Tips for going zero(-ish) waste in the Klang Valley

Simple tweaks to start reducing waste in your daily routine.

Zero waste isn’t just about metal straws and bamboo toothbrushes.

The term “zero waste” may sound daunting to the uninitiated. Some even think the phrase sounds militant. However, proponents would argue that it’s an ongoing process, working towards an ideal instead of a strict set of rules.

In other words; you don’t HAVE to buy a metal straw to live a zero waste lifestyle.

There are 5Rs to remember, as popularised by zero waste guru Bea Johnson; “Refuse what you do not need, Reduce what you do need, Reuse what you consume, Recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce or reuse, and Rot (compost) the rest.”

A large part of what this will involve, is refusing and reducing something we’ve all gotten too comfortable with — single-use plastics.

So here is a simple beginner’s list of simple tweaks you can make to basic aspects of your life to reduce waste:

Waste-free eating

By now, you’ve probably heard about turning down plastic straws when you order drinks. It’s been effective in being an entry point to waking people up to the real extent of plastic pollution. As you may also already know, there are reusable alternatives which include bamboo and metal straws, and even silicone straws for anyone with medical conditions that require a softer option.

There’s also an alternative that people often overlook — just drink straight from the cup.

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Helpful utensils for plastic-less eating while you’re out.

Takeaway is also a source of a lot of avoidable waste. Having reusable containers to “tapau” your food is a simple step you can take to reduce needless trash. Or even better, pack food from home.

If you’re able to commit a little more, you could plan your grocery shopping to prioritise bulk food stores and markets that allow you to use your own bags or containers.

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Zero waste-specific stores like the one pictured offer bulk foods for your convenience,  but unpackaged foods can also easily be found in markets.

For a start, you can check out the Zero Waste Map made by Zero Waste Malaysia for the closest markets and shops that sell package-free bulk foods.

You might also want to learn how to compost your food scraps at home instead of throwing it out, sending it to decompose in a landfill.

Household cleaning products

While some people might rid themselves of all the plastics in their home for a zero waste new start, it’s probably a better idea to keep some of your plastic bottles and containers around to be reused for refilling detergent and other cleaning liquids.

Premium floor cleaner being sold at a package-free store.

There are several specialty shops around the Klang Valley that work on a bring-your-own-bottle detergent refill concept. One chain dedicated to refilling is BYOB Green Concepts, which has outlets in Damansara Kim and Kajang. Another you can consider is Wowo Refill Store based in Taman Muda, Ampang.

These stores have a wide range of cleaning products to choose from covering kitchen cleaners, laundry products, natural detergent options, and even car care solutions.

Personal care

Personal care products may be the costlier commitment when it comes to a zero waste lifestyle. Products are not difficult to find, but it’s about finding the right brands and product lines that best match your needs and tastes.

Some go-to personal care alternatives, which you will be able to find at most zero waste specialty stores (see below) include bamboo toothbrushes, silk dental floss, safety razors, menstrual cups, reusable sanitary pads, and reusable makeup remover pads. Most of these products come in a variety of generic brands that you can choose from.

Safety razor, unpackaged soap, and silk dental floss are some inexpensive alternatives to your toiletries.

As for soaps and shampoo, the main concern is largely the packaging. So while it may be more convenient to find package-free soaps at a zero waste specialty store, there’re nothing stopping you from finding alternatives elsewhere. For example, 999 soap can be found in older fashion sundry shops and drug stores, and is also an economical option.

Zero waste specialty stores

If you find yourself wanting to commit more than just food containers, there are several zero waste specialty stores scattered around the Klang Valley. They all have a supply of bulk foods (primarily dry foods like nuts, grains, dried fruits and noodles), grooming products, and a wide range of general zero waste solutions like reusable “unpaper” towels, cutlery kits for traveling, compostable plates and even a bamboo flask.

But most importantly, these stores act as centres for communities where you can go and learn more about zero waste lifestyles and seek advice.

Here’s a list of some reputable zero waste specialty stores that are hopefully close to your area:

The Hive Bulk Foods, Bangsar and Ampang.

Bliss – Zero Waste, Petaling Street.

Additional resources

Following the announcement by the Federal Territories Ministry to ban plastic straws at eateries starting Jan 1, 2019,  and the announcement of a national roadmap towards zero single-use plastic being in the works, there’s no better time than now to get informed and be ahead of the curve.

> Check out zero waste populariser Bea Johnson’s website for more tips on setting up a zero waste home.

> Stay up to date with zero waste friendly stores around your area with the Zero Waste Map.

> Join the Zero Waste Malaysia Facebook group to be a part of a community.

> General information regarding Malaysia’s capacity to recycle plastic.

> The United Nations’ micro site on plastic pollution.

> Stay up to date with national roadmap towards zero single-use plastic over at the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC) Facebook page.

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