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The Waste Problem & 5 Simple Steps How You Can Help

Updated: Apr 16

Karen Bennett walking on a beach with wording The Waste Problem & 5 Simple Steps How You Can Help

It’s #GlobalRecyclingDay, and the truth is, we face an enormous waste problem in the UK and the rest of the world. The circular economy is the future, so we should all be looking for ways to reduce, reuse and recycle to minimise waste and grow our economy sustainably.

So how bad is the waste problem? Here's just five facts that highlight the state of the nation, giving us and law makers some serious food for thought.

Waste fact 1: As much as 80% of the things we throw away could be recycled, including food, plastics, glass, paper, electronics and clothing, but only about 46% of it is actually recycled.

Waste fact 2: The UK produces more plastic waste per person than almost every other country in the world – second only to the US.

Waste fact 3: UK households generate 7 million tonnes of food waste annually, costing £7.5 billion.

Waste fact 4: Every Christmas, it is estimated that we throw away over 227 thousand miles of wrapping paper in the UK - enough to cover over 11,000 football pitches.

Waste fact 5: E-waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the world and one of the most polluting.

(Sources: Greenpeace;; DEFRA;

Admittedly, there’s no simple solution to all this: we need to collectively act now by changing our individual (and organisational) habits. Reduction and reuse of goods that have already been created is always the least wasteful way of living, but realistically when this isn't always possible, recycling also has a part to play. So I thought it would be helpful to share a few simple ways I’ve managed to build daily habits into my lifestyle to help minimise my own waste, over and above the usual kerbside recycling that most councils now offer every home.

1.Soft plastics

By soft plastics I'm referring to any kind of plastic bags, crisp/snack packets, bread bags - the kind that can’t usually go into your kerbside recycling. Did you know that many larger supermarkets now recycle these? I collect all of our's in a small bin beside our other household waste and do a drop off with my weekly shop - I even get my kids to bring their’s home from school to make sure they find their way to the right bin! Most products are now labelled to identify if they can be recycled in this way.

2. Toiletries & make up

Did you know that Boots offer a recycling scheme for your beauty product and toiletries empties? This was a huge win for me when I discovered this, especially for products we go through quite a lot of as a household like toothpaste tubes, thicker plastic shampoo bottles etc. In return for depositing up to five items a time in selected Boots stores, they also reward you with a £5 Advantage Card points to spend in store that day. I find I don’t always use the voucher unless I really need something (it's more spending on things I don't really need)…I’m just happy to know that my empties aren’t going to landfill! Similar to the Boots recycling scheme above (which you can also use for make up), Maybelline now provide recycling points in some supermarkets and Boots stores to recycle your used make up products. Find out where you can recycle your make up products in your area here.

3. Clothing & undies

Thankfully, buying second hand is becoming normalised (and about time!). Charity shops, Vinted, Depop and eBay provide options for you to give your pre-loved clothing a new home, with the latter three also bringing you a bit of cash too. But what do you do with your socks and undies that no one will want after you’ve had your wear of them? Bag them up, label the bags and take them with your other unwanted clothing to the charity shop or charity drop off point. They are able to ensure these go to rag recycling, rather than adding them to landfill. Also…did you know that 2.6 million tonnes of returned clothes ended up in landfills in 2020 in the US alone? Shopping in-store when we can can help avoid the waste problem of unwanted returns (not to mention helping lower your carbon footprint from shopping online).

4. Food waste

As is the case with most people, I make a point of checking all dates on my food when shopping and not over-filling my fridge to avoid food going off sooner than I can eat it. Unfortunately because of where I live, I’m not able to have my food waste collected by the council, so I recently invested in a compost bin. If you do have a council food waste collection, you and the planet can still benefit from having a compost bin for your fruit and veg peelings, leaving your council provided food waste bin free for your meat and fish scraps as these aren't suitable for a home compost bin. I’m looking forward to creating my first batch of free home-made compost to add to my garden plants! Who knows, I might even start growing my own veggies!

5. Electronics

Do you have a drawer full of old tech gathering dust? If so, there may be a e-waste recycling point for you to put it to better use! Those of us living in the Edinburgh area have the benefit of the Edinburgh Re-Makery, which takes your unwanted electronics for passing on, repairing, refurbishing, reusing, or responsibly recycling it. Don't forget, your used batteries can also be disposed of at larger supermarket recycling points.

One more thing...Olio

The last thing I want to throw into the mix is a recent discovery for me, based on a recommendation. It's an app called 'Olio' that aims to provide another way of sharing and finding items locally that might have gone to waste. As I've only recently signed up to this, I can't speak for how well it works, but I love the sound of it and their ethos. I'd love to hear your experiences if you've tried it user-friendly and practical?

I'm sure that there are many other ways I can work harder reduce our household waste and I know recycling can sometimes feel less convenient than just putting some of these items in your household bin, but I really feel it's my responsibility to make the additional effort and teach my kids about the importance of recycling for the future of our planet.

I'd love to hear your recycling tips, so pop a comment on this blog or DM me on my socials if you have something to share!

Karen x

PS - I've also signed the Greenpeace petition, asking the Government to fix the UK’s plastic waste crisis and stop dumping our plastic waste on other countries - can you sign it too? Let's push for positive change together!

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