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How to Slim your Bin

How to reduce waste, save money – and have fun!

It can be worrying when you see pictures of plastic pollution and read about climate change. It feels overwhelming and such a big problem to deal with. Fortunately, there is something you can do which makes a big difference. Reducing your household waste might not sound like fun, but its surprisingly addictive and can have numerous benefits, such as saving you money, teaching you new skills and it’s good for the environment too. What’s more, the whole family can join in. By Rachelle Strauss from Zero Waste Week.

Why bother?

The first thing to consider is WHY you want to reduce your waste. Do you want to save money, preserve resources for your children or stop arguments about who’s turn it is to put the bin out? Once you normalise something at home, younger children will automatically join in. But older children need to know their motivation too – do they love animals or get upset when they see litter?

Where is ‘away’?

When you throw something away, do you know where ‘away’ is? It’s a landfill site, an incinerator, the bottom of the ocean, an animal’s stomach, that piece of litter you see on the way home – it’s always somewhere else. Once you realise this, it really keeps your mind focused on what you’re trying to achieve.

Take an audit

Imagine you’re going on a diet. The first thing you’ll do is find out how much you weigh. It’s the same for your bin. Do your audit one of two ways – either live an ‘ordinary week’ and jot down everything you throw in the bin or, get your rubber gloves on, hold your nose and rummage in your bin before writing your list! If you can, put your rubbish on the scales and make a note of it. If you can’t, then just notice how many bags you’re throwing away.

Now you’ve done the groundwork, it’s time to start reducing your waste. Pick one small challenge each day, focus on something for a week or take it slowly with a monthly goal. Here are some ideas to begin with; choose the ones most relevant to your family or make up your own:

  • Recycle. Visit RecycleNow, type in your postcode and find all the materials you can recycle at your kerbside. Now dust off your recycling containers, make bright colourful labels for them and start using them!
  • Nappies. 187 billion dirty nappies are thrown away every year around the world. If you have a baby in nappies, consider switching to cloth. Some local authorities offer vouchers, trials or cashback.
  • Make money. Turning a walk into a litter pick is a great way to get children outdoors. Some supermarkets have ‘reverse vending machines’ where you can swap plastic bottles for loyalty points or vouchers.
  • Bake. Most confectionery comes in plastic wrapping. Search for favourite recipes for flapjacks, biscuits, cakes, muffins and even fruit leather to help reduce plastic packaging.
  • Earn your TV time. Did you know that recycling one tin can saves enough energy to power a TV for three hours? Why not earn a family movie night by keeping a chart of how much you are recycling.
  • Creative reuse. Look at items you might throw away or recycle and see if you can reuse them instead. Jam jars can be used to store crayons, make a bird feeder from a plastic bottle or make seedling pots from toilet roll inners. Check out Pinterest for ideas.
  • Zero Waste Kit Put together a Zero Waste kit for when you go out. Include refillable bottles, reusable bags, spork, reusable straw, napkins and other things that can replace disposable items.
  • Rainy day crafts. A rainy afternoon is the perfect opportunity to make a stash of cards and gifts to give through the year. You can make all sorts of things from bath bombs to beeswax wraps to simple stuffed toys.
  • Grow your own. Growing your own food reduces waste because you can pick just the amount you need. You don’t need a lot of space either! Try salad leaves in a window box, strawberries or tumbling tomatoes in a hanging basket or sprouted seeds in a windowsill.
  • Compost. A wormery is a fascinating way for children to learn about composting and can be set up on a balcony, outside the backdoor or even under the kitchen sink.
  • CORN! Once a week hold a Clear Out Refrigerator Now meal. Grab everything that needs using up and serve a ‘buffet’. You might end up with some weird combinations, but also some family favourites.
  • Plan. One third of food gets wasted, so hold a family meeting to share your favourite recipes and make a meal plan. Serve meals from large dishes, so everyone takes what they want, and leftovers can be stored safely to use as ingredients for another meal.
  • Swap. Organise a swap between friends for clothes, books, toys and DVDs. It’s a fantastic way to get things for free and declutter your own house without creating landfill.

Throughout your challenge, keep focusing on what you can do and celebrate the small wins. No change is too small: if everyone in Britain recycled just one tin can, that would be over 60 million tin cans being diverted from landfill!

Click here to take the Waste Warriors Online Course. Each day, for 31 days you’ll get a short five-minute audio and simple challenge to do. By the end of the month you could have reduced your waste by up to 80% and be well on your way to saving £1,500 a year.  Visit to find out more.