I'm a little confused. In order to get started in this Zero Waste process, did anyone else feel like they were getting rid of a lot of stuff? I feel like I'm creating so much waste! Is it okay to throw away these items? (like the plastic bottles that facial cleansers come in for example) What did it look like when you all first started this transition?
Many folks use up what they have then either make their own products or refill with bulk versions, reusing the containers they have -unless they seem absolutely unsuitable because of shape/material.
If you read Zero Waste Home, she describes how she repurposed what she had to make bags for bulk foods, for rags (vs paper towels), etc.
Ultimately you may end up recycling/throwing away some containers but they'll be the last ones you discard!
There's also been discussion on this forum before about what to do with all that "stuff" if you are also seeking minimalism. It can be more complicated than you'd think...
I tried not to throw anything away during our transition. A little patience and research helped me to figure out how to sell, donate, or re-home most everything. Some stuff had to be recycled. Almost nothing was trashed. That's kind of the point, right?
Where I struggled most was with things that seemed to have no value: old craft supplies, half-opened bottles of lotion, 3/4 empty bottles of cleaning products, used gift bags, scraps of ribbon, etc. I started organizing these things into boxes and setting them on the curb with a sign that says "free" --- boy they disappeared fast, and I can only hope that whoever took them will use them up instead of buying new. If not, they will take up space at their houses instead of mine, to everyone's satisfaction.
Also, I think it's important to use everything you have need of to the end of it's useful life before buying a ZW replacement. Maybe our pyrex with plastic lids aren't as ideal as le Parfait jars. So what if our plastic toilet brush isn't compostable? They still have a lot of use in them and we will use them until they are beyond repair THEN replace with ZW alternatives.
I am just beginning too....just the thought of decluttering seems overwhelming. To make it a little easier, I've started just telling myself to get rid of one thing, usually I can manage that. Now I have a pile of things to get rid of, and I really need to get them out of the house before I change my mind! I'm thinking about using varagesale to give away some free items, maybe sell some things if I can. I'm not sure what to do.
If you have a space which can act as a "holding tank" / staging area for these things that are useable but not to you, look for facebook garage sale groups or Freecycle groups in your area. When I moved, we downsized by putting things on the curb and listing them on these online resources. I cannot begin to recall how much went away this way. No matter what or how much, everyday I put things out. Many items were donated to thriftstores too but using the curb meant no errands or "field trips" were made. Some things got to be gifts (i.e. mint in the box appliances, books). But my motivation was downsizing from a house with lots of storage to an apartment with nearly none, not to meet any specific zero waste goals.For zero waste, I took my cues from the trash we were/are generating. Look at minimalism resources for tips and be ruthless with items you haven't touched in the last 2 years. Kon Mari was helpful, too. Good Luck!
To me, nobody has ever clearly been able to explain how decluttering and zero waste go together. It's entirely possible to engage in zero waste practices without decluttering your house. To me the two are mutually exclusively.
Most people who declutter don't practice zero waste. And people who don't declutter *can* practice zero waste.
If you are decluttering, there's a learning curve like Jay said about what you are going to do with the shit you've accumulated, where to take it and dispose of it responsibly. Presumably you already were doing that even without zero waste. Most communities have recycling programs, buy back programs, places for donating stuff you don't want anymore, etc.
Zero waste is more about consciously not buying shit you don't need, not buying disposable items as best you can (I still use TP, sorry I'm not wiping my ass with moss or replacing my toilets with bidets). That doesn't mean you have to only own "100 things" or own 10 pieces of clothing. You don't have to get rid of a thing to practice zero waste, it's more of a skill set to live your life day to day, whether or not you ever declutter your house.
I came to ZW after years of having been decluttered, it just seemed like a natural progression. But that is more related to learning about zero waste long after I decluttered, not the other way around. Your house does not have to fit some bourgeois "ideal" of what a zero waste house looks like, whatever the fuck that might be. You can keep anything you want even practicing zero waste. You also have to understand that nothing you do, whether decluttering or zero waste or minimalism, will change anything about the structure of society. You aren't contributing a thing to equality, decreasing exploitation, or the violence of imperialism or capitalism dehumanizing and subjugating entire populations. The single largest thing you can do, whether or not you do *anything* else, is to stop eating animal products. Unlike driving a car, stopping animal consumption is do-able for people. Many people at least in the U.S. require a car to get around. By all means use public transit, ride your bike, or walk if you can. But the largest change you can make is to reject animal based diets. Anything else you do over and above that, great, but it won't have the impact of a plant based diet. Good luck! Keep us posted on what you do.
I think the decluttering is part of the refuse and reduce and recycle aspects. Decluttering essentially is removing by reducing what you have on hand and how you go about it is by recycling. Why do this? It is a means to keep usable, durable goods in circulation while they still have a useable life in them (not irreparably broken). So if I have on a shelf a pair of pants I am keeping for when I lose 20 lbs so I can fit into them, over whatever amount of time that takes, they are degrading. Elastic deteriorates, if I never touch them, they will get dusty, maybe faded if I don't package them well (even bug infested). They will go out of style, and I may not have any interest in them even once I can fit in them. So, by only having what I need AND use I don't have to take care of things like those pants but rather put them back into circulation for someone else who needs them today and will use them today (as opposed to myself who may take 5 years to get into them). Meeting the "Need" and "Use" aspects means I have reduced my items to the essentials, minimized my possessions. Does that make sense? I don't think Bea puts it in these terms, but it seems her intent with having minimalism as an aspect of ZW.