48 Top tips for cutting waste

Avoidable waste is one of the great curses of modern living. Food, plastic, electricity, water - the list goes on. Here are some ideas for easy ways you can reduce your carbon footprint.

Cutting waste at home

Cutting waste at work

Out and about

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Cutting waste at home

© Moodboard
  1. If available, use your kerbside recycling scheme. Read how Friends of the Earth made this possible with the Household Waste Recycling Act.
  2. Avoid disposable batteries. Use rechargeables, now widely available on the high street or online.
  3. Cleaning the kitchen? Use cotton cloths - not disposable kitchen roll.
  4. Recycle your old clothes by donating them to your local charity shop.
  5. Buy reconditioned electrical appliances and pre-used furniture from organisations such as The British Red Cross.
  6. Polyprint Mailing Films accept clean polythene wrappers and bags for recycling.
  7. Reduce the amount of annoying junk mail pouring through your door - sign up with the free Mailing Preference Service.
  8. Having a shower instead of a bath can save about 40 litres of water. (Avoid power showers, though, as they can use more water than baths.) Install spray taps for new sinks, as they use less water than normal taps.
  9. Recycle your old specs - take them to a high-street opticians and they'll send them to Vision Aid Overseas.
  10. To recycle your drink and Tetrapak cartons, first see if your local authority recycles them. If not you can send your cartons to a mill for recycling. Download address labels (not freepost) and instructions from Tetra Pak Recycling.
  11. Why not try eco-friendly sanitary products such as the reusable Mooncup.

Cutting waste at work

© Friends of the Earth
  • Maximise the amount of your waste that is re-used and recycled. Contact WRAP for more information.
  • Start a paper recycling scheme at work - contact local recycling organisations for info.
  • Reduce waste and energy consumption in the workplace - contact Global Action Plan.
  • Only print when absolutely necessary.
  • If you do print, use both sides of the paper.
  • Re-use surplus photocopies that were printed single-sided. Print on the other side for in-house low-priority use.
  • Use software such as FinePrint to reduce paper usage by up to 50%.
  • Turn off appliances such as PCs and TVs when not in use - and avoid leaving them on standby.
  • Don't throw away old computers - sell them (eBay) donate them (donate-a-pc) or recycle them (wasteonline).
  • Does your company generate waste that could be used as craft resources for schools and youth groups? Find out if there’s a Scrapstore near you through ReusefulUK.
  • If each of the UK's 10 million office workers used one less staple a day, that could save 120 tonnes of steel a year. You can even fold over the corners of the pages to secure them, or use a paperclip if necessary.
  • Install a roller towel at work instead of using disposable paper towels.
  • Unwanted CDs? Get info about recycling CDs and DVDs.
  • Get a pad of 100 Friends of the Earth re-use envelope labels printed on paper made entirely from post-consumer waste for £2.95.
  • Stop subscribing to magazines that you don't have time to read (and save yourself a few quid) - your local library will probably stock a good range.
  • Vending cups can be recycled via the Save a Cup scheme. However, it's much better to encourage your company to use reusable cups and glasses rather than disposables.
     

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Out & about

© Friends of the Earth
  • Compost kitchen and garden waste. Contact your local council for details.
  • Avoid energy-hungry patio-heaters in the garden - put on an extra layer of clothing to keep warm.
  • Try candles for outdoor lighting in the evenings and save electricity. Citronella or beeswax candles will also keep insects away.
  • Use retreaded car tyres instead of buying new. Get more info on what to do with your tyres.
  • Save water by installing a water butt - and water your plants without turning on your hosepipe.
  • Refuse plastic carrier bags - keep re-useable or cotton ones handy for when you go shopping.

More from less

© Stephen Pennells
  • Get fruit and veg from a local grocer or veggie box scheme instead of highly-packaged supermarket goods.
  • Buy refills and save money for products you use in large quantities e.g. washing powders, condiments, cleaning liquids etc.
  • Order fresh bottled milk from your milkman - glass bottles can be reused approximately 20 times.
  • Making your own lunch instead of buying over-packaged snacks could save you more than £4 a day.
  • Join a toy library to borrow toys and give old ones to other families.
  • Don't buy DVDs or books. Rent DVDs by post, for example from LOVEFiLM By Post, or watch films online. Borrow books from a library.
  • Recycle old curtains or exchange them at The Curtain Exchange.
  • Join the 15 per cent of parents who now use cloth nappies for their babies; contact the Real Nappy Information Service.
  • Give cinema or concert tickets as gifts instead of disposable goods.
  • Clearing out the attic? Try selling your stuff rather than taking it to the dump. Check out online auction sites like eBay where you can donate a proportion of your sale to a charity of your choice - including Friends of the Earth. Or you can pass your unwanted items on to someone who wants them via the Freegle and Freecycle websites.
  • Thinking of getting new furniture or household appliances? You can look for free pre-owned ones on Freegle and Freecycle too.
  • Try reclamation yards, skips, auctions, and second-hand shops when doing DIY jobs.
  • Mend, re-upholster or restore old furniture before buying new.
  • Hire tools or borrow from friends or family for odd jobs, rather than buying your own. Donate unwanted tools to charities that send them to developing countries - visit Tools with a Mission or Tools for Self Reliance.
  • Send free e-cards instead of paper ones to save paper and cash.

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This article was originally published on 23 August 2007.