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49 Ways to reduce waste

Avoid creating rubbish using these practical tips and recycling suggestions from Friends of the Earth

Photo: recycling bin
  1. Reuse envelopes. Get a pad of 100 Friends of the Earth reuse labels, printed on paper made from post-consumer waste, for 2.50 by calling 0207 490 1555.

  2. Use your kerbside recycling scheme, if you have one, as provided for under the Household Waste Recycling Act. If not, press your local authority to adopt best practice sooner rather than later.

  3. Next Valentine's Day or Easter send an e-card instead of a paper one.

  4. Avoid disposable batteries - use rechargeable ones with photovoltaic chargers.

  5. Refuse plastic carrier bags - use a cotton one instead. If you have groceries delivered, ask your supplier to take their bags back for recycling.

  6. Buy loose fruit and veg from a local market or grocer rather than highly-packaged goods from supermarkets. It can be cheaper too.

  7. Buy cotton cloths for the kitchen clean-up instead of disposable kitchen roll.

  8. Buy refills for sturdy packs of washing powders, liquids, salt etc.

  9. Use a milk delivery service - the glass bottle kind - if there's one in your area.

  10. Home compost your garden and kitchen waste - most councils now offer advice.

  11. The fibres from your old clothes can be shredded and rewoven. Try British Red Cross shops.

  12. Avoid patio heaters and electric lights in the garden - use citronella beeswax or vegetable-based candles to deter insects.

  13. Buy reconditioned electrical appliances from organisations such as CREATE (Tel 020 8885 6209 or 0151 448 1748).

  14. Start a paper recycling scheme at work. Contact Waste Watch.

  15. Norman Baker (Lewes): "While we are considering innovative recycling, may I tell the hon. Lady that I have a constituent who had a couple of gallstones removed and has made them into very attractive earrings?" (Hansard, 14 March 2003: Column 537).

  16. Old fridges contain CFCs and HCFCs. Recycle them and buy a 'Greenfreeze' model. Retailer Comet will collect your old one and deliver it to Ozone Friends where it will be reconditioned or sold, or CFCs will be removed.

  17. For support with reducing waste and energy consumption in the workplace, contact Global Action Plan

  18. Only print when you really need to.

  19. If you do print, use both sides of the paper.

  20. Use software to reduce paper usage, such as Fineprint. (Sean's note: you can often set your printer properties to print two pages to a sheet as well).

  21. Recycle your inkjet cartridges. Visit Waste Online for information.

  22. Bear in mind the amount of energy your PC uses - don't leave it on standby all day.

  23. Don't throw away old computers. Sell them online (, donate them to charity or recycle them.

  24. Steel plate recovered from cans each year in Western Europe weighs as much as 132 Eiffel Towers, but we could do better. Take your cans to one of the 2000 Save-a-Can banks across Britain or visit the Steel Can Recycling Information Bureau.

    The Wuppertal Institute calculates that the amount of waste generated in producing everyday products is 1.5kg for a toothbrush, 75kg for a mobile phone and 1500 kg for a personal computer.

  25. Reduce junk mail pouring through your letter box by signing up with the Mail Preference Service.

  26. Making your own lunch instead of buying from a sandwich shop saves on packaging and could also save you more than 4 a day, or 1000 a year.

  27. Join a toy library to borrow toys and give old ones to other families.

  28. Scrapstore warehouses provide re-use craft resources for schools and youth groups.

  29. Milk and juice cartons are 75% paper, 20% polyethylene and 5% aluminium foil. Call the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment on 020 8977 6116 for freepost stickers so that you can send flattened tetrapak cartons for processing.

  30. If each of the UK's 10 million office workers used one fewer staple a day, that could save 120 tonnes of steel a year.

  31. Install a roller towel at work instead of using disposable towels.

  32. Avoid single-use cameras.

  33. Hire DVDs and borrow books from a library rather than buying them.

  34. Recycle old curtains or exchange them at The Curtain Exchange

  35. Having a shower instead of a bath saves about 40 litres of water. Install spray taps for new sinks, as they use less water than normal taps.

  36. Join the 15% of parents who now use cloth nappies for their babies.

  37. Give cinema or concert tickets as gifts instead of disposable goods.

  38. Old spectacles can be given to high-street opticians to be donated to people around the world.

  39. Use retread car tyres instead of buying new. Retread Manufacturers Association

  40. Visit the waste pages on Friends of the Earth's website for links to lots of recycling organisations.

  41. Clearing out the attic? Try selling your stuff rather than taking it to the dump. Check out online auction sites like where you can also bid for anything from second-hand designer clothes to boats.

  42. Try reclamation yards, skips, auctions, and second-hand shops when doing DIY. Mend, re-upholster, or restore old furniture before buying new.

  43. Hire tools or borrow from friends or family for odd jobs, rather than buying your own. Tools for Self Reliance will send your old tools to Africa.

  44. Unwanted CDs? Printers Beacon Press runs a recycling scheme. (No longer, as at February 2014)

  45. Get a log maker to turn old newspapers into pulp logs, which will burn for up to an hour each. Visit Natural Collection.

  46. Stop your old mobile phone or printer cartridges going to landfill by contacting Oxfam, who will recycle and re-sell them.

  47. Finished your book? Get it read again by passing favourites to a friend, giving to a charity shop, or organising a book swap day at school or work.

  48. Stop subscribing to magazines that you don't have time to read (and save yourself a few quid) - your local library will probably stock a range of periodicals.

  49. For help with all your environmental questions, call Friends of the Earth's information service on Freephone 0808 800 1111.

About this story

Book cover: Save Cash and Save the Planet

This is based on a feature that appeared in Friends of the Earth's publication Earth Matters in Spring 2004. It's been edited here to exclude tips that are no longer valid. This content is reproduced with the permission of Friends of the Earth.

If you enjoyed this story, you might also be interested in the book Save Cash and Save the Planet, published in association with Friends of the Earth.

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