Zero Waste UK

In the UK, each person throws away five times their own body weight in waste per year.

Items that are thrown away are sent to landfill or incinerated.

In recent years, more waste has been reused, recycled or composted, but there is still a lot more to be done.

Why is it good to keep things out of landfill

Putting items in landfill is quite simply, a waste of resources!

While composite materials such as crisp bags and pet food pouches can’t be recycled, there are plenty of materials that can. And once these are put into landfill, they are lost forever (although I see a time when we realise our mistake and mine our landfills for valuable resources!)

The other downside to putting things in landfill is environmental damage. When things start to decompose, they produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

The waste hierarchy

The waste hierarchy is a common sense approach to waste management. Most of us have heard of the 3Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Well, they’re written in that order for a good reason! While recycling is a fantastic way to increase the life of valuable resources, it is less energy intensive to reuse things and better still to reduce the amount of things you buy in the first place.

By refusing things at source, or finding more sustainable alternatives, you can start to live a more zero waste lifestyle.

Waste hierarchy pyramid zero waste week

Reuse

Reusing items is a simple way to get as much use from that item or material as possible and you’re probably already doing some of them without realising.

  • Take your own reusable bags to the shops
  • Fill your own bottle with water before you go anywhere
  • Reuse food leftovers as ingredients for another meal
  • Reuse glass food jars for storing small items
  • If you have unwanted items, take them to a charity shop or offer on Freecycle so someone else can reuse them
  • Use old envelopes to write your shopping list on
  • Use washable cloths instead of paper kitchen roll
  • Use old ice cream or margarine containers for storing food in the freezer
  • Use old yogurt pots or fruit punnets for sowing seeds

Recycling

Most households in the UK benefit from some sort of county council kerbside collection. Contact your Local Authority to find out what you can recycle at home.

Be aware that different areas offer different collections, so what is true for a friend, might not be true for you.

At the time of writing this page I can recycle the following from my kerbside:

paper
Tins
Glass
Food Waste
Garden Waste
Textiles
Plastic bottles
Batteries

There are also local bring bank sites and household recycling centres that take a side range of materials. Locally I can recycle:

Tetra Pak Cartons
Aluminium foil
Car batteries
Light bulbs
WEEE

This recycling locator from Recycle Now is simple to use – type in your postcode and you’ll see at a glance what you can recycle at home and in your local area.

Recycling symbols

Examine the packaging of a product and you *should* find some recycling information.

Here are some of the most common symbols:

The Green Dot

The Green Dot is frequently misunderstood. This does NOT mean a product can be recycled, it just means the manufacturer of the product contributes to the cost of recovery and recycling. The Green Dot logo merely indicates that a company has joined the Green Dot scheme, and not necessarily that the package is fully recyclable.

On-Pack Recycling LabelOPL recycling information symbols zero waste week

Frequently found on food packaging and toiletries, the on-pack recycling label (OPL) tells you the kind of packaging the item is and whether the packaging is recyclable.

Plastic Recycling numbers

You should find these on most types of plastic. Each one specifies the type of plastic resin used to make the item. You’ll need to contact your local council to see which ones you can recycle at home.

WEEE

Anything with a battery or plug is classified as WEEE – this must not go into landfill (hence the crossed out wheelie bin) and can be returned to electronic manufacturers and some local household recycling centres.

Find out more

Zero Waste Week runs an engaged and helpful Facebook Group where people from across the world will share their ideas with you and ask questions. Find the Facebook Group here.