Soft plastics packaging

How to Reduce Soft Plastics at Home

at home garbologist packaging reduce waste soft plastics Nov 16, 2022

Last week was a wake-up call, myself included.

I’ve relied on soft plastics recycling to 'offset' some of my purchasing habits and meet my own personal waste reduction commitments.

As devastated friends and family turned to me with that “what do I do now” look in their eyes, I reflected on all the changes I’ve made, over more than a decade, to reduce this type of waste in the first place.

I also tipped my own soft plastics bin out and identified some more things I could reduce.

Here is what I could recall, my new initiatives and other ideas I came up with after strolling through my local supermarket. 

You'll have some great ideas too - help me countdown to zero?

Getting Started


#100 Individually wrapped dishwashing tablets

Buy powdered or liquid.

#99 Cling wrap

Cover bowl with a plate or plastic bag, use serving container with a lid (generally a win win for food waste too), or beeswax wraps, or if short term in the fridge – a wet tea towel does the job.

#98 Zip lock bags (e.g. from frozen fruit)

Reuse them in place of the zip lock bags you'd buy for sandwiches etc – they’re stronger! If not clear, label with a permanent marker before popping in the fridge or freezer.

#97 Frozen vegetables

Chop your own, and pre-pack them in freezer – refer previous step.

#96 Falafels

Make these from mix sold in cardboard boxes.

#95 Fresh herbs

Grow herbs in pots – not for all, but for the nongardener, the easiest are: mint, sage and rosemary. I leave coriander to the experts and depending on the retailer, sometimes take the soft plastics hit. Green grocers are great for unpackaged herbs.

#94 Dry cleaning

For those who need to turn up crisp, or who fell victim to Aunty Martha’s combination of ‘the Bus Stop’ with a glass of red wine.

This one requires an appreciation of your dry cleaner’s process and in my case some negotiation. Lily, my Dry Cleaner, and I agreed that I can take my dry cleaning home in my reusable clothing protector and she can then reuse that plastic bags and hangars in store.

Don’t have a reusable? Put a ‘wanted add’ on Freecycle, post on Facebook, ask around at work and school. If all this fails you in a month - get in touch and I’ll personally post you my spare one.

 Oh! good segway ….

#93 Plastic mailers or 'satchels'

Reuse a mailing satchel turned inside out or plastic bag instead of buying a new one – seal it thoroughly, so the address is clear, it survives the logistics process, and doesn’t cause issues for postal operators.

#92 Fetta and goats cheese

 Buy in oil – it lasts longer, and leftover oil make a nice salad dressing. Make sure you keep the cheese completely covered in the oil to prevent it going to waste. 

Save the glass jar and lid to safely store used batteries, before dropping off for recycling (never, ever put batteries in any of your kerbside bins!).

 #91 Vegetables - buy whole and not pre sliced

Corn, celery, pumpkin, cabbage, cauliflower etc. Read my article 'Woman vs Celery' on how to prevent food waste when you purchase whole vegetables.

#90 Bread rolls and bakery treats

 Buy bread rolls and treats from bakery in your own container, reused packaging or reusable bread bag.

 #89 Bottled water packs

Use a soda stream, and, as bonuses: avoid the plastic wrap ….. oh and the bottles ….. oh and the epic environmental footprint of the product (one tangent I swear, just give me one people!) 

 #88 Bubble wrap

Save and reuse for yourself or post as free moving supplies on Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree. If that’s not your vibe, as your closet framer if they'll take it (I’ve never had one say no).

 #87 Bin bags and liners

Have a look in your soft plastics, and see what you can reuse. 

#86 Individually wrapped ice creams

Buy in a container not individual single serves – balance bowls and kiddos' hyperactivity, and long term health, with fruit (Ok two tangents).

 #85 Produce Bags

Use reusable netted produce bags (clip them to your big shopping bags so you don't forget), or reuse existing ones. Good for baby spinach, rocket, green beans and move into containers in crisper at home.

#84 Party on Wayne

Use reusables for your party e.g. plates and serviettes, decorations, use bunting instead of balloons, borrow a set from your local tool library or friends if you don’t have them. Rescue candles /  little umbrellas etc, clean off and store in a party box, or ask your attendees who the next Birthday human is, and pass them on.

#83 Party on Garth

Having an absolute smasher? (Invite please). Hire decorations and all of the above from a party service provider if you hosting a large event. 

#82 Crackers

Choose boxed crackers.

#81 Toilet paper

Have this delivered from a supplier who does not use soft plastic.They’re out there, you just need to give a crap and look – get a larger box and split it with a family, friend or neighbour.

#80 Packaging from online purchases

Ask for minimal packaging from your supplier – sometimes it works (e.g. buying from smaller retailers or second hand on Ebay), sometimes it doesn’t, but give it a try, keep on asking and be kind.

#79 Meats and fresh seafood

 Take your own bag or container and ‘warn’ your server well in advance – this can backfire depending on their operations.

