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.
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!
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