A Guide to Zero Waste Week 2020

This week 7th - 11th September is Zero Waste Week, an award-winning campaign to raise awareness of the environmental impact of consumer waste.

Businesses, individuals and organisations can all take part in trying to find ways to reduce the waste they generate and live a less consumer-based lifestyle.

'What happens when you throw something away? Away isn't some magical place; it's landfill, an incinerator, the bottom of the ocean, litter in the stomach of an animal. It's always somewhere else..'

What's it all about?

Founded in 2008 by Rachael Strauss, the concept is a simple one: an opportunity for us all to consider and implement ways to live our lives in a way that minimises the waste we produce. It also aims to encourage methods of recycling, reusing and reducing our need for large quantities of unnecessary packaging and non-essential consumables.

The term 'zero waste' is in fact more of an ideal than a widespread possibility. but the ideology is very sound and the more ethically and morally driven we are, the greater our chance of successfully refusing, reducing and finding new ways to do things to lessen our environmental impact.

Dedicating a specific week to this serves not only to highlight the problems we all face, but provide ideas and support for those less familiar with confronting the waste issue. What started as a local awareness campaign in the UK has now become a globally recognised initiative that has individuals, businesses, schools and whole communities worldwide, doing their bit.

How to get involved

The Zero Waste Week website is a good place to start for support and information. All this week they will be highlighting different waste concerns via their blog and their hugely informative newsletter - go to the web page here to sign up:

Why we need to reduce waste

In the blog post 'Recycling: Dishing the Dirt on Waste', (from June 2020) we detail the reasons why recycling is so important for our future and that of the planet. We also discuss the issue further in our posts during plastic-free July, on the global impact of plastic waste: and some simple ways to cut down on single use plastic in our day to day lives:

'No-one can do everything, everyone can do something, together we can do anything.'

There's never been more need to take care of our environment and reduce what we use and how we dispose of it, but equally, never has there been such a wealth of information and range of great innovative products to help us do so. By taking small steps, we can all make a difference together.

Individuals with mutual goals can really make things happen -this is 'people power' at its greatest.

Making a start

If you've made the decision to join in, begin by having a think about what you can do and how to do it that will make it feel easy and preferably become a habit.

When things are a big effort they're much less likely to be taken up.

Start by following these simple actions suggested by

Refuse -

Refuse what you do not need. We generally all have too much. Think carefully: do I really need that?

Reduce -

Reduce what you do need: really consider what and how much you actually need before buying and shop more 'responsibly'.

Reuse -

Reuse by re-purposing what you don't want, or by using non-disposable items such as reusable bottles or metal straws

Recycle -

Recycle or donate what you cannot refuse, reduce or reuse

Rot -

Rot down (compost) the raw food or peelings you don't use or discard.

To help you get going, here are some easy but very impactful ways you can make a difference:

Start composting

If you tend to eat lots of fresh fruit and veg, this is one of the fastest way to reduce what you send to landfill.  Composting reduces the need to put uncooked food waste in the rubbish bin therefore reducing the amount of bin bags for collection. Peelings and raw waste is organic matter that is valuable for enriching the soil, especially if you like to grow your own veg. Compost bins are available in most DiY stores and from many local authorities at a discounted rate.

Reduce food waste by buying less, freezing and keeping track

The average household throws out around 4.5 million tonnes of food each year. Much of this is edible but just beyond its sell-by date. How does this happen? Poor fridge and store cupboard management is often the cause with busy families losing track of the food it has and when it should be eaten. Try creating a designated 'Eat Me First' shelf. Move all near-their-sell-by-date foods onto the shelf and put fresh items toward the back, ensuring the older food doesn't get left to go off. A very simple tip but one that should see the average household rescue many items of perfectly edible food each week. If you have too much of something or are struggling to find an opportunity to eat it, think about donating it to your local food bank or community fridge so others can benefit.

Collect hard to recycle (but still recyclable) things

Recycling is a last resort, but alas sometimes we do find ourselves there.  Before throwing away anything out of the ordinary, do a little research first to see if there are any designated drop-offs (like municipal recycling facilities) or dispose of them through Terracycle who recycles all sorts of things. Examples of these hard to recycle (but still recyclable) items include e-waste, batteries, polystyrene, toothpaste tubes, electric toothbrush heads, etc. Also consider donation sites such as Freecycle or your local Neighbourhood/Community app such as Nextdoor.

Always carry a reusable water bottle and coffee cup

Sounds simple?  That’s because it is, but it’s so effective..  You can save an average of 156 bottles annually by just using a reusable bottle alone. Also look out for the Refill stickers on the window of local businesses to or download the Refill app to locate your nearest participating water point to fill up on fresh water for free.

Shop in bulk and from refill stores

Buying in bulk reduces time and packaging used for shopping. Stock up in one of the many zero waste refill shops that are to be increasingly found locally or order online. Avoid packaging altogether by taking your own glass or metal containers with you. Buying concentrates of items such as washing liquid gel, shampoo or dish wash detergents all dispose of the need for multiple plastic containers. Looking for dry goods or soap and shampoo or clothes washing bars wrapped in paper or card are even better.

Carry re-usable shopping bags and refuse plastic produce bags

By carrying a lightweight fold-able fabric grocery bag, its easy to completely eliminate the need for plastic shopping bags. Several major supermarkets have now removed these from sale replacing them with the stronger 'bag for life' or brown paper bag.

Dispense with those flimsy plastic produce bags by either buying items completely loose or invest the few pounds needed for reusable net bags, available from many supermarkets or widely online.

Aim for zero waste personal care and beauty items

A simple change to make but, aside from food and drink, these are the products we buy most often so finding zero waste alternatives can make a big difference. Essentials like toothpaste, floss, deodorant, toilet paper, shampoo, soap & conditioner, skincare and makeup can all be found in plastic-free containers or wrapped in paper.

If you can't manage more than a few changes, just remember one important thing - try not to buy anything you don’t need!

Additional information taken from and