10 Easy Ways To Reduce Reuse Recycle
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll have noticed increased media attention recently regarding our problem with plastics. A lot of this is down to (my hero) David Attenborough and the issues raised in the BBC’s Blue Planet II but the issue of our waste problem has been gathering momentum for a while now. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has been campaigning for change through his War on Waste for a while now and there are lots of wonderful food waste fighting entrepreneurs popping up all over the place from Rubies in the Rubble to Spare Fruit, Snact and Love Health Hate Waste.
The world of fashion is also waking up to the problem, with the “buy less, buy better” philosophy slowly gaining popularity and the Slow Fashion Movement championing the importance of the planet and people, as well as profit.
With this in mind, here are 10 easy ways to get you started; 10 easy ways to Reduce Reuse Recycle in your day-to-day life.
Buy less plastic.
I know it sounds obvious, but this is literally the key to reducing the amount of plastic in our natural environment. Recycling is not actually the answer. It’s better than binning it, for sure, but there are a number of issues with recycling that mean it should only really be used as a last resort. This article explains it well.
The number one change you can make is to stop buying bottled water. Get a stainless steel water bottle and keep refilling it with tap water. I’m in loooove this one from S’Well and this one from Chillys, but you can get them for a lot, lot cheaper than that! I got mine from Sainsbury’s for £9.00.
And we all know by now to stop using plastic carrier bags and to use reusable bags instead.
Another easy way to avoid plastic is to buy glass, where possible. For example, if you’re buying peanut butter, buy it in a glass jar, rather than a plastic tub. Choose to buy vinegar in a glass bottle rather than a plastic one. Etc.
Reuse glass jars and bottles.
I wash out old jam jars and glass bottles to make homemade gifts like my mulled wine jam and rhubarb gin liqueur. A lot of the time, it’s a damn sight cheaper than buying brand new glass jars. Not only that, but giving a homemade gift is a way of buying less stuff too.
The only glass jars I tend to recycle are ones that have had curry sauces in. It’s difficult to get rid of that smell, no matter how many times you wash it! And no-one wants curry flavoured jam.
Make full use of Pinterest.
If you’re ever wondering how to repurpose something, Pinterest is your friend. All the inspiration you could ever need is right there, at your fingertips. If you ever wondered how to make crocheted baskets from plastic bags or bird feeders from ketchup bottles, Pinterest is where it’s at. Pinterest, Pinterest, Pinterest. I cannot recommend it enough.
My favourite upcycling projects on Pinterest are the ones using textiles – I’m currently making a guitar strap from old t-shirts.
Purchase products made from recycled materials.
In all fairness, some of these products can be quite pricey. But, be inspired, if nothing else. There’s a great toilet paper company called Who Gives A Crap? They sell forest-friendly toilet paper and give 50% of the profits to help build toilets for those in need. There’s also a company called Elvis and Kresse who make luxury accessories from rescued materials like decommissioned fire hoses. They repair for free and give 50% of their profits to the Fire Fighters Charity.
Here is a helpful little promotion of recycled toilet paper, by someone other than me…
There’s also companies that have great recycling policies. LUSH, for example, will take back any empty used pots to reuse and recycle. You even get a free face mask when you bring back 5 pots. Similarly, Paramo will take back any unwanted clothing (except underwear) and either find it a new home or recycle it. In return, you’ll receive a generous discount on your next purchase.
Use a refillable coffee cup.
There’s a lot of talk currently about the “latte levy”, but will a 25p charge stop people from using disposable coffee cups? Not everyone is in favour of the idea of a 25p charge, but since the 5p plastic bag charge was enforced in 2015, plastic bag usage dropped by over 80%, with some supermarkets now ending sales of single use carrier bags altogether. So, it could work!
In the UK, we throw away 500 coffee cups EVERY SINGLE MINUTE. The vast majority are not recycled. As I mentioned earlier, recycling is complicated and the UK actually has only 3 facilities that can split the paper and plastic components of a coffee cup. This means less than 1 in 400 cups are actually recycled.
Use a refillable cup. One popular brand is the Ecoffee Cup, which comes in various sizes and designs. Another option is the bamboo coffee cup from Surfers Against Sewage. But there are loads out there.
Buy products in bulk.
Purchasing products in large quantities usually means less packaging. Not only that, but it’s a way of saving money on your food bill too, because buying in bulk is usually cheaper.
Own better quality products.
When you buy something cheap, it typically breaks/goes out of shape/stops working after a fairly short time. So you throw it out and buy a new one. Obviously, this creates a lot of waste. And costs you more in the long run because you have to keep replacing things. You’re better off coughing up for something more expensive that is going to last you a lifetime. There’s a handy website call Buy Me Once which sells things that are built to last. Another way of getting better quality things is to buy them 2nd hand. Quality second hand items can have years and years of life still left in them, but for a fraction of the price of buying something new on the high street. (See below!)
Try 2nd hand goods.
Okay, I am super-passionate about this one!! ALL HAIL THE CHARITY SHOP!! And eBay.
It ties in with #7 about buying better quality products too. There is absolutely no way in hell I could afford silk blouses, cashmere coats and Le Creuset saucepans if I hadn’t bought them from charity shops. Buying 2nd hand is a great way to get quality items for cheaps. Everyone will think you’re super-fancy, when you’re actually a cheapskate. I mean, eco-warrior. Ahaha.
(One of my favourite eBay sellers is the Isabel Hospice. They have some great listings!)
And, of course, give back. When you’re done with something, if it’s still in good nick, give it back to the charity shop or sell it on eBay.
You can also make use of Freecycle and Freegle.
Make the most out of your food waste.
One of the easiest ways to recycle is to start composting your food scraps. Some councils offer huge discounts on food waste digesters/compost bins (up to 85% discount in my area!). But if you can’t have your own compost bin, many councils offer a food waste collection service.
You can also experiment with things you would usually throw away. Making stock is an obvious one. Potato skins can be loaded with fillings or made into crisps. With orange peel, you can make marmalade, candied peels or even use it in a curry sauce. Even banana skins are edible. Just make sure that you know it’s safe to eat before you start experimenting!
And remember you can make homemade beauty products with things you might usually throw away too. Brown bananas/overripe avocados can be mashed up and mixed with other ingredients to make face masks, for example.
Challenge yourself with Zero Waste Week
Zero Waste Week takes place during the first week of September. It’s an annual campaign to raise awareness for reducing landfill. Sign up to challenge yourself for one week and receive regular tips on how to Reduce Reuse Recycle!
Most importantly, remember that any small effort to Reduce Reuse Recycle is worth it – you don’t have to be perfect!