10 Easy Plastic-Free Kitchen Hacks You Can Utilize Today

As we roll on into another Plastic Free July, we wanted to create a check list of easy budget swaps and alternatives you can use in the kitchen that are not only plastic waste free, but also offer an eco-friendly alternative to everything that leaves your kitchen too, be that in the recycling bin, the compost, or down the drain!

1 Kitchen Roll

It is very convenient to rip off a few sheets and mop up that mess quickly, but did you know that the use of kitchen rolls alone need an additional 51,000 trees per day being planted to keep up with global demand? Along with the added problem that once it has been used, it is generally regarded as contaminated so it cannot be recycled.

Fancy Eco – You can now get beautiful bamboo ‘kitchen roll’ sheets that come buttoned up for your convenience and are washable! Still designed for a single use before popping in the wash ready to use again.

Budget Hack – All those T-shirt sleeves you cut off because it’s too hot (or is that just in Indonesia?!) Or those shirts that are just too stained to be worn in public, work perfectly cut up into squares and used as kitchen rags. Store them easily in a large jar to not only add the minimalistic look to your kitchen, but to store, clean, wash and return to the jar with no added waste to your cleaning regime!

2 Dishwashing Liquid

Not only the plastic bottle that dishwashing liquid comes in, but it usually contains some nasty chemicals that once leached down the drain, can pollute ground water and environment.

Fancy Eco – Ecospire and other sustainable brands now do refills on their natural, toxic-free dishwashing detergants!

Budget Hack #1 – Soap nuts are a nifty natural seed from the soapnut tree. Amazingly easy to find in Indonesia, these nuts can be simply boiled for 20minutes to create a bubbly, naturally cleansing liquid for even the most tough and greasy cooking stains.

Budget Hack #2 – Make your own! The wonders of bulk shops selling liquid castile soap, and the (highly underrated) bar of soap and washing soda and you can make your own dishwashing liquid in under 30 minutes!

With lots of practise and tinkering, this is our favourite recipe to make your own:
3.5 cups water
½ Cup grated soap of your choice
½ Cup liquid Castille soap
4 Tsp washing soda
10 drops essential oil of your choice

Method: Add soap flakes to heated water until dissolved, add the liquid Castille soap and stir, add the washing soda, stir and cool. Once cool add the essential oils and bottle it up!

3 Scrubby Plastic Sponge

Studies done on the average green and yellow dish scrubby have shown them to harbour as much bacteria (if not more) than a toilet seat. Not really the tool you want to keep your kitchen utensils and surfaces devoid of germs… Not only that, experts in microbiology and pathogens advise to dispose of them every 2 weeks…. Each household should really use more than 25 plastic sponges a year!? All this waste, along with the microfibres that come off the sponge down the drain really shows that we need to change our dish washing habits.

Fancy Eco – Cotton and biodegradable washing sponges are now found from local bulk stores everywhere

Budget Hack – Coconut husk fibres have a great abrasive cleaning [attitude/power] and are entirely compostable when you have finished using them. We love the ones locally sourced from Coconesia – you can even adopt your own palm tree to keep growing your sponges!

Budget Hack #2 – The simple lufah has been traditionally used in the bathroom as an exfoliator for many years. It’s scrubbing power works just as well in the kitchen! It doesn’t hold bubbles quite as well as a cotton cloth, or coconut scrubber, but it works wonders on all those overly roasted scrubbing pans and oven trays.

4 Laundry Detergent

Unfortunately, in Indonesia, you can’t trust the ‘eco-friendly’ labels of any products with very lax certifying and labelling laws. If you are saving money doing your own laundry then why not make your own detergents and powders! Soap nuts when soaked in water creates a bubbly liquid and effectively cleans clothes and minor stains! Although the nuts themselves have a vinegary smell, they actually wash scent-free, great for allergenic washing, and you can also add your favourite scent as well.

Budget Hack – Soap nuts in a bag, washing soda and your favourite scents

5 Kitchen Surface Cleaner

One of our favourite switches (simply because it is SO effortless and tropical!) is making your own citrus surface cleaner. Buy your favourite citrus fruit (oranges, lemons, pineapples and pomelo work well here) and once you’ve made your favourite juice, be sure to save all the skins and peels in a jar. (Keep them in the freezer if you need to save them up) Once you have enough (A medium/large jar stuffed full) then filled the jar with distilled white vinegar and leave for 2-3 weeks. After 1 week, the smell should have changed from acidic vinegar to a fruity citrus scent as the oils from the fruit rinds infuse with the vinegar. When you need it, use a funnel and sieve to pour into your old (rinsed of the previous nasty chemicals) until it is half full. Fill the rest with filtered tap water and you are ready to go!

