6 Things Other Than Plastic Bags & Straws That You Should Be Refusing

Reusable Nation: Say No To Receipts

Straws and plastic bags are the two things that we are regularly told to refuse, but what else can we and should we be refusing?

Of the 5Rs – refuse, reduce, reuse/repair, recycle and rot – refuse is the best way to not create any waste and the first thing we should attempt to reduce the waste coming into our lives. 

This means refusing what you do not need. For instance, refuse things like straws and plastic bags. Simply say no to these if offered and point out that you would not like one if you know you're going to get one if you don't say you don't want one.

Straws and plastic bags are the two things that we are regularly told to refuse, but what else can we and should we be refusing?

1. Receipts

The number one item of waste that I still send to landfill is receipts. The majority of them are not recyclable (those that are shiny aren’t) and they are often printed automatically and/or without asking for consent.
When you tap or swipe your card for an EFTPOS transaction, tell the cashier that you don’t need a receipt so that they don’t print one. Most don’t ask if you want one or not before printing it.
And, if you serve customers and give out receipts, ask if they need one before printing it. I've found that 90% percent of the time they say no. The majority of the time taking one is just a habit and it just goes straight in the bin and to landfill.
If you’re a business, consider getting one of those EFTPOS machines that enables you to email receipts to customers instead of printing them out. Not only will you save paper, you will also save money, as you won’t need to buy any more those rolls of paper used in EFTPOS machines.

2. Junk mail and physical bank statements

Junk mail is another thing that often ends up straight in the bin. This unsolicited post doesn’t make it very far from postboxes at all and is only given a slight glance before landing in the recycling bin.
To let those distributing these know that you don’t want any of this waste of paper, get a No Junk Mail Please sticker and stick it on your postbox.
You can often get these from your council or the post office. Some environmental stores sell them as well. Get one and suggest to your neighbours that they get one too.
They unfortunately don’t work 100% of the time, but they do cut back the junk mail you get drastically. 
When unsolicited mail does get put in, complain. I recently found an advertisement for a gym in our postbox. I emailed the gym and asked them to please not place their pamphlets in mailboxes with no junk mail signs. They emailed back and were very apologetic, asking for my address so they could tell the person doing that route to stop doing it. Result!
Another form of mail and paper waste that you can avoid is things like bank statements. Ask for these to be emailed to you instead of mailed to you. There is usually an option to choose this in your online account.
We love opening our postbox and finding it empty!

3. Plastic lids on takeaway coffee cups and other takeaway drinks

If you are caught out without your reusable coffee cup or a jar for that smoothie and you can’t go without, refuse the plastic lid. Unless you are walking a far distance before you’re planning on drinking it or driving with it in the cup holder in your car, you don’t need it. It just creates more unnecessary waste.
Let them know before they make your drink that you won’t be needing a lid, else you’ll never be quick enough to catch them before their ninja hands whip a lid on it. Trust me.
Don’t forget to refuse any straw as well!

4. Soy fish

A species of fish that is abundant on all Australian sidewalks, the soy fish does not integrate well with other fish when it reaches the ocean via our storm drains. 
If you get takeaway sushi a lot (hopefully in your own container!), refuse the tiny portion of soy sauce in its fish-shaped plastic bottle they will want to give you. 
Sushi is better with soy sauce, so either use the bigger bottle of soy sauce they usually have on the counter at sushi takeaway places and pour it over your sushi before you leave or keep a regular sized glass bottle of soy sauce wherever you end up eating your takeaway sushi – at work or at home – and use this instead.
The same goes for any tiny portion of sauce in a tiny sachet or plastic tub – refuse it and either use a bigger version at the restaurant or at home or work instead or go without.

5. Napkins

Napkins are handed out a lot – both when you eat in and when you get takeout. And, you’re often offered more than you need too.
They can be composted, but a lot of the time they aren’t, and I was getting too many, so I have started saying no thanks to napkins.
When wait staff come up with cutlery and a napkin and simply say I won’t be needing a napkin thanks. The response is usually an okay and a strange look and they put it back on the napkin pile.
You can also get out your fabric napkin straight away and put that where they would usually put a paper napkin, so they can see that you don’t want or need one.
If you’re a business, consider getting fabric napkins to offer customers instead of paper napkins or stop automatically giving napkins to every customer, rather having them up on the counter or on a shelf for them to help themselves to or in a receptacle on the table, from which customers can take one if needed.
I get abnormally excited when I enter a restaurant and they have fabric napkins or a help-yourself napkin option.

6. Freebies and pamphlets being handed out

It’s hard to say no to freebies! Who doesn’t love free stuff, especially when everyone around you is going mad for it and particularly if it’s food. It’s hard to not get caught up in the excitement.
But, these freebies, which are largely promotional, can be incredibly wasteful.
After the excitement dies down and the novelty wears off, many of these items end up in landfill. They end up on an office desk or the back of a kitchen cupboard never to be used.
Most of the things handed out are not needed and are just taken because they’re free and being handed to you.
They often also come with wasteful packaging and pamphlets about something you rarely have any interest in. Of course, this just ends up in landfill.
If you won’t use it and don’t really want it, don’t take it. Say no thank you. The more that people say no to these kinds of promotional material, the more marketers will begin to realise that this isn’t the best way to market their product and less waste will be introduced into the world.

Pretty much, if you don’t want it or need it and won’t use it or eat it, refuse it!

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