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Less plastic, more savings

05 September 2018

Money & Life team

Money & Life contributors draw on their diverse range of experience to present you with insights and guidance that will help you manage your financial wellbeing, achieve your lifestyle goals and plan for your financial future.

Proposed bag bans from supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths, together with the ABC’s popular War on Waste TV series have put the spotlight on the single-use plastics problem here in Australia. Find out how to swap disposable plastics for reusable alternatives and make it add up for your household budget.

Wherever you live and wherever you shop, chances are you’ve become aware of the perils of single-use plastics. And there’s no doubt that getting free, disposable plastics products – from shopping bags to straws – seems like the convenient, budget-friendly option. But ditching single-use plastics could end up being easier on your pocket, as well as the environment.

Here are five ways to make the transition away from single-use plastics. You might be surprised at the savings you’ll make by investing in a few items that make sustainable living more affordable.

Drink up

Think the cup you’re drinking takeaway coffee in is recyclable because it’s cardboard? Most takeaway cups are lined with a thin plastic film so they can’t be recycled along with other paper and cardboard waste. And that means our national caffeine habit is making a huge contribution to landfill – around one billion disposable cups a year according to a 2016 feature from ABC news.

Thanks to the first series of ABC’s War on Waste TV show, this issue has received a lot of publicity, which has sent reusable coffee cup sales through the roof. One of the most popular on the market is the Keep Cup, available in three sizes in glass and plastic.  There are many alternative versions now available in major supermarkets and independent stores, so look for one to suit your budget and colour preference.

But where’s the dollar saving if you’re buying a cup instead of getting free disposable ones? Many vendors are now offering discounts on takeaway coffees if you bring your own cup. A handy interactive map from Responsible Cafes can help you find one of 4,400 cafes across Australia who will sell you coffee for less when you bring a cup with you. Get your daily brew from these baristas and you’re likely to recover the cost of your reusable cup in a matter of weeks.

Buy in bulk

While some food packaging can be recycled, much of it still ends up in landfill. Although it might seem like something that’s hard to avoid, the rise of bulk food shopping is increasing families budget savings on groceries, as well as reducing waste. Reusable jars, plastic containers and bags can all be suitable for buying and storing dry goods, such as pasta, rice and cereals as well as spices, oils, sauces and more. And there are now many household cleaning and laundry products available in bulk too.

Investing in as many airtight jars as you need can be a significant cost, but you can reuse old jars instead of buying them. It’s often the case that products from bulk stores are cheaper by weight and volume than the supermarket equivalent. So you should find your weekly shop costing you less than it did before.

Cool containers

Having some plastic in your home needn’t be a bad thing, especially if it’s built to last. Tupperware have been in the business of making durable plastic containers and household items since 1946. Their modern creations come at a high price, but there’s a retro chic appeal in old Tupperware tubs that have seen them flying off the shelves at op shops. So if you’re looking for something sustainable and stylish to keep food fresh, pay a visit to your local Salvos and St Vincent De Paul store and see what you find in the way of vintage Tupperware for your home.

Be bag smart

After Coles and Woolworths stopped handing out free plastic bags to customers in July 2018, Coles have changed their position again. They are now offering complementary plastic bags to customers again. While these bags are designed to be used more than once, they’re not as robust as reusable bags customers pay for. Woolworths on the other hand are charging their customers 15c for similar bags.

Wherever you choose to do your grocery shopping, reusable bags can definitely save you from contributing to plastic pollution. And if you shop at Woolies, then you’ll also be saving yourself 15c a pop on your plastic bag bill. Struggle to remember to bring bags with you every time? Many stores, including some IGA shops, have started offering Boomerang Bags to customers. You borrow one or more to carry your shopping home and return them next time.

Straws for days

Right up there with takeaway cups and disposable grocery bags, single use plastic straws are high on the list of public enemies for plastic pollution in our oceans. While the actual figure for plastic straw waste is uncertain, its fair to say most of us will have used and discarded them during our many visits to a pub, café, bar, restaurant or takeaway, as well as having them for our drinking comfort at home.

While straws made from paper are a compostable alternative, reusable straws are an even better option. Available in glass, stainless steel or bamboo, it could be a few years before you’ll save enough on your plastic straw bill to have made these a worthwhile purchase. But if it’s a case of a $10 outlay to save your household throwing away perhaps hundreds of straws, it’s a small price to pay to do your bit for limiting the plastics clogging up our landscape and oceans.

Spending more on more significant items like clothing, furniture and appliances can also be better for your budget in the long run. Find out more.

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