We all know we should do it.

The Environment. Since childhood we are taught to take care of the Environment. Humanity produces about 50 tons of household trash every second. From zero-waste Utopia prevent us two factors- money and time (and third, laziness, of course). Eco-friendly items are usually more expensive. We could work longer to afford ecological products or spend more time to find both cheap and environment-friendly products.

For several years I wanted to live in an environmentally-friendly manner. As a student, I could barely afford it due to a very limited budget, but likely I’m able now to spend a bit more on eco-friendly products. But before the change, one thought didn’t let me sleep- how to reduce waste effectively? Is it possible to find the Pareto principle for garbage reduction? Which waste plays a key role in environmental pollution? And finally- is it possible to both eliminate waste and save money?

Analyse it, girl!

So that’s how came into the Idea of creating a spreadsheet to measure cost and impact of garbage reduction. Before taking any action, I’ve been looking for the strategy on how to minimize waste amount. I had two criteria in my mind:

  1. Determine what’s the most common trash in my household.
  2. Think which household garbages are the most problematic for the environment. I’ve chosen this criterium, as it’s less complicated to me. I’ve noticed, that the majority of trashes produced by have been made from plastic, so I’ve simply decided to reduce plastic.

Plastic – (not) fun fact

Media alert how bad the plastic is: we should use less plastic bags and straws, plastic bottles break down in the oceans into microscopic pieces causing deaths of birds and whales. I’ll add some facts which are unpopular, but have shaped my mind about the impact of plastic:

  • Recycling is also a solution to garbages. However, only 26% of garbages in Poland are being recycled (some are rejected due to material pollution).
  • Plastic in oceans degrades to microplastics which are eaten by fish and finally consumed by man.
  • Many European countries have exported their garbages to China or India. Are we certain, that the garbages were properly stored and managed there? Especially, that…
  • 95% of trash in oceans come from 10 big rivers in the world [LINK], all of them are located in Asia and Africa.

So maybe instead of stubbornly reducing the amount of trash produced by our households, we should focus on supporting recycling and proper waste management in developing countries? Garbage amount wouldn’t be reduced, but its side-effect on the environment will be diminished? These are just my thoughts, but if you know any research papers regarding possible solutions of waste management in developing countries- PLEASE link it in the comment.

10 ways to reduce plastic use – Case Study

I’ve analyzed 10 ways to reduce common plastic trashes. I intended to create a high-level analysis which will show me, which methods of garbage reduction are the most important. I advise you to read the assumptions below, otherwise, you may misinterpret the results. I’ve made them to keep the analysis simple and comparable:

  • I analyze my personal consumption. (1-person household), but I share with you the notebook so that you can calculate and optimize your consumption.
  • None of the products have been shopped online (packaging size from online stores has significant variance, difficult to compare).
  • Prices of goods are valid for Poland and presented in Polish Zloty (PLN).
  • I analyze garbage saving from the perspective of living in Poland. It is possible that your country has well/bad developed recycling chain or you consume other goods, so my point of view might not be the most optimal in your country.
  • The weight of goods was either googled or measured with kitchen scales.
  • To keep it simple I haven’t considered side effects of eco-friendly solutions. It’s probable that the production of alternative product consumes more water or it adds more CO2 or toxic chemicals to the atmosphere, but collecting such data will take me much more time (if they are published anywhere).

To assess effectiveness, I’ve focused on two aspects. First one – how much should I spend to reduce plastic use by 100g? It’s represented by the cost of saving 100g of plastic; below 0 means that by saving plastic I also save money. The second is, how much plastic will I save annually and in 5-years scope? I can find the answer in the saved plastic (g) field. If you are looking for a budget solution, keep focused on the extra cost of alternative solution. This will tell you how much should you spend on the eco-friendly alternative. Again, the value below 0 means that you save both plastic and money.

Let’s take a look at how can I reduce the amount of plastic waste:

These were my first thoughts after I took a look at the numbers:

  • I use very few straws, so by buying steel straw, I will reduce the tiny amount of plastic. Instead, I’ll simply stop using plastic straws 🙂
  • I’m shocked that using bidon and tap water allows me to save 18kg of plastic in 5 years and allows to save me 132zł annually (cost of 2 good quality t-shirts). Definitely will focus on this.
  • Bamboo toothbrush and handmade fabric conditioner saves very few plastics and have a high cost of saving 100g of plastic value.
  • Cotton bags reduce much less plastic than I expected, nevertheless plastic bags have a huge environmental impact (are being eaten by turtles, easy break down to microplastic which is eaten by fishes). Besides that, I reuse plastic bags if possible.
  • I’ve always thought that soap nuts are a fancy solution for rich millennials. What a kind surprise!

Remember, that I don’t want to discourage you from choosing solutions which are more expensive and save less plastic. My aim was to show you, which products should we eliminate at first.

So, considering the cost of saving 100g of plastic and saved plastic (g), there’s my subjective rank of eco – friendly solutions:

  1. steel bidon + tap water (alternatively a water jug)
  2. Soap (instead of water gel)
  3. Soap nuts

If you want to optimize the use of plastic in your household- you can copy my notebook from Google Sheets (File -> Create a copy). Please, share your results and thoughts in the comments below, I’m very curious 🙂