All you need to know about Zero Waste Week
It’s no secret – our planet is in trouble. But small changes, like reducing the amount of waste we produce, can make a big difference to fighting the climate crisis.
Here’s everything you need to know to get involved in Zero Waste Week.
What is Zero Waste Week?
This week is for anyone who wants to reduce their waste, create more sustainable habits and fight the climate crisis.
This award-winning campaign takes place annually, during the first full week in September (that’s 7–11 September in 2020).
Over 80 countries have got involved in recent years, helping drive a global reduction in waste.
What’s the aim of Zero Waste Week?
In reality, it’s almost impossible for most of us to produce no waste at all. The aim of this week isn’t to eliminate all our waste – it’s to help us toward a more sustainable lifestyle.
Even small swaps here and there add up to big positive change. By trying and sharing new ideas, we’ll create positive habits we can keep using into the future.
How does reducing my waste help fight climate change?
If everyone took steps to reduce and recycle, it would reduce methane emissions from landfill, micro-plastics in the ocean and contamination in the food chain.
In 2018, the UK alone generated 26.4 million tonnes of household waste. This waste, particularly plastic, is a major contributor to the climate crisis. More than eight million pieces end up in our seas every day.
Recycling and reducing waste can help protect vital ecosystems, while limiting how much we extract from the Earth’s finite resources.
It takes less energy to make products with recycled materials than raw materials. For example:
Recycling paper uses 40% less energy than making it from virgin wood.
The energy saved from recycling one glass bottle could power a 10-watt LED lightbulb for 40 hours.
Creating aluminium from old cans and foil uses 95% less energy than making it from scratch.
How can I take part in Zero Waste Week?
A great starting point is to think about the 5 Rs – Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot.
You can also join millions of other people around the world by pledging to reduce waste and learning to reuse, recycle and repurpose more on Zero Waste Week.
We’ve created a great five-day plan to help you tackle reducing different forms of waste one step at a time.
Day One: Reduce plastic waste
One idea is to try a plastic audit. Take a look in your bin. Once you’ve identified your most-used plastic, here are ideas to reduce it:
Invest in reusable items - reduce your plastic waste by investing in items you can use again and again.
Lunchbox - making your own packed lunch helps you steer clear of pre-packaged sandwiches and snacks. Loose-leaf tea - many tea bags contain plastic, so using a tea strainer and loose tea leaves is much better for the planet. Beeswax wraps - a sustainable way to keep food fresh. You can wash and reuse them again and again. Reusable water bottle/flask - take one with you wherever you go, to stay hydrated or caffeinated without single-use cups. Reusable face mask - conservationists have warned the coronavirus pandemic could leave our oceans clogged with more disposable masks than jellyfish.
Buy loose and local - if you find food packaging in your plastic audit, try buying it loose. Buying from local market stalls has bonus environmental benefits.
Make an ecobrick - a building block made from unrecyclable plastic. Make your own to use up plastic you can’t avoid.
Day Two: Reduce paper and cardboard waste
An audit can also show your most frequent paper and cardboard waste, so you can find alternatives.
Write lists on your phone - Lists are a great way to stay organised, but less orderly when they pile up in paper recycling. Try going paper-free with your phone.
Choose paperless communication - if you’re receiving mail, look on the company’s website to see if they offer a paperless alternative. If you’re burdened with junk mail, you’ll normally find instructions on how to opt out in the small print.
Day Three: Reduce glass waste
Glass may seem like a great alternative to plastic, but a worrying amount never makes it to the recycling plant. In fact, more than 28 billion glass bottles and jars end up in landfills every year – what a waste!
You can reduce your glass waste simply by repurposing it around your home.
Swap plastic containers for glass jars - jam or chutney jars can be used to store homemade jams and hummus, leftovers, overnight oats and even sweets, nuts and fruit. You could even use them to keep homemade cosmetics.
Transform wine bottles into candle holders - instead of tossing them in the recycling bin, have a go at making candle holders. Easy to personalise, DIY wine bottle candles make amazing presents.
Make homemade gifts in leftover jars - the Brownie-in-a-jar is another clever gift idea. All you have to do is layer the dry ingredients into your jar, add a gift tag, and you’re done!
Day Four: Reduce food waste
Food waste is estimated to cost the EU around €143 billion per year and is responsible for 15% of the food supply chain’s greenhouse gas emissions. Not easy facts to swallow.
Only buy what you need - it may seem obvious, but it’s not always easy. The key is planning ahead. Create a meal plan at the start of the week and only buy what you need to see you through.
Compost your food waste - produce natural compost from food waste if you can, instead of putting food in landfill where it may release greenhouse gases.
Make the most of your leftovers - pancakes aren’t just limited to one day in February. They’re a great, versatile way to use up sweet or savoury odds and ends. Check out our video on how to make delicious vegan pancakes with FGR head chef Em Franklin.
Get more tips on food waste reduction here.
Day Five: Reduce garden waste
Garden waste includes weeds, grass and clippings. Your council might provide a special bin to collect it. If not, you can recycle it at your nearest recycling centre.
Avoid plastic bin liners - you know the deal – plastic bin liners go straight to landfill. Instead, collect your garden waste in a strong, durable bag. Once emptied, you can take it home to use again.
Compost garden waste - composting breaks waste down into soil, which you can feed back to your garden.
Shred the big stuff - most gardens produce waste twigs and branches from the pruning of woody plants. Instead of burning these try cutting them into smaller bits and composting them.
Make a worm bin - make your own worm bin by combining kitchen scraps with garden waste – like weeds, leaves and grass cuttings. Earthworms love feeding on the debris and will reward your efforts by releasing nutrient-rich waste.
Going even further - switching to the greenest energy in Britain
All these little lifestyle adjustments will put you on track for positive change. If you want to go further for the environment, you could switch to a green energy provider.
Join Ecotricity today - the greenest energy supplier in Britain. Ecotricity will invest your bill money in to building new sources of renewable energy - the only level of activity that makes a difference and has a real green outcome.
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