Sonika’s No-Dustbin Policy

This is a guest blog written by Sonika Bhasin

From having dustbins all over the house, we’ve been able to live without any for almost 2 years.

Let me tell you why and how!

It all started when we had our son. As they say, having a baby will change your life! Well, it certainly did for us!

My husband and I realised that our lifestyle was leading to a lot of unnecessary waste and harming the planet. We became aware about the waste crisis, and not wanting to make it worse, we decided to do our bit to help. We started educating ourselves and making small changes to reduce our waste. With time and some effort, almost a year later we realised that our dustbins were largely going empty! That’s when we decided to completely get rid of them and manage all our waste ourselves.

So how did we manage to get here? I’m going to break this down as simply as possible, and tell you the basic principles we follow to have a no-dustbin home:

Waste Segregation:

This is key. Knowing what really goes where is important. A simple way to understand this is that ‘wet waste’ is everything that’s biodegradable – including soiled paper napkins and paper that’s soiled with oil/food. Dry waste is anything that can be recycled. It’s important to clean plastic (especially if it had food in it) and dry it before we put it in dry waste. Dry waste should be clean and ‘dry’! Anything that’s touched your body and is not biodegradable is ‘reject waste’ – used disposable diapers, sanitary pads, ear buds, cotton balls, medical waste etc.

Waste Reduction:

We reduced our waste at source, by being mindful of how much we generate across all categories

Personal Waste Management:

Compost all wet waste at home

Give all our dry waste for recycling

Try and not generate any reject waste in the first place since that can’t be composted or recycled

To not generate ANY waste at all may sound impossible, but I assure you it isn’t.

Here’s how we do it:

1. Composting our wet waste:

We have a stackable terracotta composting unit from The Daily Dump. It’s very compact and easily fits into our small balcony. This has reduced our waste by 60-70%. It has been the most satisfying part of this journey! Seeing our kitchen ‘waste’ turn into a rich black soil makes me so happy! I’ve started involving my son in composting as well and he loves it! It takes less than 2 minutes daily and is really much easier than I had imagined.

2. Reducing our dry waste:

We have reduced our overall consumption – we use whatever we already have and buy only what we really need. From being a shopaholic to not buying impulsively, this was probably the hardest for me! I just deleted all shopping apps from my phone, so I wasn’t tempted! I also opened my closet and got all my clothes out and realized I had enough clothes to last a few years and really didn’t need anything.

We also avoid any kind of disposable or single use products and use reusable options instead. Not just single use plastic, but even things like paper tissues, wet wipes (these are essentially made of plastic. I always thought they were made of paper!), cotton balls, paper cups (like coffee takeaway cups) etc. A simple way to do this is to carry your own bottle, reusable cup, a cloth napkin and a set of spoon and fork with you go. Use cloth wipes (use any old cloth at home or use face towels) instead of wet wipes. You even get cloth wipes to use instead of cotton to remove make-up etc.

We’ve hung a bunch of cloth bags near our front door, so we don’t forget to take them when we step out. We’ve also kept cloth bags and a few empty containers in our car.

3. Avoiding Reject Waste:

Look at using cloth diapers instead of disposable ones, cloth pads or a menstrual cup instead of sanitary pads. Cloth face wipes instead of cotton balls, cloth napkins instead of paper tissues. And you’ll end up with very little or no reject waste!

Reuse and repurpose existing stuff (just like our grandparents did!). For instance, we use old worn-out T-shirts/clothes as mops and wipes. This saves money and reduces waste! The next time you think of buying something, look around and see if you can repurpose something you already have. You’ll be surprised as to how many things you’ll find lying around!

4. Buy Sustainable:

When we buy, we buy from local sustainable brands, as much as possible. I’ve discovered the most amazing Indian sustainable brands across all categories – from personal care, to home care, to clothes, shoes, etc. These usually use very less or no plastic in packaging either. You will find products from all these categories on Brown Living.

We transitioned into these step by step and that’s what you can do as well. Pick up a category of products and once they are over, instead of buying your regular brands, buy from biodegradable brands. Bathroom and cleaning products are easy swaps that will reduce your waste drastically.

E.g., if you use shampoo and soap bars instead of shampoos and shower gels, you’ve reduced 2 plastic bottles you’re your bathroom. You can also switch to a sustainable toothpaste that comes in a glass bottle and just use coconut or almond oil or a face oil which come in glass bottles. You will also find several detergents, dish wash and other cleaning products from sustainable brands that are available in paper or metal containers.

I’ve realised over time that products that are not good for the environment, are also not good for our health. Commercial cleaners are full of nasty chemicals which we don’t realise. Pick up your detergent or floor cleaner and look up its ingredients online. You’ll not want to use it again!

My simple rule now – read the label, if there’s an ingredient you don’t recognise or can’t pronounce, don’t buy!

Another way to reduce waste is cut down on packaged groceries. We’ve been lucky to have a zero-waste store close by which allows is to get everything – rice, flour, pulses, spices and even oil in our own containers! That’s been a boon.

Thankfully there are quite a few of such stores coming up all over the country, but even if you don’t have one around, local small grocery stores sell a lot of loose stuff. Even big supermarkets let you buy loose groceries. You just have to plan in advance and carry your own containers. We also reduced consumption of processed packaged food.  

My advice: don’t dive into everything head-on. Take your time, take small steps. Start with what’s most comfortable and get used to that, then move on to the next thing. It took us a year to get to where we are and we still discovering so much. This is a journey, take it slow and enjoy it! 

Resources:

To buy sustainable products, visit Brown Living.

To find a Dry Waste Collection center near you, visit Skrap and Ullisu.

To find stores you can buy package free groceries and household products visit this link.

Online workshops on Zero Waste living I’ve done myself and highly recommend:

  1. Bare Necessities has a lovely 30-day (self-paced) course.
  2. Skrap.in has monthly workshops on Zero waste living, composting and many related topics.

Books: I’ve read these and hence recommend:

  1. Bare Necessities: How to Live a Zero-Waste Life Book
  2. (Im)Perfectly Zero Waste: A No-Nonsense Guide to Living Sustainably in India

I also recommend following some amazing people on Instagram for inspiration and tons of tips and tricks:

  1. Skrap Zero Waste
  2. Bare Necessities
  3. Worm Rani
  4. Brown Living
  5. Ullisu

I talk a lot about this topic, share DIYs and share information about the products I use on my Instagram as well. Checkout Abir composting like a pro: 

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