Zero Waste Week: how low can you go?

zero waste week

Next week, from the 4th to the 8th September, it is the 8th annual Zero Waste Week. The UK alone generates over 200 million tons of waste, much of which ends up in landfill. The Zero Waste movement asks, ‘What happens when you throw something away? Away isn’t some magical place; it’s landfill, an incinerator, the bottom of the ocean, litter or the stomach of an animal. It’s always somewhere else…’

Actions you can take for Zero Waste Week

Become a champion recycler

Recycle! Many of us pay lip service to this. We may rinse out cans and bottles and put them in the Council’s kerbside collection scheme, but what about plastic bottles? And Tetra packs? They can be recycled but most end up in the bin. Check which items your council collects for recycling. If they collect food waste, make sure you have a bin and use it. If they aren’t collecting items like textiles their websites should say where local collection points are. What about batteries? Many councils don’t take them but you can recycle them in a lot of supermarkets and hardware stores.  If your local council isn’t doing enough, complain and let them know what you think.

Reuse wherever you can

Lots of things we casually chuck ‘away’, can be reused. Fold up and reuse wrapping paper, carefully open and reuse Jiffy bags, cut your letters open with a knife and use paper envelopes again, either for sending letters or writing lists.

If you have children or grandchildren, keep a ‘bits and bobs’ box for crafts. Bits of foil, coloured paper, sweet wrappers, toilet and kitchen roll tubes, fancy wrap, ribbon, string, etc can be magically transformed into art.

You can reuse all kinds of containers to sow seeds for your garden. Toilet roll tubes, yogurt pots, margarine and ice cream containers all get your plants off to a good start. Plastic containers can be cut into strips and used as plant labels too. I use these types of containers to freeze soup in when I make a large batch.

Reuse plastic bags. I rinse out and keep bread bags if we have them and wash and reuse the zip lock type bags several times.

Buy products that can be refilled.  Ecover has a list of refilling stations on its website, so check out if there is one near you. Support companies who actively reuse their own packaging. For example, Lush give you a free face mask if you return 5 plastic pots.

Reduce your food waste

I wrote posts on this here and here. Reducing your food waste means there is less to go to landfill, plus you will buy fewer items in the first place, meaning less pollution from the production and transportation processes. In addition, you will save money! Reducing your food waste is a win-win situation.

Bread is commonly thrown away. If you won’t use a whole loaf, cut it in half and freeze some. As there is usually only me and Mr S in the house these days, I buy a sliced loaf and put it straight in the freezer. We defrost and use only what we need as we go. Also, there are so many recipes to use up old bread, such as bread pudding. You can find my favourite recipe in my post Why you should make a meal of leftovers.

If you do nothing else this Zero Waste Week, see if you can cut down on your food waste. It is easy with a bit of planning.

Make conscious purchases

When you do purchase something new, be conscious about it. Is there too much packaging? If the packaging can’t be avoided, is it reusable or recyclable? Where does the item come from? If it is from Australia and you are in the UK, can you buy more locally?

You can avoid packaging altogether if you take your own containers to shops and supermarkets. If you are near local independent shops, try buying your bread, meat, fish and vegetables from them as they are less likely to be overpackaged.

Support makers who use recycled materials in what they produce. You can find a range of items made from recycled materials at Protect the Planet.  Does it have to be new? Buy second hand when you can.

Make do and mend

Develop a war time mentality. Our grandparents had to be creative and ingenious to make things last. During the war years, every week was Zero Waste Week! You could learn to sew and repair clothing or transform fabric into something else. Developing DIY and carpentry skills can save you money as well as keep your stuff in good order so that it lasts longer and doesn’t have to be thrown away. Rather than buying new, can you upcycle what you already have? There is plenty of inspiration here.

Cooking rather than convenience

Do more cooking from scratch. Making a pasta sauce from fresh tomatoes creates less waste then buying a jar. As well as making your own sauces, there is less packaging involved if you bake your own cakes and biscuits. You can even make your own crisps!


Transform your garden waste and household peelings, teabags, etc into wonderful compost for your garden. I have a post all about composting here.

If you don’t have the space for a compost heap, most councils collect material for composting. Food waste collections even take cooked food, meat and bones as commercial composting can cope with these.

Don’t forget your reusable bags!

Keep reusable bags somewhere you won’t forget them when you go shopping. I always have two foldaway reusables in my handbag. In addition, I have 5 or 6 large reusable carriers in the car boot for when I go to the supermarket.

Drinks on the move

Invest in a decent reusable bottle. Some eco-friendly alternatives may seem pricey but will save you money in the long run. I have tried a few and really like this one from Amazon.

Give up the fizzy drinks when out and about as well. Pack a reusable bottle of fruit juice or squash as a more eco-friendly alternative.

Take your reusable coffee cups when you are out and about or a good flask. We rarely leave the house without ours.

Consumer power

There are other things you can do apart from avoiding over packaged goods and taking your own containers when you buy food. How about buying washing powder in a cardboard box instead of liquid? Even better, try an Ecoegg or some Ecozone Soap Nuts to do your laundry.

Think about disposables. There are so many items we use regularly and then just toss in the trash.  You can buy bamboo toothbrushes, for example, reusable sanitary towels or a Mooncup . Instead of using cotton wool pads, invest in some washable cloths (I use these).  Invest in a decent pen and buy refills rather than the usual disposable plastic ones. I have yet to be brave enough to scrap the disposable razors, but you can buy metal ones! Ditch the kitchen roll and just keep a stack of old towels cut into squares to wipe up spills and splashes. If you have a baby, an initial investment in real nappies will cut waste and save money in the long run. You can spend a lot on fancy velcro ones, but old fashioned terry nappies are very cheap and did well for generations!

