Alternatives to reduce your waste stream

Feb. 26, 2020 | G. Michael Dobbs

Seen here are three products which can reduce contributions to the waste stream: bamboo toothbrushes, shampoo bars and shaving soap.
Reminder Publishing photo by Payton North

SPRINGFIELD – With the crisis in recycling making news – the markets for recyclables are contracting and many municipalities are having to re-think how to dispose of plastic, paper, glass and metal – my wife and I have started an effort to reduce our dependence on plastic.

In other words, the new rule is to reduce rather than recycle.

To do that we have taken actions such as trying not to buy items wrapped in plastic, such as facial tissues and to re-think products such a shower gel or liquid hand soap and replace it with a non-plastic alternatives such as old fashioned bar soap. We also use waxed paper in place of plastic wrap quite frequently.

To make that reduction, we’ve done some research, product testing and changed our shopping habits. It has not has been as difficult as one might think and we realize as we are discovering more products that actually much can be done by making some alterations in what we buy and what we use.

Some of the products we tried came from online retailers, while some were bought locally. Here is what we bought and what we discovered:

Grove Collective (

• Stasher Reusable Silicone Stand-up Bag $19.99,

In an effort to reduce our use of plastic storage bags we bought two of these silicone bags, which are not only washable, but can be used in the freezer. They can also used to cook a meal in by putting the bag in boiling water. We’re probably going to get several more of these.

• Seeding by Grove Bamboo toilet paper, eight rolls $7.95

Bamboo is an amazing plant as it can be used for paper production, among other things, as you will see in this story. The toilet paper comes unwrapped in a cardboard box.  We liked the fact the rolls are not wrapped, eliminating some unnecessary paper. It’s a high quality product and using bamboo – which matures in three months and is very sustainable – means no trees were used. The company that makes the toilet paper participates in a program to replant trees.

• Bamboo towels, $9.99

These cloth towels on a roll like paper towels were touted as replacing six months’ worth of paper towels and the claim is correct. They are machine washable, durable and absorbent. We have greatly reduced our use of paper towels.

• J.R. Liggett’s Old Fashioned Shampoo Bar, $13.90 for three bars

Most shampoo comes in plastic bottles, but this doesn’t. The bars look like soap and come wrapped in paper. There is no difference between it and shampoo in a bottle and they last a long time.

• Lingito six pack natural charcoal bamboo toothbrushes, $6.19

The toothbrushes have plastic bristles, but a bamboo handle, which can be composted. Again we’ve found the brushes do the job admirably. When done the instructions are to pull out the plastic bristles with a pliers and then dispose of the handle.

• Set of two beeswax food wraps from Jumble Honey, $15.99

These waxed pieces of cloth – they come in various sizes – are used in place of plastic wrap or aluminum foil. They work fairly well and come with hemp string that can be used to effectively increase the seal, although they form fit pretty well. They are not as airtight as plastic wrap, but are a reasonable and reusable alternative.

Big Y

Yes, there are products in local stores that can be used to reduce the recycling of plastic. Big Y also carries many of the Seventh Generation products, many of which are plant-based cleansers and products, as well as the Mrs. Myers line of personal and household cleansers.

• Williams Mug Shaving Soap, $1.69

I enjoy a great shaving cream product but it is in a plastic container, so I’m returning to something I did years ago: I buy Williams shaving soap, put it in my shaving mug, take my brush, make a lather and then shave. It may take a few moments longer but the warm lather feels good and this is a time-tested product.

• Repurpose trash bags (

These compostable tall kitchen bags come in a box of 13 (tall kitchen size) and are not quite as sturdy as the plastic garbage bags, but that simply means not filling them up quite as much as one might do with plastic. They are compostable though, which means they will dissolve in a landfill over time, while plastic will not.

• Woobamboo! Floss (

This company produces tooth floss with three ingredients – natural silk, beeswax, and organic mint leaf – and it comes in a compostable container. A two-pack costs under $10.


• Petco So Phresh Cat Litter, $8

We have five cats – yes, we are crazy – and filling the litter boxes is a major task. We have stopped buying litter in plastic containers, and only litter in cardboard boxes. Petco, though, has a program in which you buy one container of litter for $8 and then can refill that container for $7. So far the cats haven’t objected and this reduces both paper and plastic in the waste stream.

My wife and I are continuing our efforts and will periodically share what we have found. if you’ve discovered a product or practice you’d like to share, please drop me a line at

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