Read our top tips to help you think about what you throw away and how you can reduce your rubbish.
Written by Rebecca Reece | 23 Feb 2023
There are lots of ways we can reduce the amount we throw away to tackle our rubbish problem. Image: John Cameron / Unsplash.
Have you ever thought about how much you throw away each week? Globally, we’re now facing mountains of plastic pollution and this rubbish problem is pushing people further into poverty.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can change our habits and live differently from our consumeristic, single-use society that actively encourages us to buy more and more. We are called not to conform to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).
So, why not get involved in our Rubbish Challenge, to cut your waste at home, school, work or in your local community? Below, you will find lots of ideas – from completing a bin audit to going digital, or even building a wormery!
Complete a bin audit
The first step to reducing your waste is to look at what you are currently throwing away! Yes, this is your call to dive into your bin (safely, with a pair of protective gloves) and sort through your rubbish. You can use a bin audit form, or just make a note on your phone.
List the items in your bin and why you are getting rid of it. Ask yourself if there is another use it could have had before it went to landfill, or whether there’s a more sustainable alternative you could use in the future. For example, if there’s a plastic wrapper from a bag of apples, could you buy loose apples next time? A bin audit simply gives you a chance to reflect and make changes to the things you buy.
Using reusable containers like drinks bottles is a great way to reduce our rubbish. Image: Mart Production / Pexel.
Hold yourself accountable
Find a friend, family member or partner and ask them to hold you accountable for reducing your rubbish. Or you could even take on the challenge together. Be honest with each other: how much are you throwing away and what changes would you like to make? Work out a regular time to check in – once a week or fortnight – and share your successes and mistakes.
Reduce your single-use plastic
One of the most effective ways to cut your waste is to reduce your single-use plastic. The plastic industry is the fastest-growing source of industrial greenhouse gas emissions in the world and nearly half of all plastic produced is only used once.
Of course, some single-use plastic is necessary for medical or accessibility purposes, and so it’s important to acknowledge there are some places in our lives we can’t get rid of it. But if there are areas in your life where you don’t need it, cut it down! Some of these items may be less accessible to you financially but don’t feel despondent if you can make all of these changes. If that is the case, consider making one commitment a year or maybe deciding that you’ll buy at least one thing each month that’s plastic free. You can reduce your plastic usage by using refill shops, buying loose fruit and vegetables, and using reusable cups, water bottles, nappies and period products. Find more tips for reducing plastic waste in this article.
By repairing damaging clothes and other items, rather than throwing them away, we can reduce the amount that ends up in our bins. Image: Tom Price / Tearfund.
Repair, renew, donate
It may be that some items you throw away could have had a new purpose. Get out your DIY tools, put on a YouTube video, and it’s incredible what you can create from something old. Could that top with a hole in the sleeve be repaired with a few stitches? A broken plant pot turned into a piece of art or a frame glued back together? You could also search online for a local repair shop that can fix broken electrical goods and household appliances.
Or if it’s just something you don’t need anymore, you could pass it on to a friend, charity shop or refurbishing company, or sell it online. Try to throw away only things that are at the end of their life.
Be intentional about what you purchase: Do you really need it? If it’s food, can you use it before it goes off? Or are you buying impulsively? We’ve all seen a bargain, purchased it, got home and realised it probably wasn’t necessary. All of this adds to the rubbish we produce.
Before you shop, create a list of what you really need, ask yourself if it is really a necessary purchase and avoid buying something that will just be thrown away. If you do end up being left with something you can’t use, apps like Olio allow you to pass on food that is about to go out of date, and a charity shop or donation point is best for clothing and household items.
There are so many places your food waste could be going other than your rubbish bin. You could put it in a compost bin, whether that's your own in your garden, a community, school or commercial bin. If you have a pet that can eat vegetable peelings, like a guinea pig or rabbit, feed it to them. Or, if you could build or buy a wormery: the worms will eat additional food waste that wouldn’t normally go in a compost bin. You could also look into recipes that use leftovers to make a soup or stew.
Bring back soft plastic to your supermarkets
After reducing your rubbish as much as you can, you could start recycling soft plastics. Some big supermarkets (eg Tesco) are encouraging you to bring back your soft plastic packaging to be recycled in their systems, so if you are able to travel to a supermarket to do so, that could be an option. This may be more difficult if you have limited mobility or if you live in an area where accessing a larger supermarket is more complicated. If this is the case, consider collecting the soft plastics that you use and asking a friend or family members to take them to a recycling point for you. There has been much controversy around whether supermarkets actually recycle what you bring back, but it is an important way to demonstrate that we're serious about tackling this rubbish problem and want companies to keep investing in solutions.
Choose your materials wisely
Another way to reduce your rubbish is to choose your materials wisely. Are you buying something that’s recyclable or biodegradable, or will it need to go in the bin at the end of its life? A biodegradable coffee cup will decompose whereas a coffee cup made of plastic and paper will be difficult to recycle. Something that is made of one material can be recycled more easily than an item made of multiple materials. For example, a cotton t-shirt will biodegrade more easily than a polyester t-shirt. Think through the purpose of your purchase, how long you want it to last and, when it’s no longer needed, how it will be disposed of.
If you have access to a computer, phone, tablet or e-reader, you can reduce your paper and plastic usage by embracing digital. You could swap an e-card for a paper greetings card, an e-receipt for a paper one. And a magazine, newspaper or book could be read on a digital device.
If you simply can’t face the idea of not having a book in your hands, then your local library or a friend might have a copy you could borrow. If you're on mailing lists for materials you never read, unsubscribe!
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