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How to Reuse Plastic After Going Zero Waste

Zero Waste for Beginners

Last Updated on June 26, 2023

Learn how to reuse plastic after going zero waste with these tips! A zero waste lifestyle obviously includes replacing plastic items with more sustainable materials. However, it defeats the purpose of consuming less if you get rid of it just to replace it. So what do you do with all of the plastic you accumulated before going zero waste??

Reducing, recycling, and reusing plastic is a hallmark of sustainable living. And once you’re aware of the harms of plastic in your food, it’s natural to want to get rid of all the old plastic containers in your kitchen. However, plastic reuse can be done outside the kitchen as well! These tips include what to do with old Tupperware as well as toilet brushes and other plastic items around your home!

how to reuse plastic - an image of a plastic container filled with peas and overlay text reading "what should you do with old plastic when you're going zero waste?"

reuse plastic before throwing it out

I get asked this question all the time. 

Throwing all of your old plastic away and getting all brand new eco friendly items would be contrary to the zero waste lifestyle. So it’s best to reuse plastic items around your home rather than tossing it all just to replace it. However, I completely understand wanting to ditch plastic around your food for health reasons. 

I would highly recommend that you remove the plastic that touches your food. That doesn’t mean that you have to completely get rid of it though! I’ll show you what to do with old Tupperware to get the most out of it. These tips focus on a way to re-purpose them.

You can use plastic Tupperware in so many places that don’t involve holding food. I didn’t get rid of my plastic Tupperware when I went plastic-free, and I didn’t get rid of it when I went zero waste. Plastic reuse is a trademark of zero waste living because it keeps it out of landfills.

the importance of plastic reuse

I don’t think plastic itself is horrible. I think plastic is very important, and without it, we would not have made the strides we have in science and in medicine. 

Plastic belongs in our society, but it does not belong to supplement our laziness. 

Plastic will never go away. Every piece of plastic ever created still exists. It’s important that we remember that and treat it as such. It has its place, but single-use disposable items are not one of them.

I think it’s best to use the plastic items already in my life until they break or are no longer usable. If it’s not around my food, then I don’t view it as a huge health concern. 

When I went plastic-free for health reasons, I had a lot of single-use plastic disposable items in my kitchen like plastic baggies. 

I did give those away to friends who would have bought them anyways. I didn’t hold onto and use everything up. Some things I did part ways with. But, there are a couple of the plastic items still in my life. 

Here’s what reusing plastic looks like in my home. 

what to do with old tupperware


I keep a compost bucket in my freezer both at home and at work. I use large old Tupperware containers to hold it and transport it to my backyard compost. I obviously don’t mind if plastic touches my scraps, so this is a great way how to reuse plastic.

at work: 

I brought several of my Tupperware containers to work for the kitchen. They often get used for leftovers and people take them home. 

for storage: 

We use several of our old Tupperware containers in the garage where they hold all sorts of odds and ends. They can be used in the bathroom to hold bobby pins and hair ties. I even have two that hold jewelry in the bedroom. 

Don’t forget about the junk drawer too. Yes, I still have a junk drawer to hold important do-dads like batteries, wires, and miscellaneous office supplies. I use a small container to hold expired batteries, so I can take all of them at once down to the battery recycling box at Best Buy. 

reusing plastic odds and ends

plastic bucket:

I use a plastic bucket in my shower to catch water, which I haul out to the garden. I use the bucket for mopping and hand washing delicates too. 

plastic storage containers: 

I have had six large plastic laundry tubs that have traveled with me for over 10 years. They’ve always managed to store lots of stuff.

