Reduce, Reuse, Refill and Refuse: simple ways to avoid single-use waste

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This single use problem is one we can deal with, daily, and make a massive difference. This is brilliant news! The starting point is a little grim, but if we get stuck into it we, as individuals, can turn it around – with our own actions, and with the message that our actions send. It takes a little planning, a little guts to be the one who refuses the straw or who asks for take outs in their own tin, but it feels so good once you start that you’ll become a reuse revolutionary in no time. As with most things, we, the consumers, have the power to change it all.

There are four big offenders in the overpopulated world of single-use: plastic water bottles, plastic straws, plastic bags and coffee cups (and this includes ‘Eco’ plant-made plastics). If we use something once then throw it away, we are contributing to the problem of methane in landfill, ocean pollution, energy consumption, and pressure on developing countries to clear or repurpose land to make packaging rather than for growing trees or food. These things are happening for many other reasons, but by avoiding single-use, we can massively reduce the stress on our world and it’s natural resources.

Use Your Own Cup

With 295 million disposable coffee cups used in New Zealand each year, this is a biggie, and by using your own cup you are making a real difference – a definite difference. But it doesn’t have to be a purpose bought reusable (although there are some beautiful and efficient products out there!). It can be a mug from home or it can be a jam jar with a lid that you write your name and coffee order on. Making use of what we already own is key. This whole thing is really about a return to common sense. Treat yourself to a reusable, put it on your birthday list, but keep a jam jar in a sock in the car for when you forget. We all forget.

Of course, the best way to reduce waste as a committed coffee lover is to make time to stay and have your coffee in. Be part of the community. Get to know other customers and the staff. Perfect! Like the old days. Progress can sometimes mean simply reverting to what was once lovely.

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Use Your Own Tubs

Take your own lunch to work in a reusable tub, Tupperware, tin, anything. If you decide on a takeaway, use our own containers. When it’s take out night, we can take our own tubs to a restaurant, with our name and order written on them, leave them and take a walk while our food is being prepared. Brilliant. The first time you do this, it might feel uncomfortable but, someone will overhear you, and admire you, and copy you, and so change takes place.

Stop buying water in plastic bottles. Use your own instead

It falls from the sky and comes out of the tap. Get a flask, or reuse a bottle from home. Simple. When you get your lunch, ask the cafe if you can fill up from their tap. Encourage them to encourage us all to take responsibility for our waste.

Use Your Own Bags

We all know this one. And so many of us already do. The time for plastic bags is over. It’s just a case of seeing it out the door. And not looking back. Keep your reusables in your car, or on a hook by your front door. With all these things, keeping our reusable alternatives visible is key.

Refuse the straw

This takes a little getting used to, for folks both sides of the counter. It has become a habit for staff to pop a straw in a drink. We have to say when we order a drink, and sometimes say it a couple of times “No straw for me please”. If we must suck, because sometimes smoothies can compromise the state of our faces for the rest of the day, how about choosing a café that uses paper straws? Or even better, reusables? Or even, even better! Invest in a reusable straw of our own. Glass, bamboo, metal. There are some gorgeous products we can use and carry with us. It’s just about changing habits, and taking responsibility for our waste. And once we start, it feels good. We start to see waste everywhere and wonder why we never noticed before…

With 500 billion disposable coffee cups being used each year around the world, and 295 billion plastic water bottles, it is easy to become disheartened and wonder what difference one person can make. Well, let’s look at this way – “It’s only one takeout coffee cup”, said 7 billion people. That is scary. But when we turn it around to read, “I don’t need a disposable coffee cup”, said 7 billion people or “I don’t need a straw thanks”, said 7 billion people, all of a sudden, it becomes manageable. We’ve got this.

 Recycling was a good place to start, but now, with the mountainous volume of single-use products being made and used every single day, it’s  not enough. To turn things around, it is vital that we begin to reduce, reuse, refill and refuse. We can do it. And if we end our relationship with single-use products, you can bet that companies will stop making them. In fact, you can bet our planet on it.

UYOC is an online café guide. It stands for Use Your Own Cup and pronounced [you-yok] or any way you want to say it! We help you find cafes committed to minimizing their environmental impact by welcoming us to use our own cups when we take out. And all profits from the UYOC guide are distributed to social and environmental NGOs and charities who work to alleviate suffering and defend the natural world.

Website: uyoc.co.nz

Instagram: @uyoc.nz

Facebook: @uyoc.useyourowncup

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