How to Celebrate National Barbecue Week – the Zero Waste Way!

This year is the 23rd annual National Barbecue Week.

The trouble is a barbecue isn’t always the most zero waste option! They can produce a lot of rubbish from disposable plates, food packaging, cans and bottles.

Fortunately there are many simple ways to make your barbecue a zero waste celebration!


It’s tempting to hot foot it to your local supermarket and pick up a massive ‘value pack’ of barbecue meat, but there’s always a cost  somewhere. Most bulk packs of meat are sold in hard plastic or polystyrene trays which cannot be recycled easily and ends up in the bin. And there’s animal welfare to think of too.

By using your local butcher you’re helping to support the local economy. More and more butchers will even let you take your own containers for filling, thanks to the Blue Planet effect! Even if your butcher doesn’t allow you to use your own containers, most use thin plastic bags instead of the thick plastic trays that supermarkets use. This means you’ll dramatically reduce the amount of rubbish you are left to dispose of.


Use a local baker if you can. Once again this supports the local economy and in many bakers you’ll find your purchases given you in paper bags or you can even shop naked! By using a bread machine you can make bread while you sleep; you’ll save money and packaging too.

If you buy shop-bought bread or rolls, opt for the brands with the stretchy plastic bags – these are LDPE and can be recycled in some supermarkets with the carrier bags


Visit your local farmers market for salads and veggies to go with your barbecue. You’ll be able to buy exactly the amount you want without any packaging. If you use a supermarket look for loose options such as tomatoes and peppers to help prevent food waste. If you buy prepackaged, do the stretch test! If the packaging stretches without breaking, you’ve got LDPE which can be recycled with some supermarket carrier bags.

Remember too, there’s growing evidence to show that a plant based diet is better for the environment. So why not introduce a couple of meat free options to your barbecue and see what’s popular?


If you’ve got cooked leftover meat, store it in a lidded container as soon as it has cooled down and put in the fridge. You can make sandwiches, curries or a casserole from your leftovers to save wasting food. Likewise, salads and vegetables can be made into soups or chopped up and stirred through cooked rice or pasta.


Avoid disposable table wear if possible. Most ‘paper plates’ are bonded onto plastic which means they take ages to biodegrade. If you can bear the washing up, stick to your every day crockery. If you don’t have enough you can hire it, or even ask your friends to bring their own plate! If you’re catering for a lot of people and washing up really isn’t an option, keep a look out for compostable crockery. These are made from plant fibres and can be added to your compost heap once you’ve finished eating. Used serviettes can be composted too.


Talking of disposables, what about the barbecue itself? Most shops from supermarkets, to garages to local corner stores sell disposable barbecues which are very tempting to buy. But these once-use barbecues need to be disposed of properly. The components can be separated and recycled, but most people don’t bother. If you only have one or two barbecues a year it’s probably not worth buying a reusable one, but you could borrow from a friend of check out a lending site such as Streetbank. Failing that, get a few bricks from your local Freecycle group and make your own!


Provide a container for your guests to throw their empty beer cans, wine bottles, tetra pak cartons or foil (whatever collections you have at home) and put it out for your next kerbside collection. You’ll have had a barbecue to remember with your conscience intact!

What about you? What tips do you have for a zero waste barbecue?

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Rachelle Strauss

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