31 ways to cut down your waste

News & Guides 2019-6-13
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Take our Zero Waste Challenge with our 31 top tips for going green

As a nation, we throw away 31 million tonnes of household rubbish every year, and the majority of it is not bio-degradable. Reducing our waste is key to looking after our world as we know it, but it’s not all about big, bold gestures. Here at Hitachi Personal Finance, we have put together an easy 31 step plan of gradual changes you can make to your lifestyle to reduce your waste.

Step 1: Say NO to plastic straws

Some of the biggest restaurant chains, such as Pizza Express, McDonald's and Weatherspoons have already stopped using disposable plastic straws, which is great, but we still use an estimated 8.5 billion each year! 

So next time you buy a drink, make a conscious effort to say no to a straw, or invest in a reusable one instead.

Step 2: Ditch the disposable coffee cups

In the UK, we use 7 million takeaway coffee cups every day. Investing in your own travel mug is not only helpful for the environment, but it also allows you to show some personality, with loads of cool ones on the market.

What's more, many coffee shops now offer a discount for bringing your own, so it's win-win.

Best rewards

  • Pret – 50p discount
  • Starbucks – 25p discount
  • Costa – 25p discount

And don't worry, lots of independents do the same too, so make sure you remember yours the next time you head for your caffeine kick.

Step 3: Carry canvas

Since the 5p plastic bag levy was introduced in the UK, there has been a 30% drop in them being found on the sea bed, which is great news. More and more people are now opting to use reusable alternatives such as canvas or cotton. If you fancy something a little funkier then there is also a wide variety available online.

Top Tip: Keep them in your car or in your handbag so that you never get caught out.

Step 4: Brush with Bamboo

Every year, 4.7 billion toothbrushes are produced worldwide – that’s a lot of plastic to end up in the ocean or landfills. Bamboo toothbrushes are an excellent alternative. They are completely biodegradable and cost about the same as a normal plastic one, so why not give it a go?

Step 5: Let loose

A lot of the main supermarkets are getting on board with drastically reducing the plastic in their stores with some ambitious plans.

Unfortunately, the majority of weekly shop items are still covered in plastic for the time being, but when it comes to fresh produce there’s usually the option to buy it loose, so try to avoid anything plastic-wrapped if possible.

Helpful Hints

  • Buy loose fruit and veg when possible - take your own produce bags to put them in if you’re worried about bruising
  • Visit local farm shops and outdoor markets where plastic is rarely used as standard
  • If you fancy a challenge, have a go at growing your own


Step 6: Refill, refill, refill

In the UK alone, we use around 13 billion plastic drinks bottles a year, and more than three billion are not recycled.

Investing in a good stainless steel or glass water alternative will not only help the environment, it will last much longer. There’s loads of choice, so you’re sure to be able to find one to suit your taste. It's also much cheaper in the long-run.

Step 7: Pack your own lunch and snacks

If you often find yourself grabbing a meal deal come lunchtime, then you’ll know that everything you pick up will come packed in plastic. Let’s be honest, those prepacked sandwiches don’t even taste that good, so why not make your own lunch and snacks? There are so many tasty alternatives you can try and you’ll be amazed how much money it could save you.

Meal Prep Inspiration:

Step 8: Reusable cutlery set for fast food and takeaways

Disposable cutlery is one of the biggest contributors to the plastic pollution, with Sir David Attenborough himself drawing particular attention to it. Enter: Bamboo Cutlery. There are sets readily available and they’re easy to put in your bag or pocket. Even better they are made from sustainable sources so they are completely eco-friendly.

Step 9: Recycle as much as you can

You’ll be surprised just how much you can recycle now, and all it costs is a bit of extra time. All local councils will have information on their websites with what and how you can recycle household items, so what are you waiting for?

Things you probably didn’t know you can recycle

Step 10: Compost

Composting is a great way to make use of all your food and garden waste as well as caring for your trees, plants and flowers. It’s so easy to get started and all you need is a small kitchen compost bin and a larger one for your garden, which are usually available through your local council for a small fee.

