In 2016, the UK generated more than 220 million tonnes of waste. Of the many forms of waste treatment, landfill is the second biggest, accounting for around 24 per cent of the country’s total waste production.
Landfill sites can cause devastating harm to our landscapes and ecosystems. And they emit greenhouse gases that we’re all so desperate to reduce.
The facts are simple: if we can drastically reduce the amount of waste we produce as a country, we can all play our part in protecting Earth from climate change, pollution and the scourge of landfill.
A lot of people believe they can’t make much of a difference when it comes to these environmental issues. But they’re mistaken. The average home emits around a tonne of waste every year. And the average person throws away the equivalent of their body weight in waste over the same period.
If you can cut the amount of waste you produce by half, you can make a significant impact. And if you get together with your friends, relatives, neighbours and the wider community, you can change the face of your local environment.
But where do you start? You might already be recycling waste. You may already be choosing loose fruits and vegetables in supermarkets instead of packaged options. Well, there’s lots you can do. In fact, you can make your life easier by wasting less. And in some cases, it’s possible to save money along the way.
We’ve put together 10 exceptionally easy ways to slash waste in your household. Implementing just two or three of them in your home can make a big difference. Hold onto these household items and play a role in saving the planet.
1. Plastic food containers
Take a look around your home right now. How many plastic bottles and containers do you see? Are there milk bottles, drinks bottles, sauce bottles etc.? And do you have everyday cleaning agents stored in plastic containers? The chances are you have a dozen or more plastic containers in your home right now. Instead of throwing them away, keep them for use as something else.
For example, you can make bird feeders from old drinks bottles. Plastic containers can be used to make everything from scoops to watering cans. You can even use an old shampoo bottle to make a charging station for your mobile phone.
Whenever you’re about to throw away an old plastic container, think about how you can reuse it. Use your imagination and think outside the box. We have a serious waste plastic problem in the world right now, so we should embrace anything that might alleviate the issue.
2. Newspapers and magazines
Most people are now quite good at recycling newspapers and magazines. We have a recycling bin for these waste products. And recycling rates are higher than ever. But we can do more — including reducing the rate at which local refuse centres recycle paper products. After all, a huge amount of energy is used in the recycling of paper.
All those old paper products in your home have a potential use. Whether you use them as wrapping paper, lining for kitty litter trays or DIY envelopes, newspapers and magazines often have an alternative purpose in the home. Just make sure you place the paper in the recycling bin when you’ve exhausted these possibilities.
3. Laundry sheets
Laundry or dryer sheets are single-use items that often go straight in the bin after each use. But they make great dusting cloths, and they’re particularly good at picking up pet hair. In the kitchen and bathroom, dryer sheets are also good at removing soap scum and polishing metal surfaces.
4. A range of bathroom products
There are loads of products in your bathroom that have alternative uses. Take makeup brushes, for instance. Never throw them away, as they make great cleaning tools for the nooks and crannies in electrical goods. And toothbrushes are good at cleaning grouting. You can repurpose shampoo bottles as handy storage receptacles. You can even use old toothpaste tubes to ice your cakes and pastries.
We live in a throw-away society. As soon as something is past its prime, many of us discard it without a second’s thought. But old items of furniture have so much potential. It can be broken down to create new furniture, for example.
There are many possibilities when it comes to repurposing furniture. For example, hang old drawers on your wall to create interesting shelves. Cut the legs of a table into sections to make legs for several stools. A little imagination goes a long way.
6. Glass jars
Never throw away glass jars. Use old jam and pickle jars to store everything from screws to coffee beans. And if you’re creative, you can make your jars look stylish. A little spray paint and a repurposed handle can turn a jar into an attractive feature in its own right. Even if you don’t need the storage space, jars make great displays. And if you have no use for a jar, consider saving it for someone else.
If you grow your own vegetables in your garden, consider letting a few of them go to seed. At the end of the season, collect as many seeds as you can for next year. If you’re clever about things, you can continue this cycle for many years — without ever buying a single seed from a shop.
8. Linen and towels
All sheets and towels have a limited lifespan. They eventually break down and start falling to pieces. Or they become discoloured and ugly. But one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. No matter how bad your towels look, they can make great cleaning rags.
And the same goes for clothes. For example, you can upcycle an old T-shirt into a pillowcase or a braided rug. Again, a little imagination should help you to repurpose every bit of waste fabric in your home.
9. Plastic bags
Wherever possible, try removing plastic bags from your life permanently. If you can carry your groceries without a bag, do so. And if there’s no alternative, make sure you use an old bag or a so-called “bag for life”.
But once you have bags in your home, there are several ways to make good use of them. For example, you can use the inner bag of a box of cereal to wrap sandwiches. If you have older plastic bags from years ago, use them for pet waste or bin liners. You can even upcycle those tired looking bags into an attractive tote bag.
The next time you smash a dish or plate on the kitchen floor, don’t automatically throw it away. Think about the possibilities. For example, you can arrange the pieces to create a unique piece of wall art. Use the pieces to tile an outdoor table or footpath. And if you’re really creative, you can use broken china to make distinctive jewellery.
Mugs, plates and dishes can become stained over time. But this isn’t the end of the road for these items. For example, a stained coffee mug makes a great plant pot.
There are dozens more items in your home that have alternative uses. If you use your imagination, you can make a big difference to your local environment.