Everything you throw away has a carbon footprint, so reduce waste at home and lower your emissions.

The less there is going in your bin or your recycling, the less you’ll be adding to your carbon footprint.

In this section, you’ll find practical ways to reduce waste, which should also save you money overall and protect the environment in other ways, too.

Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

You’ve probably heard of the ‘waste hierarchy’. It’s a way of looking at waste that starts with reducing it in the first place, before thinking about reusing and recycling things you don’t need any more.

We totally agree, and you’ll notice that our guides on plastic waste, food waste and goods focus on refusing and reducing, with a healthy dose of reusing! But recycling the waste that remains is still important as a last resort, and you’ll find more information about that below.

What you can’t refuse, reduce or reuse… recycle!

The UK household recycling rate has been languishing around 45% for several years, with data released in 2020 indicating that we would miss the 50% EU target. To hit the new 65% recycling target for 2035 requires some significant changes!

So, why is it so hard? One issue is the confusion around what can and can’t be recycled, made worse by different authorities collecting different items. A WRAP survey found that almost half (49%) of UK households are binning one or more items that are collected for recycling in their area.

Check out what is collected by your local council >

Also, remember that items for recycling should be clean and dry – a quick rinse and drain will do. Otherwise they can contaminate the whole batch.

Moves are afoot in government to address the confusion of what can be recycled, with plans to standardise collections across the UK by 2023.

Another issue is the ‘hard to recycle’ items that the councils do not currently collect – things like crisp packets, pens and toothpaste tubes. Terracycle is a great recycling company that has set up schemes for these kinds of items, with local drop-off points. Similarly, supermarkets Tesco and Sainsburys are upping their game in collecting plastic wrapping. With the ‘polluter pays’ principle growing in strength, we will hopefully see more producers taking back the waste from their products.

Finally, incentives and convenience. The government has recently consulted on a proposed deposit return scheme for drinks containers, where there’s a deposit included in the cost of the drink, which you get back when you return the bottle. These might also be ‘on the go’, to make recycling easier when out and about. Again, the target date for this scheme is 2023.