They’re stackable which makes them really convenient for hauling items during a move. Especially since we’ve moved 6 times in the last 4 years!

plastic organization boxes: 

I have several of these under the bed, under sinks, and in the closet. I’ve had a lot of these travel with me all over the country. 

plastic items you can’t reuse – and that’s ok

plastic toilet brush: 

Once this one goes, I’m pretty excited about upgrading to one of the cool bamboo toilet brushes. Some places allow you to recycle your toilet brush, so check with your local municipality before sending it to a landfill!

plastic plates: 

This one is probably a shocker, but I have a set of melamine plates in my picnic basket. I use them for outdoor parties, camping, and occasionally a picnic. It’s simply not practical to take ceramics out on picnics.

plastic electronics: 

I am currently typing this on a plastic computer. I have a plastic tv with a plastic PlayStation and plastic controllers. Plastic is still a part of my life, and that’s OK. 


what are some other ways to reuse plastic?

Use your old plastic bags to carry your groceries instead of getting single use plastic bags every time. There are a number of gardening tasks you can complete with old plastic containers. The key is mindfulness: for each plastic item in your home, think of how else it can be used productively to reduce the demand for plastic and the need to make new purchases.

You can probably find a way to reuse plastic items in your home, no matter what it is.

isn’t the goal to be completely plastic free?

My goal in going plastic free is first and foremost for health reasons. My second goal has always been to reduce my consumption of plastic to rely less on the oil industry and to vote with my dollars. 

It doesn’t mean plastic is going to magically disappear from my life. It’s about being a conscious consumer and being mindful of my choices. 

Each choice we make has an impact. We get to choose what that impact is and what it says. Each purchase is a vote for the future you want to live in. 

What plastic pieces do you still have in your home? 

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  1. I’m a plastic freak and it has many uses, containers for all kinds of items. When plastic discolors, never use to store food, recycle it or use it for the garage or other storage..

  2. Like you I try to re-purpose plastic as my first choice but know that some will have to go to landfill. However replacing those items with plastic free ones is immensely satisfying. Popping by from Zero Waste Heroes!

  3. I agree. I’m definitely new to zero waste, but I’ve had my heart set on changing for a while. I hope to keep some use out of my plastic items, but have since repurposed them for storage etc. I am an artist so I had a lot of plastic palettes and supplies. With good care, these items could potentially last a very long time. I will switch to glass or metals later, but for now it would be contrary to my new lifestyle to just throw them away! I do have an itch to just get rid of them, because the more sustainable options are so cute and practical, not to mention that spending money on things you WON’T throw away is super satisfying.

    1. Even living a zero waste lifestyle we’re susceptible to branding and marketing. If you only had this item, your home would be picture perfect! I feel this soooooo much especially in the age of instagram. But, it sounds like you’re fighting the urge well! And, I’m super excited for you to upgrade once your plastic ones break down. 😉

  4. I’m trying to go plastic free but I struggle with the medicine cabinet. I’m not into herbal medicine, and I have a need to take prescriptions. I can’t and won’t give that up for me or my family (there’s no point going plasticless for health reasons if I die from not taking medications, right?). But even over the counter medicines like allergy pills, Neosporin, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide… there’s just no way around plastic. Which makes me wonder how things were dispensed in the old days before plastic. Was everything in glass? I guess there apothecaries instead of CVS, but that’s not really an option any more. Suggestions on any plastic alternatives here?

    1. I also have to take prescription meds. I use the old bottles to hold seeds for my garden and small items like screws, nails and dried herbs.

    2. Our local animal shelter takes in pill bottles that they reuse for pill storage for the animals. We keep a bin in our breakroom at work and, every few months, someone will drop the bottles off at the shelter. It’s not necessarily a plastic alternative, but it does give the bottles another use or two.

    3. Your health ALWAYS comes first. I have a post called what I still buy in packaging and you just listed 50% of the list. Allergy pills, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide. I think it’s OK not to be perfect. Just do the best you can. We don’t live in an ideal circular economy, which means not everything is going to be attainable package free.

  5. Schools love old Tupperware, biscuit and sweet tins for students to take any home Home Ed/Food Tech offerings likely to make it to the school bus!
    Also any small pots that would hold paint or glue.

