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Zero Waste Day – Top Tips For Reducing Waste

March 31st is Zero Waste Day, a reminder of our responsibility to reduce the amount we throw away. As a whole, humans generate between 2.1 and 2.3 BILLION tonnes of waste every year. Think of all the energy and resources it took to generate this amount of stuff in the first place, then deliver it to us, then when we throw it away, the energy it takes to transport it to a landfill, where it generates greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. If we all took a few small steps to reduce the amount we throw away, the positive effects could be huge! Here are some tips on how you could reduce waste at home.

Reducing Household Waste 

We produced about 23.1 million tons of waste per year or roughly 400 kilos per person. Here are some ways you can reduce household waste:

Take reusable bags when you go shopping

This is a simple but effective way of reducing waste. How many bags do you accumulate from shopping? You probably have a big bag stuffed with other bags under the sink – put them to good use by taking a few with you every time you go shopping.

Carry a reusable cup for coffee on the go

Even the most staunch sustainability ambassador will feel the undeniable lure of a delicious cappuccino when out and about – save that disposable cup from ending up in landfill (like 25 billion cups do every year) by taking a reusable cup with you. A lot of coffee shops offer a discount for bringing your own cup, so this tip can save you money too!

Make Your Own Lunch And Bring It To Work

A little forward planning and preparation is required for this one, but sandwich wrappers and fast food containers add up quickly, especially when you buy lunch 5 days a week. Food wrappers account for a shocking 10.7 billion items of packaging waste each year in the UK. Taking lunch to work means zero packaging gets thrown in the bin, homemade food is usually healthier for you, and you can save around £1000 per year. 

Think Before You Buy

Buying less stuff means throwing away less stuff. Sometimes we all need to buy things, but considering your purchases carefully can make a difference. Before you buy something new, think about it – do you really need this item? Or do you already have something that would fulfil this purpose? Perhaps you could borrow one if you only need it temporarily – Library Of Things could be helpful – your local library also has DVDs and games to borrow as well as books. Some libraries even lend out tools and other items. If you do need something and don’t already have it, would a second-hand version do the job? Check on local buying and selling groups, second-hand shops, or other sources for pre-owned and refurbished goods. If you do need to buy new, take some time to find a locally-produced version with minimal packaging, so that your purchase has a smaller carbon footprint and doesn’t come with loads of wrapping that will end up in the bin. These tips can save you a lot of money and help you be more environmentally friendly.

Learn to Repair Your Clothes and Furniture

Often, broken things get thrown away when they can be repaired and used again. Clothes can easily be repaired at home with a small sewing kit – check out Repair What You Wear for guides on how to repair most clothing and textiles. Before throwing something away, check online to find how-to videos on how to repair common household items. Sometimes, you can upcycle older items into something new, saving them from landfill and giving them a new lease of life.

Recycle What You Can

Most households in the UK now have a recycling bin alongside their regular rubbish bin for non-recyclable waste. You can usually recycle hard plastic, tin cans, glass bottles, cardboard and paper, but check on packaging labels and with your local authority on what can go into your recycle bin. Most supermarkets will take soft plastics like dog food bags, crisp packets and other similar items, so save these up and take them with you on your next shopping trip. Pizza boxes sadly cannot get recycled as they are too greasy – this goes for things like used napkins and paper towels too. 

Recycle unwanted electricals

Electrical goods are a big one – they contain valuable elements that can be salvaged and reused, reducing the need for mining. Batteries and other electrical items contain hazardous substances like lead and mercury which shouldn’t be thrown away in the regular rubbish – find out where you can recycle electrical items locally here. 

Avoid Digital Waste 

Digital waste is data that is downloaded, streamed or stored unnecessarily. While it doesn’t contribute to landfill, digital waste still has a carbon footprint that might be bigger than you think. To reduce your digital waste, reduce your streaming activities and watch/listen to native media where you can, i.e. don’t stream a film that you own on DVD, unsubscribe from email newsletters you don’t want, and delete any emails, apps or files you don’t need. This is a great way to reduce online ‘clutter’ and give you back some storage space on your devices too. 

Buy Produce at Local Markets, or Grow Your Own

Local markets and independent shops can be a great source of produce like fruit, vegetables, eggs and more. Locally grown food is fresher and more delicious as well as having a smaller carbon footprint and usually involves a lot less plastic packaging than produce at the supermarket. If you are lucky enough to have the space and time to grow your own food, this is the perfect way to reduce waste as it won’t need packaging and you can use food scraps, dead leaves and grass clippings to make compost to enrich your garden! 

Plan Your Meals to Reduce Food Waste

In the UK, about 9.5 million tons of food waste is generated every year. This can be food scraps like vegetable peels, expired food that spoils before it gets eaten, and expired food products from supermarkets that don’t get sold. All this food waste goes into landfills where it creates methane as it rots, a potent greenhouse gas. Avoid wasting food by planning your meals out in advance and creating a shopping list – this means you will only buy what you need and avoid ingredients going off before you can use them. A lot of foods are freezable, so if something might spoil before you can use it, prep it and throw it in the freezer for future use. If you have a garden, put fruit and vegetable waste, eggshells and coffee grounds into a compost bin to create nutrient-rich compost.

All these tips can keep a lot of things out of landfills, reducing our carbon footprint and cutting down on greenhouse gases. They can save you quite a bit of money over time too. Every time you save money by reusing or borrowing something, consider adding that amount to a savings account to see how much you can save up in a year – you might be surprised! 

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