COVID-19 Challenged My Waste Reduction Efforts

Guest Blogger

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been thinking about my waste reduction efforts along with increased use of single-use plastics and other non-recyclable items. This has happened as retailers are taking additional precautions to safeguard their staff and community. Plus, it has resulted in a strange time for recyclers and waste minimalists!

Here are a few of the items I’ve used in recent weeks, which I normally avoid:

  • Disposable/carry-out coffee cups
  • Plastic grocery bags
  • Take-out food containers

At this time, it’s not possible for me to outsmart my impulses by preparing in advance. My reusable Thermos, cotton totes and stash of jars are no longer welcome at local restaurants and retailers.

How to get around this? It feels harder than ever to stay true to my values and waste reduction efforts, while supporting local businesses and limiting my use of non-recyclable items.

I want to share a few of the ideas I’ve come up with.  Hopefully, you find these helpful and will consider some of your own strategies, too!

Tips to Reduce

  • I make most coffee at home, but I love to treat myself to a cup at local cafes. By restricting to-go coffee purchases to once per week and declining plastic lids and/or cardboard sleeves where I can, I can limit my reliance on disposable items.
  • It’s easy to avoid plastic bags at grocery stores like Aldi, because they don’t provide them. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s provide paper bags, which can be recycled. When shopping at other grocery stores, I can let the cashier know that I don’t need a bag and opt to carry my items (when possible) or bag them at my vehicle before returning the cart.
  • Ordering takeout has made it possible to continue supporting local restaurants that are able to remain open. Do a little research! Call and find out how they package to-go items and make some decisions from there. Does the restaurant package in Styrofoam? Do they have a reusable alternative? My favorite local Thai restaurant packages soup in a sturdy plastic container that can be repurposed as a long-lasting leftover container.

Now it’s your turn! What creative approaches have you found to sustain awareness around waste reduction during this time?

You can find more ideas on the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District’s website. Check out their tips for reduce and reuse and reducing plastic waste.

About the Author

Leanne Hoppe is a teacher and writer pursuing a low-waste lifestyle. Her passion to learn more about everything having to do with waste led her to sign up for the Master Recycler program in 2019. Through the course, she learned first-hand what happens to materials when they leave a curbside bin.