We keep an infusion jar on the go about 1-2 weeks after the first concoction is made so you never run out! 

6 Reuse your old jars

You don’t need any fancy, matching minimalistic-style jars when we routinely use and throw away (hopefully in the glass bin) old jars! Old jam jars, curry paste, herbs, even old candle jars can all make a perfect ever-reusable food storage container in your kitchen giving it a rustic (and of course plastic free!) feel to your pantry or shelves. Find your local bulk refill store to see what dried goods can be picked up package free (and generally, cheaper or much better quality than the supermarket packaged ones!) to build on your plastic-free pantry when your stocks have run out.

Jar Labelling Hacks

Fancy Eco – Paper tape is exactly what it says on the tin (although, it usually comes package free too!) Compostable sustainable tape that is easy to write on, uses water to activate the natural adhesive, and comes off again easily once washed.

Budget Eco – The humble board marker works wonders on glass too! Label jars with a marker and wash it off once the contents have been used and reuse again!

7 Bulk Cook & Freeze

Save time, money, space in the fridge AND smaller plastic packaging with some simple meal prep and bulk cooking hacks. We love to cook from scratch, this avoids processed food, harmful preservatives and an ingredient list you can’t even pronounce. Bulk cooking meals like soup, curries, pasta sauces and pesto saves heaps of time for rushed week day meals. Along with buying local veggies, dried beans and canned food is cheaper in bulk.

Autumn Hack – Buy a large pumpkin and make batches of soup (carrot, turmeric and coriander is our favourite!) or creamy pumpkin curry and freeze in single/family serving jars or Tupperware’s to have home-cooked ready meals waiting to be defrosted!

Ice Cube Hack – These large silicone ice cube trays are great for freezing single portion sauces, herb mixes and coconut cream! (Who else has found rank half used sauces hiding for months at the back of the fridge?!)

8 Grow Your Own

Grow your own herb garden and veggies from the comfort of your kitchen windowsill!

Tropical Eco Hack – Remember that pineapple you bought to make some tropical scented kitchen cleaner above? Cut the top off and place it in one of your upcycled jars with water and watch it start to grow! It’ll be a few years before it produces a fruit, but in the meantime, what better countertop décor to have to remind you of your beachy times on Gili T?

Budget Eco Hack – Buy your favourite herbs and propagate them! Maybe you’ve seen an unruly rosemary bush on your morning walk? Many herbs love to start life as a cutting in a small bottle of water. Remember to change the water every few days to keep it fresh and when you see enough small roots (2-4 weeks) then plant them in the ground or a pot for unlimited herbs!

9 Composting

One of the easiest ways to reduce your waste and daily or weekly bin collections is to compost your own waste! Any ‘wet’ (food waste) or ‘dry’ (garden trimmings, leaves) can be composted to make a rich nutritious soil or fertilizer for your garden. It can be done with almost any size garden!

Fancy Eco – Kitchen composting unit

Budget Eco – Worm tubes in flower beds consist of two thick PVC pipes just over 1 meter tall, with a proper lid (to keep the smell in, and bugs out) Drill holes in random places all the way down the pipe apart from the top 15cm, this will be the only bit above the ground. Dig two x 1meter deep holes about 60cm apart and bury the tubes up to the top 15cm. Simply pop your food/garden waste down the hole and replace the lid. Alternate which you use each day gives worms a chance to enter through the holes and munch happily on your waste which will seep into the surrounding flower beds to add nutrients to the soil for happy vegetables and flowers!

Mini Garden Eco – There are many styles of compost barrels, the ones we get on Gili are upcycled drums with a layer in the bottom to create rich liquid fertiliser called compost tea, along with organic compost. They can take up to 5kg of food and garden waste per day and last for about a year, when they can be emptied of compost, rinsed and restarted!

10 Recycling

Notice how this ‘go green’ trending recycle option is right at the end! This should be our last resort for solid waste that we create in the kitchen (and elsewhere for that matter). Even though Indonesia has set up some effective trash to cash schemes, we couldn’t stress more than this ISN’T the answer and excuse to continue to use plastic/single use products. Recycling is timely, costly and energy intensive.
Saying that, if you really need to purchase something plastic wrapped, aim for an option that is recyclable (or even better – repurposable!).

Check with your local waste municipality as even county to county this can change significantly!

Learn more fantastic (and easy!) tips over on the Plastic Free July website to kick start your plastic free kitchen!


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