  6. We’re gradually transitioning, so we still have a LOT of plastic stuff in the kitchen.
    Question: what do you use instead of plastic for BIG bulk food storage e.g. rice bought by the 10 kg bag etc? We live in a damp climate so keeping it in its original sack is not an option.

    1. Lee, we are just starting this transition as well and I have gone to glass gallon mason jars and for leftovers I use glass containers with seal tight lids.

    2. I have a giant tin from a fundraiser that years ago some organization was doing, selling flavored popcorn. It holds at least 10 pounds of rice, which is how I use it. Sometimes you can find such tins at yard sales or thrift stores. That might work.

  7. We recycle plastic bags, all plastic containers, bread clips, plastic/metal hangers, Styrofoam of any color, paper,cardboard, tin, non working electrical appliances,electronics, any metal……anything we use that comes with packaging is separated and recycled accordingly! We compost organic material and manage to fill a standard garbage can once every 2 months! It can be done but you need to make the effort and also to think before you buy too!

  8. I want to thank you for your honesty and transparency. I just started researching zero waste, in conjunction with sustainability. As I look around my home, it can be overwhelming seeing the amount of plastic accumulated over the years (especially with children). And then I have to think that this didn’t happen over night, so living zero waste isn’t going to happen over night. I am greatly encouraged to teach our children about zero waste and learn together how to change our health and want for convenience.

  9. I being a pensioner could not afford to throw out my tupperwear which iv had for over 20 years.ill still use it.BUT i hate extra plastick wrapping on fruit and veggies and thats what i wont have.i take it all off when i get to my car and leave it in the trolly….i did not ask for it and the supermarkets can dispose if it.

    1. There is an easier way, don’t buy your fruit and veggies in plastic. I buy mine loose and use a produce bag or take my own paper bags. Leaving it for the supermarket to dispose of it is dumping your responsibility onto someone else.

  10. Zero waste means zero single use plastic, not no plastic. So many online seem to ditch their plastic when they go zero waste. Plastic free is great but that is a different goal. I have gotten rid of none of my Tupperware and plan to keep it forever. I already only used glass for microwaving, plates, etc. and metal utensils. I try not to buy any new plastic now, but what I have already won’t become less wasteful elsewhere and I might as well be the one to use it if it is already here.
    I am lucky that it is easy for me to get fresh produce in my supermarket that is not prewrapped like what seems to be the case in some other places. I have never seen plastic wrapped bananas here, rarely apples, and only some cucumbers so easy to avoid. I got some fish today, and asked for no plastic (usually a small piece to line the paper package and then a zip lock bag over the paper. The woman looked at me like I was nuts but she did just wrap it butcher paper.

  11. My big issue is how to wrap my meat for the freezer!! I cook for one the majority of the time and wrap my meat in meal size portions in Glad/Saran Wrap to store. I have made wax wraps and fruit and vege bags as well as sandwich/snack bags,I have made fabric bowl covers for the fridge and to transport food but have not found a solution for this. Any ideas would be gratfully appreciated

  12. You can compost in the plastic tub if you have a container garden or a general garden. Poke holes in the lid and bottom of it, fill it like a regular compost pile, water it, and sit it with your plants. It’ll actually feed your plants for you. It’s very versatile way to compost.

  13. I thought about re-purposing my vintage Tupperware, but then I learned that all of the classic colours from the 60’s and 70’s (which is what I have) are manufactured with lead, cadmium and arsenic, actually embedded in the plastic. Arsenic has a history of being used to create green colours in both dish ware and clothing. Even a lot of textiles and vintage clothing was dyed with arsenic, cadmium and lead even up as recently as the late 1960/1970s. I am torn between repurposing, and yet I would not want to even touch this stuff anymore knowing it has lead, arsenic or cadmium in it. So I think I will look for a safe way to dispose of these items for good. Having said this, I do appreciate your article. It is creative and well written.