#78 Cured meats

Buy cured meats for cooking in bulk and divvie up in the freezer (refer #98).

#77 Menstrual hygiene products

Chose a reusable solution, to decrease waste, but the additional benefits are staggering. Plenty of options to serve personal needs on the market these days, check it out and what works for you.

#76 Chocolate

Now this one’s personal. I bought some at a bulk food store. In this case, it was much more costly – and so much nicer. I guess I’m always talking about valuing things – so given this, perhaps I’ll be more mindful, rather than mindlessly stuffing half a chocolate block whilst binging Seinfeld reruns. 

 #75 Mend a holey plastic bag

There’s a hole in my bag, dear Liza ….. etc. If it doesn’t need to be watertight get some sticky tape and patch that bad boy up.

#74 Dead Umbrella

I’m often asked about this one in the context of soft plastic recycling. Cut the material off umbrella carefully and use it as wings for a butterfly or bat costume. Drop the metal at your local Community Recycling Centre.

I’m going to be blunt now – if it’s within your means, purchase a good quality umbrella that offers repairs, to get off the 'single use brolley merry go round'.

Keep the case and use it - to avoid single use plastic covers used at Office towers for example. 

Label the umbrella and its case, clearly with your name and number, incase you forget it somehwere (we're all human).

#73 Cotton wool and anil polish remover pads

Plenty of reusable alternatives now on market, buy once and use for ages – cut the single use packaging and the product – Kapow! Winning. 

New and exciting initiatives from last week

Refer to the main article image 

Last week in a fit of despair and determination I tipped my soft plastics bin out and chose more I can avoid. I clipped them on the fridge – not as a shaming exercise, but as a reminder that these are my focus and in my control (waste can get a little overwhelming sometimes).

#72 Individually wrapped teabags

I use loose leaf tea to avoid tea bags, except for one flavour I love, but can’t find loose. I went and bought loose leaf - $1.25 for the chamomile and $1.25 for the mint and micxed it myself. The packet retails at $3 so pretty much cost neutral, but then the loose leaf lasted double the time the tea bags did! So savings overall. 

 #71 Protein bars

I can’t stand cooking or being in the kitchen - but in the name of waste prevention I need to step up - I’ll make my own. Making in bulk and freezing allevaites the dreaded kitchen time. 

 #70 Dog bones

I struck a deal with a butcher, that I can bring the original bag I bought frozen ones from a retailer in, and purchase bones from him.

Things I don’t use - but noticed in the supermarket

 #69 Single use yoghurt pouches

I googled and you can buy refillable yoghurt pouches apparently. If anyone has used these, can provide advice on how user friendly they are? Alternatives need to be fit for purpose, otherwise you just create a another waste problem.

#68 Gum

Buy in bottles not prepacked. Chewy people – any issues with this idea?

#67 Nappies 

It was never one for soft plastics recycling anyway – but they’re still in the category. Appreciate this one’s tricky, especially whilst caring for a new little soul, and absolutely not for everyone. Some ideas being cloth nappies, reusable inserts and nappy cleaning services. 

 #66 Produce netted bags (e.g. those used for citrus fruit)

Buy produce loose (if you can spare the extra 40ish cents per kg) and take an alternative bag – my Primary School library bag does the trick!

“But B!” that’s thicker, doesn’t it cost you more?”


Well firstly loose oranges tend to be sold per unit. But when not: Ok let’s do some maths, assume 2 grams more per unique purchase.

 Assume I buy oranges weekly at 1.6kg @ 2.80 per kilo *52 * 40 more years on earth minus 3 years overall of supply shocks. Add 2% p.a inflation, then 3% p.a. CPI plus 2 % p.a. for good luck and in honour of the moon…… For sanity’s sake people if you're still reading at this point - you're 'into it' – I say make the financial contribution for the greater good and move right on with your life.

Items I still find challenging – any ideas? 

# Dog kibble, probiotics and some treats

# Cheeses – tasty, haloumi, and the fancy ones eg brie, blue, camembert

# Band aids

For the time poor

We’re all busy and have variations of head space that we can allocate to waste minimisation and the required behaviour change.

For those in ‘survival mode’ aka your daily KPI is not to lose your keys or burn the house down – I get it, and here are my suggestions

# Take 3 for the sea – but do it anywhere

As Nemo says – “All drains lead to the ocean” – as does litter. If you can’t implement any of the above just grab that glistening wrapper in the park and bin it.

Out on the water? Shove that piece of bobbing trash down your wetsuit or (check for things that may bite or string – it’s Australia after all).

Pictured  - my ocean haul from Sunday.

# Dog poo bag rescue

It’s one thing to see litter but it’s quite another to see product that haven’t even been used yet *Sigh*. I’ve stop walking past these and collect them (unused – even I have limits) – last Sunday morning's haul alone pictured.


Well, if you're still with me, well done rock star! I hope there' something in here that's useful and I'd encourage you to share your 'how to' with others too.

Waste prevention is a team sport!

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