Buy solid shampoo bars and revert to old fashioned soap, rather than using hand wash and shower gel. Think of all the plastic bottles you will avoid if you do!

Stop junk mail

I can’t believe we all still receive junk mail. It is so expensive for companies to send out and mostly ends up in the recycling. This Citizen’s Advice Bureau article tells you all you need to know to prevent it arriving.

You don’t want it anymore, so who does?

As you have gone to the trouble of reading this much of Zero Waste Week post, I am sure you don’t bin stuff that other people can use. You know that you can sell your unwanted items at a car boot sale, on eBay or you can donate them to a charity shop. However, don’t forget Freecycle and Freegle. People will often take items that the charity shop wouldn’t touch and you definitely couldn’t sell. I have given away kitchen cupboard doors, non-working electrical appliances, battered old furniture and an excess of plants and seedlings. In addition, I have sold and given things away on Facebook.

Just buy less

Even better than recycling or reusing is to avoid purchasing some things in the first place. Question each of your purchases – do you really need this? Do you already have the same thing at home? This will save you money as well as reducing your environmental footprint – a win-win situation!

Spread the word! Encourage colleagues, friends and family to take part in Zero Waste Week. Paste it all over social media. Share this blog post!

Zero Waste Week resources

Sign up to receive helpful newsletters and resources on the Zero Waste Week website.

The Story of Stuff

My Plastic Free Life

Love Food Hate Waste

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Reducing waste in 2018: make do and mend

Christmas is over, the fridge is full of cold turkey  and leftover nut roast …. I am sure you are the same (well, maybe not the nut roast!). Because most of us have plans for our Christmas leftovers and don’t like wasting food, this is the ideal time to rethink our approach to reducing waste during 2018.

Reducing wasteReducing waste with small repairs

I was sent some Sugru mouldable glue recently to try. This seems like the perfect thing when you are trying a make do and mend approach. Rather than throwing broken things away, I will use this for small repairs.

Reducing wasteThe cat somehow managed to throw the laundry basket down the stairs the other day and has cracked the corner. Each time it is used the crack is getting bigger. Rather than throw it out, I have used the Sugru to patch it up.

It isn’t as good as new and doesn’t look pretty, but hopefully will last a little longer.

Reducing waste by using the turkey carcass

Reducing wasteI have already turned the turkey bones into stock. This will be used to make soup with some of the leftover turkey and veg.

Any remaining turkey will be packaged up and put in the freezer. I have also sliced up the nut roast and frozen it. The freezer is an excellent tool to reduce waste!

I have a jar of Aldi curry sauce in the cupboard. No doubt some of the turkey will end up as a quick curry for Mr S and the girls, if they are about.

We have a lot of cheese. Fortunately this lasts a long time but I have a cheese soufflé in mind for later in the week. Cheese freezes very well too, but because we all love it I think it will get used up.

I read somewhere that salad leaves are the most thrown away food item. I have done this myself at times. It is annoying, but there isn’t much you can do with salad, except eat it before it goes brown. But is this true? I reckon I could throw any leftover lettuce and cucumber in the soup and no one would be any the wiser!

Buying less

The best way of reducing waste is not to buy too much in the first place. I don’t feel we have gone overboard this Christmas. We have a lot of food in the house but there are five of us here at the moment so hopefully we can use it all up. However, my daughter turned up with a pack of continental meats – chorizo, salami, etc. yesterday. As I am no longer eating meat and no one likes this that much I am contemplating what to do with it. I think some kind of pasta dish. I can do a meatless version for me fairly easily. Any ideas anyone?

No spend month

As January will be a no spend month for me, I will naturally be buying less of everything. Those of you who spend too much and have too much stuff might like to join me. Many of us have so much of everything and could easily do a month buying nothing except essentials. It’s great for replenishing your bank account!

I am probably going to need to make an exception for DIY stuff, however, since we plan to start the renovation of the sitting room. But we will be making the best of the furniture we have rather than buying new, much as I would love a brand new shiny sofa. We did consider buying one in the sales but have decided to save up for one rather than putting it on the credit card. It doesn’t seem the best start to a new year where I want to spend less, save more and focus on reducing waste generally.

Are you looking at reducing waste in 2018? There are some great ideas over at Jen Gale’s blog My Make Do and Mend Life. She took a break from it but is back! Very happy about this. What about you? Do you enjoy a make do and mend approach?

Make do and mend: Love Christmas, Hate Waste


A Christmas wreath made from old magazines

I was exploring the Essex County Council website today and ended up on the Recycle for Essex site. Here you can find some excellent advice on reducing waste and lots of ideas on how to be creative with waste generally rather than dumping it. I love this make do and mend mentality.

Christmas crafts

There are some brilliant Christmas craft ideas. I like these gift bows made from old magazines.

You can also make gift bags from newspapers, a wreath from sweet wrappers or magazines, loads of decorations from CDs plus there are useful links to other wastes for more inspiration.


An old CD becomes Santa

There is a link to the Love a Food Hate Waste website too, which is a great site. There are lots of ideas for using up your Christmas leftovers, from Christmas pudding ice cream to Stilton, ham and Brussels sprout tart! I bet that is nicer than it sounds 😊.

You don’t need to live in Essex to find some inspiration for reducing your waste this Christmas. Check it out!

Make do and mend

I have been enjoying a blog called recently. Jen Gale has an interesting perspective on using less and wasting less which I agree with. She has had a lot of attention from the media of late too, with a piece in the dreaded Daily Mail about avoiding the rampant consumerism of Christmas and making it more simple. You can read it here. She and her family spent a whole year buying nothing. They went for a make do and mend approach, then carried on when the year was over. She is a very inspiring person with a refreshing view on life.

What are your tips for reducing, reusing and recycling this Christmas? Do you make do and mend? Are you trying to make it more simple and meaningful?