Just because you don’t want something any more, it doesn’t mean that someone else won’t. So instead of just throwing an unwanted item in the bin, maybe you can sell it, give it away, re-use it for another purpose, or recycle it.
After all, it is only since the end of WW2 that we have got used to chucking stuff out so easily. For our grandparents' generation, re-using and recycling was the norm. Now, with the threat of climate change, we need to regenerate that attitude for the sake of our own grandchildren.
Simple actions can have big impacts on CO2 emissions. Re-using something saves the energy associated with manufacturing a new one. For example, it takes 800 litres of water to make just one t-shirt, and 24% of the world’s pesticides are used to grow cotton. So every time you donate to charity shops, or buy from one, you’re helping the planet.
1. It’s not only the kitchen where you can recycle...
Two-thirds of household rubbish can be reused or recycled, so how about recycling old shampoo bottles in the bathroom, or shifting the kids’ outgrown toys from under the bed and down to the charity shop?
2. Make it easy...
Put your recycling bin next to your main bin to remind you to pop recyclable items in the right place. Make a note on your calendar of when your recycling is collected.
3. No recycling bin, no problem...
If you don't have a recycling box just contact your local council. Until it’s delivered you can use a box or bag.
Can you stitch up a seam or patch a hole? If needle and thread isn’t your bag, most textiles can be recycled, while wearable clothing and shoes will be welcome at a charity shop or a clothing bank. Or how about arranging a clothes swap event with your family and friends? They’re good for the environment and great fun, too!
2. Find a loving home for your hardware…
Old laptops and desktop PCs can usually be reused, even sent to schools in developing nations.
3. What to do with fridges, phones and left-over paint
Many household items, including mobile phones, printer cartridges and left-over paint, can be reused. Even if you have finished with something, someone else will often be able to use it. National charity organisations, local charity shops, internet auction sites and free exchange schemes may be able to reuse your unwanted items. Also, don’t forget that domestic appliances like fridges can be repaired and then reused by others. Search online or in the phone book for repair services in your area.
Just because it’s not box fresh needn’t mean it’s rubbish. Furniture, pushchairs, books, DVDs and even paint can find a new home. So try selling what you don’t want any more, give it to charity or pass it on via sharing schemes like Freecycle or Local Exchange Trading Systems (LETS).
You can only buy, sell or give away second-hand upholstered (padded) furniture, like sofas, if it has the original permanent fire safety label attached. Otherwise, it might not meet fire safety standards.
Products made from recycled materials save raw materials and energy – and create value from the materials you put out for recycling. Did you know that Yellow Pages have been turned into jiffy bags, cooking oil into heating oil, even plastic cups into pencils?
Over 30 per cent of an average household bin can be composted at home, from vegetable peelings and teabags, to egg boxes and shredded paper. Home composting diverts waste from landfill, saving on climate change emissions – and it can also provide free compost for the garden. If you don’t have a garden, you can still stop compostable waste going to landfill; find out whether your local council has a green waste collection or take it to your local civic amenity site.
Over the past few years in the UK we have reduced bag use by nearly 50%, by switching to cloth or canvas shopping bags or other, reusable ‘bags for life’.
That's a great achievement, but every household in the UK still gets through an average of around 400 plastic carrier bags each year; equivalent to 9.9 billion per year including reusable plastic carriers. Most of them go to landfill, but many others end up waving to us from the branches of trees or slowly drowning in ponds.
We can all help to reduce the amount of plastic carrier bags that are wasted each year by reusing them or switching to other reusable bags. All we need to do is remember to take them with us when we go shopping! Here are some bright ideas to help you get a bag habit:
Using any sort of bag over and over again will use less CO2 than using a bag once and throwing it away. Many shops offer a bag-for-life scheme, where you simply return a worn out bag and they replace it with a brand new one, for nothing. Why not ask? It all helps.
Few things bore adventurous children more than a trip to the supermarket, so why not ask them to look after the shopping bags? They’ll love the responsibility of being shopping bag monitor, and what parent can resist the power of the pester?
A cunning plan: write “SHOPPING BAG!!” at the top of your shopping list. Writing your intentions down really does help. Tie your shopping list pad to the shopping bag and it could be the start of a beautiful friendship.
Keep a supply of shopping bags in the car. They’re ready and waiting when you get to the shops, and are always handy for things like muddy wellies. Putting a reminder tag on the dashboard or key-ring will help you remember to take them with you from the car park.
Keep a bag tucked away in a pocket, and one or two in your handbag, briefcase, satchel and sportsbag and you’ll never be short. Many retailers and specialist suppliers now offer bags that fold up neatly to pop into a pocket, bag, or onto a keyring.