LOW WASTE & PLASTIC FREE

Many of us feel guilty about how much we throw away, but it can feel like an uphill battle cutting back. Buying things with lots of packaging can seem more convenient, or like it’s the only option. Constantly buying things we don’t really need, through the treadmill of consumerism, has also become hardwired into the way we live our lives.


But we are also becoming more aware of the damage plastics, chemicals and waste cause to wildlife, our oceans and soil, and the sheer amount of human-made stuff in the world. There are growing options to go low or zero waste, and say no to single-use plastics, and we can reap many benefits if we shop small, local and less.


This is a key area communities can work on together on: see our advice for businesses, local authorities and community groups, and read on for our suggestions for individuals and families.

Image by Markus Spiske
 

WHAT CAN FAMILIES AND INDIVIDUALS DO?

There are many small steps you can take towards reducing waste, and often it involves enjoyable activities with family, friends or in your community. Remembering ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’, in that order, is a good start. Here are our top 10 tips:

1. PLAN YOUR MEALS

Writing a weekly ‘menu’ of meals helps to work out what you need food-wise so you only buy the food you need, when you need it. It can bring more variety to what you eat and reduce costsMake as many of these veggie or vegan as possible for low-carbon, healthy eating.

2. THINK TWICE, OR SECOND-HAND

If you’re considering buying something for yourself, your home or as a gift, consider if you/they really need it, or if you have something already that could be fixed or rejuvenated. If you need to make a purchase, buy second-hand if you can, or the most sustainable, local option. For gifts, go for homemade, second-hand, or food and drink you know they like.

3. LOOK AT WHAT GOES INTO YOUR BIN

Consider how to reduced what you throw away, at home and out and about, especially non-recyclable materials.

4. CHECK YOUR LOCAL COUNCIL’S WEBSITE ON RECYCLING

Ensure you’re up-to-date with what recycling they will accept. Follow their guidance, and don’t contaminate your recycling with non-recyclables or unclean packaging.

5. ALWAYS CARRY A REUSABLE SHOPPING BAG

A strong jute or cotton bag should last decades, and is much better than a plastic ‘bag for life’. Take plenty if doing a bigger shop. A few small paper bags can also come in handy too.

6. KEEP AND REUSE CONTAINERS

Boxes, tubs, bottles, jars and bags come in handy for refilling and reusing about the house and garden, so clean and keep hold of anything that seems useful!

7. CHECK IF YOU HAVE A REFILL SHOP IN YOUR AREA

More are popping up, and many existing health food shops offer refills too, such as eco cleaning products and dried foods. Google ‘refill shop near me’. Many small local shops and take-aways will be happy for you to bring your own tubs, pots or bags, such as for bread, fruit and veg, even takeaway curry: just ask! Even most supermarkets sell loose items you can put straight in your shopping bag.

8. GO PREPARED WHEN OUT AND ABOUT

Take a water bottle, flask or cup, and packed lunch, snacks and cutlery if you’ll need it. If you need to buy something to eat or drink on the move, go to a café or pub using proper cups and plates, or sandwich shop using paper bags.

9. SPEAK OUT, NICELY

If you find yourself in a shop, café, pub or takeaway using unnecessary, unrecyclable packaging, ask if they can offer an alternative, and/or provide suggestions, in a positive and polite way, direct to staff or via an online/feedback form. Even if you don’t get anywhere straight away, it’s good for them to hear that low waste is in demand.

10. MAKE AND GROW AS MUCH AS YOU CAN

From mid-week meals, to healthy snacks, to windowsill herbs, to your own cleaning products, to Christmas presents. See our advice on health and wellbeing, which goes hand-in-hand with reducing waste, and can be fun too.

For extra ideas and advice, take a look at the below websites:

 
Father and Son Baking

INVOLVING CHILDREN

Getting family on board and supporting efforts to reduce waste can be great fun and educational, especially if it involves home baking and making, or a local community project. Search online for endless green craft, baking and growing ideas for families.

DRAW ON AND SHARE FORGOTTEN SKILLS

Learning from others, and sharing your skills, in anything from sewing to woodwork to gardening, can be really enjoyable, and help you connect with others while cutting waste. Reviving skills and traditional methods that have been used for generations can help us make the most of what we have: ‘make do and mend’. Some towns now have repair workshops and fairs you can attend and support.

Sewing Leather
 

FACTS ABOUT WASTE, RECYCLING AND PLASTICS:

Each UK household produces a tonne of rubbish each year, and this is rising
(DEFRA & ONS, 2020)

Nearly a quarter of food bought in the UK (22%) goes to waste
(WRAP, 2020)

45% of UK rubbish is sent for recycling (DEFRA, 2020), but much of this, plastics especially, is sent overseas, with rising concerns about what happens to it
(BBC, 2019)

Plastics are inherently difficult to recycle, and cannot be recycled repeatedly like glass, as they degrade in quality each time
(The Guardian, 2019)

Only 10% of plastics produced globally are recycled: the rest ends up in our natural ecosystems
(Earth Day, 2018)

Plastics are a petroleum product: manufacture of plastics accounts for an estimated 8% of global oil production
(Earth Day, 2018)

 

INSPIRING VIDEOS

 
 

WHAT CAN COMMUNITIES, COUNCILS AND BUSINESSES DO?

SET UP A LOW-WASTE PLEDGE SCHEME

Local businesses and community groups can be asked to sign up and promote the changes they make.

TAKE ANTI-LITTERING AND RECYCLING CAMPAIGNS TO THE NEXT LEVEL

Encouraging people to not buy things with excess or non-recyclable packaging.

PROMOTE THE ‘SHOP LITTLE, SHOP LOCAL’ MESSAGE

Promoting use of local shops and sustainable businesses.

What’s happening in your community?

If your community is taking on waste and plastics, or you’ve got some great ideas to share, fill in our contact form or say hi on social media.