm

Another great enemy of the zero waste kitchen is clingfilm or foil, the former is made out of plastic and both cannot be reused. An alternative to this are beeswax wraps, as the name indicates, these wraps are made out of wax. They and be wrapped around your food and be sealed with the warmth of your fingers, or they can be used to seal a bowl. The wraps are breathable which ensures that your food stays fresh. It is recommended that you do not use them to wrap raw meat or fish. If you want to reuse them, simply wash them with soap and cold water, hot water would dissolve the wax, they go back to their initial flat shape and you can hang them up to dry. These wax wraps can be reused up to a year and come in different sizes, colours and patterns, making clingfilm and the like redundant.

Alternatively, you can opt for silicone ‘food huggers’, they work a bit like lids and are ideal if you want to keep half an onion fresh. Unfortunately they do not adapt themselves to the shape of the food and are therefore not as versatile as the wraps. These silicone lids are also available in large sizes which are big enough to cover a bowl.

There are more options to store food, but more about food storage and where to buy plastic free will be mentioned in the next instalment.

Washing up

When it comes to washing up most of us use a dishwasher but sometimes washing up by hand cannot be avoided in which case the tools we use to do it are not very eco-friendly. The swap for the dishwasher is relatively easy, as you can get plastic free dishwasher tablets that come in a cardboard box. For the other parts, several items will need to be replaced.

First, washing up liquid that comes in a plastic bottle needs to be replaced, this can be done by opting for a solid washing up block or liquid soap which comes in a metal bottle. You can also refill your washing up liquid at zero waste shops such as Ouni here in Luxembourg.

If you opt for a washing up bar rather than liquid, basically this is the same swap you made in your bathroom, but instead of using the solid soap on your body you use it on your dishes. Plastic washing-up brushes can be replaced by compostable wooden brushes, for which you can buy replacement heads. Disposable sponges, which also contain plastic, can be replaced by so-called ‘unsponges’. The latter are available in different materials but are mostly made out of cotton and can be used like ordinary sponges. When you feel that you have used them long enough you can throw them in the wash and start over with a fresh sponge. Similarly you can buy re-usable cleaning pads which do the same job and can be washed.

Questions? Comments? Further suggestions for living an eco-friendly lifestyle? Leave a comment below!