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Is Zero Waste More Expensive? Zero Waste Alternatives Price Comparison

Do you want to live a more sustainable lifestyle, that’s focused on being as waste-free as possible?

That’s great!

Reducing the amount of trash your home produces is a valuable activity you can do to become zero waste, as well as consumer products that don’t harm the planet.

But you might be wondering how much it actually costs to go zero waste and if it’s too expensive for you to do. It really doesn’t have to be.  

Can zero waste living save you money?

You can save money by committing to a zero-waste lifestyle, such as by reusing items in the home instead of purchasing new ones. Focusing on buying items that are as zero waste as possible can also lead to a more budget-friendly lifestyle.

However, there’s a catch: some zero waste products can be a bit more expensive than their regular counterparts.

Let’s take a look at how zero waste products fare when it comes to their price as compared to regular products.  

Zero Waste Price: Is It Bad For Your Pocket?

Zero waste lifestyle pin

Before we look at how much zero waste products actually cost, it’s worth figuring out what defines a product as zero waste in the first place.

Here’s a quick crash-course: if the product reduces the amount of waste your home produces (such as by not being packed in lots of plastic) and it can be used many times over, then it should definitely form part of your zero waste lifestyle.

You might be wondering, ‘If something lasts for a longer period of time, doesn’t that mean it’ll be more expensive?’ For example, consider disposable items.

Their whole appeal is that they cost less than reusable products. That is true, but it’s worth considering that choosing zero waste products instead of disposable ones can help you save money in the long run.

They’re usually also much better for the environment because they reduce waste and can be reused for many months and even years.

Let’s now take a look at the prices of some popular regular items and that of their zero-waste alternatives.

Regular Zero Waste Item
Plastic Straw – approximately 0.05 cents Paper straw – approximately 2.5 cents
Plastic spatula – $5 (two-pack) Silicone spatula – roughly $10
Plastic shopping bag – roughly $0.02 Reusable shopping bag (bought from a supermarket) – $0.99-$3.00
Plastic water bottle – $1.45 Reusable water bottle – $5 to $10.
Tampons – a box containing 36 tampons costs approximately $7 Menstrual cup – $30
Diapers – they cost approximately $1,400 over 2.5 years Cloth diapers – $300 over 2.5 years. (Source: The Natural Baby Company)
Paper plates – roughly $20 for a pack of 20 or 30 plates Bamboo dinner set of plates – roughly $20
Packaged snacks – $0.67 on average Serving of fruit or veggies – $0.34 on average (Source: Center For Science In The Public Interest)
Canned goods (yearly) – $255.00 Fresh foods (yearly) – $270.00
Paper towels (two large rolls) – approximately $7 Cotton dishcloth (four-pack) – $4.99
Disposable razor – $0.32 per razor (in the example of a 30-pack that costs $9.57) Safety razor – $25 – $40, but the blades are cheaper than those of disposable razors

As you can see from the items in the above table, the zero waste price of products is not always more expensive than regular products.

For example, 12-piece bamboo dinnerware set on Amazon can cost you around $20, which is the same price as buying a pack of 20 paper plates, even though you’re getting fewer plates in the pack, there’s no doubt that the bamboo plates will last you much longer than the plastic ones.

Bamboo is also better for the environment because it’s sustainable. Similarly, a bamboo toothbrush can cost you much less than a plastic toothbrush, while also being better for the environment. 

In some cases, zero waste products are more expensive.

However, what’s important to bear in mind is that they’re worth the money if they are sustainable and will last longer than their conventional alternatives.

This makes them cost-effective in the long term.

For example, a reusable water bottle can cost around $5-$10, which seems like a lot when you can get a water bottle for around $1, but you can use it for much longer.

In addition, plastic water bottles have been said to only be safe when used once, as Practical Gastroenterology journal found (via Huffington Post), so their low price isn’t really worth it.

Sometimes it’s worth considering that while something might save you money, it’s not suitable for your zero-waste lifestyle.

For example, you might think it’s worth buying canned goods instead of fresh ones because this can save you approximately $20 in a year, as Value Penguin calculates, but this will result in you collecting more waste, in the form of cans.

In addition, it’s not a healthier option for you or your family.

