How Much Does It Cost To Go Zero Waste In Singapore?
Here’s why you should care about trash: globally, we create enough of it to fill the world’s largest container ship every 2 hours. Most trash does not get recycled and ends up in toxic landfills or in incinerators that release harmful chemicals. And by 2050, our global waste is expected to increase by 70%.
Enter zero waste, a philosophy that encourages individuals to reduce as much waste as possible, to reuse, recycle and compost what we can, and ultimately send zero trash to landfills or incinerators.
Our dependency on single-use, disposable products can make it hard to transition into a zero waste lifestyle, however. Tissue paper, plastic bottles, and even menstrual products: it’s hard to imagine going about your everyday life without these products. Fortunately, there are many zero waste alternatives you can use instead to create less trash.
Zero waste alternatives aren’t as expensive as you may think. In many cases, they may even save you money in the long run. We’ve compiled a list of common zero waste swaps, and how much they will cost you. Where possible, we’ve included a price comparison between conventional items and their zero waste alternatives, as well as how many times you would need to use your zero waste product to offset its higher price point.
How much do these common zero waste swaps cost?
1. Steel straws
While some people with disabilities may rely on plastic straws, many people can get away without them altogether. Nevertheless, if you enjoy the sensation of slurping your drink through a straw, swap out your plastic straw for a steel one. It’s reusable, safe to use and feels fancier than its plastic alternative. Plus, they come in bubble-tea-friendly sizes!
|Plastic straws (pack of 100)||Steel straws (set of 3)|
Cost per use: S$0.04
Uses needed to break even: 109
2. Reusable water bottles
We get the allure of the single-use plastic bottle: in scorched, sweltering Singapore, it’s hard to resist the temptation of popping into a grocer’s for an icy thirst-quencher.
However, our demand for plastic bottles creates a lot of waste: in 2016, one million plastic bottles were sold per minute globally. An equally terrifying statistic: 91% of all plastic does not get recycled, which means that most bottles end up in oceans or landfills.
A more eco-friendly option is to simply get a reusable water bottle. Besides being better for the environment, it’s also lighter on your wallet in the long run. A good-quality bottle will even keep your cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot for hours.
|Guardian drinking water, 500ml||S’well 17oz steel water bottle|
Cost per use: S$1
Uses needed to break even: 35
Tissue paper seems fairly innocuous, but it has huge environmental impact. From manufacturing, to transportation, to disposal, tissue paper is harsh on the environment. Completely eliminating tissue paper from your life may be hard to do, but you can use a lot less by swapping it out with cloth napkins and handkerchiefs.
And for those who protest that cloth napkins are no substitute for tissue when cleaning up after one’s self in the bathroom, we suggest getting acquainted with the bidet.
|Guardian 3-ply tissue (12 x 10s)||Muji organic cotton handkerchief|
Cost per use: S$0.017
Uses needed to break even: 294
4. Grocery bags
Ditch plastic bags for canvas ones. While this is one zero waste swap that won’t save you money, they’re quite affordable to get. Prices start from S$6.94 at Eco Bags.
5. Reusable food bags
Whether it’s for meal prep or for carrying snacks on the go, plastic food bags are immensely useful. Luckily, it takes almost no effort to swap out single-use plastic bags for reusable ones. Reusable food bags are typically made of silicone or cotton coated with beeswax. If the thought of hand-washing your food bags bums you out, you’ll be pleased to know that some bags are dishwasher-friendly.
|Ziploc Sandwich Bags (50 pieces)||Keep Leaf Reusable Snack Bag|
Cost per use: S$0.086
Uses needed to break even: 128
6. Stainless steel safety razor
If you shave every day, you could easily be blowing through packs of disposable razors. More eco-friendly alternatives to the disposable razor include safety razors, electric shavers and straight razors.
Safety razors are typically the cheapest of the bunch – a good one like Merkur’s Safety Razor will set you back S$69. While you’ll still need to replace the blades of a safety razor, its blades are made of recyclable stainless steel.
Electric razors can be quite pricey. The Phillips Shaver Series 5000, for instance, costs S$189, although you’ll be able to find budget alternatives on Lazada. With an electric razor, you’ll need to change the shaving head every 2 years or so. Replacement heads for the Phillips Shaver Series 5000 cost around S$59.
On the other hand, straight razors might be the most cost-effective (and eco-friendly) shaving option over the long term. A good one could cost you around S$100. Although using them involves a higher upfront cost, a steeper learning curve and periodic honing, a straight razor can last a lifetime – no replacement parts needed.
Nevertheless, if you’ve been using disposables all your life, you may find transitioning into a safety razor first less intimidating.
|Gillette Disposable Razor (5 per pack)||Merkur Safety Razor Bicolour Alu Black Straight Cut and Merkur Razor Blades (100 blades)|
Cost per use (assuming daily shaving, and 1 razor lasts 1 week): S$0.186
|Price (safety razor): S$69
Price (blades): S$100
Cost per use (excluding cost of razor, assuming daily shaving, and 1 blade lasts 1 week): S$0.143
7. Reusable menstrual products
The time it takes for your tampons and pads to degrade in a landfill will be centuries longer than your lifespan. Imagine: you’ll be leaving behind possibly thousands of tampons or pads that will stick around on Earth much longer than you will. How’s that for a legacy?
Eco-friendlier alternatives to conventional tampons or pads include reusable cloth pads or silicone menstrual cups. They will require some adjusting to at first, but are relatively inexpensive and will save you money in the long run.
|Whisper Always Infinity Wing Pads (14 per pack)||Eco Femme Reusable Cloth Day Pad||Freedom cup|
Cost per use: S$0.857
|Price: S$13.90 per piece x 5 = S$69.50|
Uses needed to break even: 81
Uses needed to break even: 38.5
8. Reusable cotton rounds
Cotton is biodegradable, but here’s why you should consider avoiding non-organic cotton products: despite its natural, pristine image, cotton is the most pesticide-intensive crop grown on Earth. These pesticides can seep into our water and pose toxic risks to us and our livestock.
Using reusable cotton rounds instead can minimise the demand for disposable cotton products, and in turn reducing the use of these harmful pesticides.
|Silcot Cotton Puff (82 per pack)||Trove of Gaia reusable cotton pads (5 pieces)|
Cost per use: S$0.035
Uses needed to break even: 84
Ditching single-use items saves money
When you throw away fewer things, you generally spend less money in the long run. Consider what disposable items you use on a daily basis that can be replaced with longer-lasting eco-friendly products, and you could be seeing significant savings over time.
Disposable items may seem cheap, but their true costs are invisible: the trash they create pollute the environment and amass into harmful landfills. In the end, the costs of logistically managing trash and minimising the harmful environmental effects of landfills will trickle down to our taxpayer dollars.
Remember: being zero waste is not about spending more
If swapping out all your disposable items for zero waste products is beyond your budget, don’t despair. Being zero waste is about reducing trash, not consuming more. There are plenty of ways you can reduce waste without buying new items – zero waste alternatives just make that transition more convenient.