Maxine Fay Miller
Waste Not Want Not
11 May 2009
Britain's rubbish mountains are finally shrinking. According to the latest official figures just released households are consuming less and recycling more. The ongoing cycle of consumption and waste that has characterized the nation for so long now seems to be at an end. Local councils and waste management companies across the UK are reporting a drop of up to 10 per cent in waste collection in recent months and people are binning less and recycling more than at any other time.
Has the recession really caused this waste reduction? According to experts it has. Several factors have caused this fall in waste, there has been a reduction in consumer spending, for instance, people are keeping their white goods, such as washing machines and TVs, instead of throwing them out. There has also been a fall in construction waste, as the recession has affected building projects.
Prevention is better than cure and in recent years environmental groups and the Government have shifted their attention from recycling to waste prevention in recent years. The Love Food Hate Waste campaign, launched by the government watchdog Waste Resources and Action Programme (Wrap) in November 2007, has successfully made people aware of the £10.2bn of food waste we throw away each year and is encouraging people not to waste food.
There has also been an increase in recycling. Britons recycled 36.3 per cent of their rubbish last year, up from 30.9 per cent in 2007. However, the research reveals big disparities between levels of recycling across the country, with Londoners recycling just 27.5 per cent of their waste, while environmentally conscious residents in the East Midlands recycled 43.8 per cent.
Experts also believe that the reduction in waste and increase in recycling points to a wider social shift in peoples attitudes.
"Not only are people moving away from conspicuous consumption, but they are also being more responsible with what they do consume, which is why recycling hasn't fallen. It is a movement away from disposable living," said Ian Mulheirn, director of the Social Market Foundation.
"The trend must continue long after the economy has recovered if we are to reduce our dependence on landfill and use our natural resources more sustainably," said Sam Jarvis, head of communications at Waste Watch.
"To do this, we need to decouple economic growth from waste growth," he said.
Recycle and reuse: 'It's always made sense to me'
Is the recession helping us to change the way we view the world’s resources? Will this deliberate reduction in waste help the planet? What do you Our Future Planet Citizens think? Have you reduced your household waste because of the recession or because of your desire to help the planet? Is our trend towards a paperless society having an effect? Has this increase in electronic delivery of books, movies, newspapers and music reduced our waste?
So what can you do to reduce your waste? Here are ten tips to help you begin to live a greener, less wasteful life.
Top Ten Tips
1) Look after your belongings and keep what you have and re-use it.
2) Find out what your local council recycles and recycle as much as you can – tins, paper, newspapers, glass bottles and jars, plastic, cardboard. Some councils have drop off areas collecting household goods such as old mattresses which you recycle. Re-use plastic bags and use a canvas bag or basket which is long lasting.
3) Don’t waste food, only buy what you need and keep your fruit and vegetables cold in a fridge or larder. Only make what you and your family can eat, keep any
leftovers for your dog or cat or your neighbours dog or cat and use leftover chicken and vegetables to make a casserole. Any other fruit and vegetable waste can go onto your compost heap to make nutritious compost for your garden. On average UK households spend £424 a year on food that will be wasted and thrown away.
4) Have your old fridge and white goods, television or computers repaired and if you have to change them give them to a business which recycles and sells second hand white goods so someone else can use them.
5) Nappy waste accounts for huge areas of landfill. Use recyclable nappies instead. Nappy laundry services launder nappies in bulk saving on energy.
6) Buy the best quality clothes that you can and look after your clothes so they last for years. Mend and darn your socks and children’s tights and any other clothes you can rather than buy new ones.
When you have finished with them recycle your clothes and other unwanted items (toys, books, furniture) – give your old belongings to charity shops or use Freecycle the online recycling forum, as well as gumtree, and advertise your things in your local church, school, or newsagents. This way you help others and create some free space.
7) Register with the Mail Preference Service to avoid unwanted junk mail which accounts for lots of waste.
8) Eighteen percent of household waste is packaging. Avoid buying food and goods which are heavily packaged.
9) Share children’s things with your family and friends this includes clothes, beds, bedding, car seats, bicycle seats and toys and books etc.
10) Buy things from charity shops such as children’s clothes, videos, DVDs, books and toys.
If super rich Eco-Sloanes such as Zac Goldsmith buy and wear clothes from charity shops so can you! Be proud to recycle and help save the planet’s resources.
Here at Our Future Planet we welcome your views and comments and would like to hear what you are doing to reduce your waste so do post your comments and proposals on Our Future Planet’s website.