That said, it might not always be worth it to spend more on a reusable item if it doesn’t actually get used!

This will contribute to the waste in your home and possibly landfills, and completely defeats the purpose of following a zero-waste lifestyle.

Therefore, it’s not only price and sustainability that matters, but how much use you’ll get out of the product that makes it valuable in terms of being zero waste.

Shopping Tips That Make Zero Waste Living A Breeze

Zero waste tips

Starting a zero waste lifestyle can feel stressful, especially if you’re new to it.

One of the concerns you might have is that you’re not sure what products you should buy and which ones you should avoid, such as when shopping for groceries and other items.

The good news is that there are easy tips you can follow when shopping for zero-waste items that will make the process much easier.

Zero Waste living hacks

Think About How You’ll Dispose Of The Item In Future

Nothing lasts forever. Sadly, even your trusty dishcloth or reusable bottle will eventually reach its expiry date.

What truly determines whether or not the product is zero waste is how it performs when it needs to be disposed of.

If it can be recycled, upcycled into a new item, or put in the compost pile, then it will reduce your waste.

For example, a paper straw can be put into the compost pile instead of the trash as the paper is biodegradable.

This makes it zero waste. Similarly, even though you shouldn’t put that silicone spatula in your regular recycling bin, certain companies do accept silicone that they recycle, which is a great way to reduce the waste that ends up in the environment. 

By paying a bit more attention to how the item you want to buy will someday be disposed of, you can make smarter purchasing choices and prevent buying unnecessary products that will only become waste, and cost you to replace.

This will also help you eliminate the temptation to buy cheaper products, such as a plastic bag, as you know it will end up in a landfill.

Buy Items In Bulk

Women In Shopping

Buying in bulk is an important element of zero waste because it reduces the amount of packaging that’s used in the manufacturing of items, contributing to less trash that you have to throw out.

But it can be expensive to purchase some items in bulk, which is why you should only purchase what you really need and what won’t go to waste.

For example, purchasing toilet paper in bulk is a smart idea because it will always be used, whereas buying bananas in bulk might not be.

Those bananas can quickly become stale before you can eat them all, which makes you lose money. In addition, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye out for sales in your local shops and supermarkets.

If your preferred items are selling at a reduced price in a bulk pack and they’re non-perishable, it’s cheaper to purchase them even if you don’t need them right now.

When done smartly and within your means, buying in bulk at a zero waste price is worth it.

In addition, if you buy more items during one shopping trip, this also reduces the amount of gas you need, thus saving money and decreasing carbon dioxide emissions from your car.

Purchase Items From Thrift Stores (Or Get Them For Free)

Four Glass Jars

Buying storage items, such as glass jars and containers, is a valuable tip when starting a waste-free lifestyle. This will help you have places to store things you buy and start replacing the plastic in your home.

If you need new items such as glass jars, you don’t have to purchase them brand new. You can get them for much less at the thrift store.

Another idea is to get the items for free, such as if they’re unwanted items belonging to your friends or loved ones.

The great thing about both of these options is that they enable you to breathe new life into old products that would ordinarily be tossed into the bin.

Purchase Produce That’s Older And In Season

You can certainly save money when buying fresh produce, even if it sometimes feels like these products are more costly than processed food.

When they’re close to reaching their sell-by dates, these products tend to be sold for cheaper in the supermarket.

You’ll save money and prevent food from getting binned, which is always a good thing.

You should also buy fruits and vegetables that are in season. Seasonal produce tends to be less costly than products that have to be transported from other climates.

Think Of Quality Over Quantity

Quality Checked On Black Board

You might not want to spend more money on a steel or glass food container instead of a plastic one, especially if it’s more expensive.

However, it’s worth paying attention to the quality of the goods you buy. There’s no doubt that a stainless steel or glass product will last longer than plastic.

‘Quality over quantity’ is an important mantra when leading a zero waste lifestyle because it’s more sustainable and can save you money.

Spending money on a low-quality product that won’t last longer than a few weeks or months will just waste your money as you’ll have to purchase a different product anyway.

It’s, therefore, better to spend more money upfront as this will save you in the months and years to come while reducing your waste and being better for the environment.

