Meet the people who are rejecting single-use plastics and waste in London

The zero waste demonstration hub Reimagine Co is holding its grand opening on Saturday. Liny Lamberink/980 CFPL

It was Feb. 1 when Heenal Rajani and his wife, Kara Rijnen, decided to cut as much packaging out of their life as possible.

The transition towards a “zero-waste lifestyle” doesn’t mean eliminating all the waste from someone’s life, but it does mean striving to make more sustainable choices, particularly in regards to plastic and unnecessary packaging.

“Rather than buy a bag of rice, we get rice from the Bulk Barn,” explained Rajani.

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Heenal Rajani and his wife, Kara Rijnen started living a zero-waste lifestyle about six months ago. Liny Lamberink/980 CFPL

Bulk stores that allow customers to bring their own reusable containers are a good way of finding dry goods without packaging, explained Rajani. By visiting local farmers markets, they’re able to find fruits and vegetables that are elsewhere wrapped in plastic.

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“Strawberries normally come in a plastic clamshell that you only use once and throw away,” said Rajani.

At the market, local strawberries sometimes come in a green cardboard basket instead.

“You can bring your own [plastic containers] or glass containers to the market, empty out those cardboard green little basket things, and [the vendors] can use those again.”

The movement doesn’t just have its subscribers rethinking how they buy food — it extends into all the spaces where people generate garbage and recycling. London resident Shannon Hawke tells 980 CFPL she doesn’t use makeup anymore, and she’s moving towards buying all her clothes from thrift stores.

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Shannon Hawke’s journey to lead a more sustainable life began about two years ago. Liny Lamberink/980 CFPL

“My journey began when I was living in Detroit about two years ago,” she said.

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Hawke was making other changes in her life at the time: she was reducing the number of products she used with harmful chemicals, and was shifting her diet away from meat and dairy products. But she had a particularly eye-opening experience when she started taking recycling to a recycling depot because Detroit doesn’t have a public recycling program.

“That really exposed me to the process of sorting everything in the right spot, and what happens to it after.”

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Hawke decided she would live a more strict zero-waste lifestyle when she moved into her own apartment in London last fall.

“I got to a point where I really knew who I was, but I felt like to take that further, I had to start caring for the planet. Like if I’m caring for myself, I also have to care for the planet. We’re the same.”

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Both Rajani and Hawke have been instrumental in the launch of Reimagine Co., a zero-waste demonstration hub that’s taken up shop in the old Novacks building at 211 King Street in London.

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You can buy bamboo cutlery, stainless steel plates from the hub's store 'Naked.'. Liny Lamberink/980 CFPL
'Naked,' the hub's zero-waste store, has a wide range of different reusable straw options. Liny Lamberink/980 CFPL
The store also carries a bulk supply of liquid hygiene and household products that can be purchased in customer's reusable containers. Liny Lamberink/980 CFPL
The store carries bamboo toothbrushes, tooth floss in mini glass jars, reusable feminine hygiene products, and earth-friendly loofas. Liny Lamberink/980 CFPL

After securing $8,000 through the city’s Neighbourhood Decision Making program, the space is offering free regular workshops every month, including a toothpaste-making workshop, a beeswax wrap-making workshop, a composting workshop, and a zero-waste 101 to teach people about leading more sustainable lives.

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Reimagine Co also features an art hive, and a zero-waste store named “Naked” where people can buy shampoo, conditioner, body wash, lotion, and household cleaning products in bulk, as well as metal straws, reusable bags and reusable containers.

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The goal of the space is to educate, to share, and to foster a sense of community, explained Rajani.

“None of us are experts here. We are just people who wanted to cut down on the amount of plastic we use in our everyday lives.”

Reimagine Co. is hosting its grand opening on Saturday between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

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