Step 11: Borrow not buy

The next time you think you need something new, think about how much use you'll really get out of it. If it's something you need for a one off job, could you borrow it from someone? Asking around friends and family is a good place to start. Failing that, have a look online to see if there's a give-away group in your local community.

Step 12: Buy second hand instead of brand new

If you do have to buy, consider buying second hand. Most items are still in good condition with lots of life left in them and, by buying from a charity shop, you are supporting good causes.

Step 13: Use less water

On average, each person uses about 150 litres of water every day, which is a lot when considering the UK population is over 6.5 billion. But there are lots of ways you can use less or even re-purpose it, such as saving your pasta or veggie water or catching it from your shower with a bucket while you’re waiting for it to warm up then using it on your garden.

Top Water Saving Tips

  • Use a rain barrel in your garden

  • Install a Grey Water System

  • Reuse left over drinking water on household plants

Step 14: Take a look at your toilet paper

No we’re not asking you to reuse or give up toilet paper - this challenge is all about swapping out your favourite brand for a more sustainably sourced product.

On top of this, when you buy loo rolls from the supermarket they usually come wrapped in plastic. Buying in bulk is a good way to cut back as are they are often packed in cardboard boxes. Alternatively, look for loo rolls wrapped in paper instead.

Step 15: Stop using cling film

Cling film isn’t recyclable so will end up in a landfill after only one use. The good news is that there as so many other alternatives available to cling film that will surprise you such as: beeswax wraps, bowl covers and parchment paper.

Step 16: Clean Green

As we all know, chemicals and water supplies don’t mix, so why do we insist on using harsh household cleaners? Plus, most detergents come in plastic packaging.

The answer? Make your own! Not only will it prevent contaminating the water supplies, it will also save you some money.

Interested? Here’s how:

Step 17: Discourage junk mail

It’s easy to delete the junk mail that clogs up our email inboxes with no harm done to the environment, but junk mail that lands on your doormat is another story.

In 2016, direct mail accounted for 550,000 tons of household waste, which is equivalent to 13.2 million trees!

There are some things that you can do to stop getting junk through your letterbox:

  • Put a ‘NO JUNK MAIL PLEASE’ sign on your door.
  • Get in contact with the Royal Mail
  • Register with the ‘Your Choice’ scheme
  • Contact your electoral registration office.

REMEMBER: Always recycle unwanted post following the guidelines set out by your local council.

Step 18: Go naked

Most cosmetic products come in plastic packaging. Lush is leading the pack when it comes to offering ‘naked’ products which come with either no packaging recyclable containers. All their products are 100% handmade and smell amazing, so give them a go.

If you love your chosen brand, check if there is also the option to have your products refilled in the shop so that you can re-use your containers.

Top Tip

  • Instead of throwing away your old mascara wands, you can donate them to Wands for Wildlife who use them to remove fly eggs and larva from wild animals.

Step 19: Green pets

Even the four legged family can be involved in this zero waste challenge with just a few simple changes. Using biodegradable doggy bags is the easiest change you can make however there is a catch – they won’t biodegrade in a normal landfill so a bit more effort is required for disposal.

Other changes such as making your own treats, pet food and choosing eco-friendly toys are a great way to get your pooch or feline to join the zero waste movement.

Step 20: Support the war on plastic

There are some brilliant organisations out there who are dedicated to removing plastic that you can support. A small donation can go a long way to ridding our oceans and beaches of plastic so why not have a look at our favourites organisation to understand what they do and how you can help?

Our picks:

  • 4Ocean

  • WWF

  • Greenpeace UK

Step 21: Buy in bulk

Bulk buying not only reduces the amount of waste packaging but might also save you some money.

For example, if you buy large quantities of dried food, you will be throwing away less than if you bought smaller packs. If you don’t have much storage space or want to bulk buy perishables, speak to your friends and family to see if you can bulk buy together and share.