Zero Waste Lifestyle Tips That Cost You Zero Cents

Tips zero waste lifestyle

While some people might complain that a zero waste lifestyle is expensive, there are many ways in which you can make it really cheap.

Sometimes, it doesn’t even have to cost you a cent! It’s really about thinking in different ways. Here are some tips you can follow right now.

Avoid Free Plastic

Drinking Cocktail

You don’t even have to purchase plastic in order to bring it home, sometimes it’s all around you!

A really easy way to stay waste-free is to avoid all the excess plastic that comes your way.

When you eat out, avoid using a plastic straw to drink your juice and say ‘no’ to the plastic bag in which your takeaway food arrives.

By doing this regularly, you can make a huge difference in cutting down the amount of waste that enters your home.

Stop Purchasing So Much New Clothing

In the U.S. alone, more than 25 billion pounds of clothing items go to waste, according to the Council for Textile Recycling (via Listverse).

Take stock of the clothing you already own and see if you can upcycle items into new ones that you need. Or, do a clothes swap with a friend. This is a free way to save money and reduce your waste.

Make Your Own Cleaning Products

You can use items that you already have in your home to make eco-friendly cleaning products that don’t contain harmful chemicals and that don’t cost a lot of money.

For example, baking soda and white vinegar are two natural ingredients that can clean your home wonderfully. It might take some time to make your own cleaning products, but it’ll be worth it.

Eliminate Food Waste

Best By Products

While you’re trying to reduce the amount of paper and plastic that you accumulate in your home, don’t forget about preventing food waste.

This is a big problem as the average household in America spends over $7,000 on food annually, as USA Today reports.

Yet, 40 percent of the food people buy goes to waste, according to CNN. That means, if you spend $7,000 on food every year and waste 40 percent of it, you’re throwing $2,800 down the drain!

By preventing food waste, you’ll have more to eat and you won’t waste money. In addition, this is a great example of how a zero waste lifestyle can actually be less expensive.  

How can you prevent food waste?

A calculation by Hippie Haven Podcast found that if we plan our meals, take a more conscious approach to grocery shopping, and understand expiration dates (such as that sell by dates are not an indication of when the food will go bad, as National Geographic reports), we can save a quarter of the amount that we spent on groceries, to begin with. Your average yearly savings could total $1800,75!

Related Questions

How Can You Make Junk Food Zero Waste?

If you’re bitten by the junk food bug, always make sure you avoid containers from the restaurant and eat your leftovers.

You can also eliminate waste by making the food yourself.

For example, baking your own pizza means not having boxes to throw into the bin (pizza boxes can’t be recycled).

How Can You Start A Zero Waste Lifestyle And Stick To It?

It can feel difficult but the key is to take baby steps, such as by replacing conventional items with zero waste alternatives as they run out and taking your time to reuse whatever you can.

It’s not something you do overnight, but something with which you make positive, permanent changes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you save money by living zero waste?

You can save money by committing to a zero-waste lifestyle, such as by reusing items in the home instead of purchasing new ones. Focusing on buying items that are as zero waste as possible can also lead to a more budget-friendly lifestyle. For more info on zero waste lifestyle on a budget, check out this article.

Are zero waste products expensive?

In comparison to single use, disposable products, zero waste products may seem expensive. However, zero waste products are designed to be used for extended periods of time and many are designed to be mended or repaired rather than replaced. In the long term, zero waste products will save you money even if the initial cost is more. For more info on zero waste products and the costs involved, check out this article.

How to make zero waste budget friendly?

Buy in bulk, buy secondhand, buy less but better quality to last longer, buy local and in season. The values behind zero waste are often the same things that reduce buying costs. For more info, check out this article on the cost of zero waste living, with price comparisons.


While choosing to live zero waste might seem like an overwhelming and possibly expensive task to undertake, in reality, it really doesn’t have to be either of these things.

In fact, it’s probably more tiring and costly to live in a way that produces waste because it can lead to a cluttered home and result in you having to buy more cheap items that don’t last long.

Besides for greater sustainability, a big part of zero waste living is changing how you view things.

This includes being smarter with your purchases and asking the question, ‘How can I use this again?’ when faced with products that you’d ordinarily throw away.

By doing this, zero waste living becomes something that benefits your life, and your wallet, in a big way.

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