20 Items that you can easily Refuse
Updated: Mar 17
Giving free stuff away is easy marketing for a lot of businesses. You give something away with your logo on it and the receiver will be reminded of you every time they see/use that item. However, most of these freebies are discarded soon after someone has received them. This is not only a waste of money for the business but also a waste of resources as the product needs to be created and a lot of waste afterward if the received product is not used and just discarded. Just think about all the waste that is accumulated in landfills that are thrown away freebies. To prevent further accumulation of waste, I have made a list of 20 items that are easy to refuse to reduce your waste production.
Individual serving bags
In this case, I mean bags like the peanut bags you may receive in an airplane or the single-serving plastic-wrapped portions of mayonnaise you may receive in a restaurant.
Straws are very dangerous for animals' life as they are rather small and are easily mistaken by animals for food. So, if you don’t need a straw, go without. But if you must use one, use a reusable one or an easily compostable paper one.
The use of disposable cups is easily prevented by bringing your cup with you. Whether you are in a coffee shop or at a conference, you can bring your reusable cup. Choose an insulated one if you prefer your drink to remain warm for longer.
Individually packed candy
Candy is not particularly healthy for you but candy is even worse when the pieces are individually packed in plastic. Stuff like the mints, you sometimes receive in a restaurant or the chocolates on your pillow in a hotel can easily be refused. If you have a sweet tooth, go for candy that is packed in large packs or paper packaging (or both).
Free soap/shampoo at hotels
These small containers contain a relatively high amount of plastic for the content they contain. Also, you won’t be using that bottle for long so, don’t take what you don’t need.
When visiting a mall they often hand out free samples for you to try at home. However, these often come in a paper-like package lined with plastic. For example, the samples for shampoo or make-up. Meaning the material is mixed which makes recycling impossible.
Coffee creamer cups
If you want something like (plant) milk in your coffee or tea, ask for milk if available or go without.
Prepacked herbs and spice mixes
These not only are very wasteful because this package often is a mix of materials (paper, plastic, and aluminum) making it impossible to recycle, they are also not very healthy. Prepacked herb and spice mixes often contain a very high amount of salt, they also contain preservatives to increase the shelf life. Reduce your waste and eat healthier by mixing your herb and spice mixes.
Individually packed sugar/salt portion packages
Sugar and salt are some of the easiest products to buy in bulk and even if you don’t have a bulk store nearby, sugar and salt are often packed in paper or cardboard saving you lots of package waste.
Plastic and wooden drink stirrers
Use a regular spoon if you need to mix something.
Disposable takeaway boxes or to-go boxes
Bring your containers for the leftovers when you go out to a restaurant when you know beforehand they serve large portions. These to-go boxes are often made with styrofoam with are not recyclable.
Don’t take it if you don’t need it. You can also refuse napkins that the waiter distributes at restaurants and bring your reusables.
I have a stainless steel spork that lives in my bag, just in case I am somewhere where I need it.
Individually packed wet wipes
Not only are individually packed wet wipes extremely wasteful, because they are waste packed in waste, they are also full of chemicals and sometimes even alcohol I don’t want to put on my body.
Plastic bags for single purchases
In the Netherlands, where I live, the laws have changed and shops can’t give plastic bags away anymore. Customers need to purchase one and these are expensive (€0,20 per bag). This has reduced plastic consumption but this is not the case everywhere. Most purchases are put in bags almost as soon as you put them on the counter. Try to be fast and refuse the bag anyway where possible. So you can use your reusable bag.
Printing is optional and if you need the receipt, it can often be e-mailed to you. Did you know that receipt paper (which is thermal paper) can contain BPA, which can disrupt your hormone system? So it is better to refuse receipts whenever possible.
Plastic produce bags
These bags are used for such a short time that it is much more eco-friendly to just forgo the use of these bags. You wash your veggies before you eat them right? So, no need for a plastic bag.
When grocery shopping we often have many options. This is also the case for the packaging of our food. Go for cardboard boxes instead of plastic whenever you can. Better yet, buy package-free if possible.
Especially if you live in a place where tap water is safe to drink, you can fill up your water bottle. If you live somewhere where water is not safe to drink, install a water filter system to avoid all those purchases of disposable plastic bottles.
When I order office supplies I know they will send my order with a bunch of free pens. As I already have plenty I leave a comment with my order saying ‘no freebies please’ which makes sure my order is free from stuff I don’t need.
I hope this list gives you a better idea of the stuff that is easy to refuse so you can reduce your waste production even further. Try to be conscious about it and refuse as much as possible.