Step 22: Take your own containers shopping

This an easy one but it does require a little bit of forward planning. Next time you go to the supermarket or the butchers, take your own containers instead of having your food wrapped up in plastic bags. Most places will be more than happy to serve you using your own containers and Morrison’s are even offering an incentive in the shape of additional loyalty points.

Step 23: Volunteer

Most organisation don’t just rely on donations but also require volunteers to offer their time to support their cause. There are plenty of organisations up and down the UK that are helping to clean up our beaches of discarded plastic and all you will need to do it contribute your time. The Marine Conservation Society regularly post beach clean-up events as well as Plastic Patrol and Surfers against Sewage.

Step 24: Use leftover veg for stock or broth

If you fancy an alternative to composting your left over veg then why not make a delicious veggie stock? Onions, celery and carrots are a good base but you can add lots of other leftovers depending on your taste.

Top tip: Freeze portions of the stock in an ice cube tray to use as needed.

Step 25: Stop using face scrubs with microbeads

Microbeads might be small but they cause big problems for the environment and our health. These tiny plastic beads which are in a lot of face and body exfoliation scrubs get washed away, are too small to be filtered out and therefore end up in our rivers, seas & oceans where they're eaten by marine life and inevitably end up in our food.

Try switching to a natural exfoliation scrub which are both better for the environment as well as your skin.

If you fancy having a go at making your own…

Step 26: Reusable nappies

For all you new parents out there, reusable nappies may seem like a waste of time when disposables are readily available from the supermarket, however there are some pretty good reasons for the swap. Not only are they better for the environment but also they are better fitting than disposables. Give it a go to see if they work for you.

Step 27: Make your own toothpaste & mouthwash

As we all know, toothpaste and mouthwash ALWAYS comes packaged in plastic but what if we were to tell you that you that you could make your own where you can experiment with flavours and have a fresh and gleaming white smile all while saving money? All you need are 3 ingredients (Coconut Oil, Baking Soda and an Essential Oil of your choice) and a small jar.

Toothpaste: 

Mouth wash: 

If that sounds like too much effort, there are also plenty of pre-made natural alternatives.

Step 28: Swap to solid shampoo & conditioner

Making the switch from ‘traditional’ shampoo & conditioner can be a bit scary but there are plenty of benefits to convince you. Many of these bars come packaging-free as well as being concentrated so a little really does go a long way, which is a bonus for your bank balance. There are so many varieties out there for all hair types, so give it a go and see what you think.

Step 29: Dispose of disposable razors

Like anything plastic and disposable, our razors end up in the bin after only a couple of uses, and let’s face it, they’re not cheap to buy either! Making the switch to a traditional safety razor is a great way to support the zero waste lifestyle and also saves you money as you’re only replacing the blades (which can also be sharpened to extend their life.)

Remember: dispose of your blades safely after use.

Step 30: Swap dryer sheets for dryer balls.

Not only are dryer sheets not recyclable, they’re also not very cost effective. Swapping to natural dryer balls and adding a few drops of essential oil to them before putting them in will leave your laundry soft and nice smelling for a fraction of the cost. You can now rest easy knowing that all this has come waste free.

Step 31: Donate not dump

Next time you have a clear out at home, don’t just throw things away and donate them instead. A recent study found three-quarters of consumers throw away rather than recycle or donate unwanted garments. This is down to many people not realising old clothes still retain value and can be recycled. So next time you have a clear out, pass all your unwanted items to your local charity or put clothes bin as someone else will be able to find a use for it.

Let us know how you get on with your Zero Waste Challenge by tweeting us @Hitachi_Finance or leave a message on our Facebook using the hashtag #HPFZeroWaste.

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Hitachi Hints and Tips is intended to be informative and interesting. It does not constitute financial advice, and you should always do further research when making any financial decisions. All information was correct at date of publication.
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