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“Zero waste living” is one of the newer buzz-phrases circulating that is linked to more eco-conscious, environmentally friendly ways of working and living. Broken down, “zero waste living” is focused on the reduction of waste and waste prevention, thus reducing, and stopping waste being sent to landfills, being incinerated, or dropped into the ocean.

Whilst the aim of “zero waste” may seem daunting, setting obtainable goals is one way of working towards this target without feeling overwhelmed at the start. These goals are best to be based on the 5 principles of zero waste, which are:

  • REFUSE – this is the idea of refusing to buy into concepts and practices that produce excess waste or utilise unsustainable practices – for example, using disposable or one-use items.
  • REDUCE – Reducing the number of products you buy, focusing on quality over quantity; for example, unnecessary cosmetics or gimmicky items
Zero Waste infographic
  • REUSE (+REPAIR) – The concept of thinking “can I reuse or repair this?” as opposed to, “I’ll throw it away (or recycle it) and buy a new one?”.
  • This applies to both items you already own and buying new items – for example, taking a reusable cup to a coffee shop instead of using one of their cups (even if that cup can be recycled).
  • ROT – aka “composting” – is this something you already do, or is it something you need to look into? There are different ways to compost such as using composting bins at home, creating a worm bin, or saving scraps to give to farmers or local compost companies.
  • RECYCLE – whilst recycling is definitely preferable to putting items in landfill, this process does still use resources that would otherwise not be in use if you REFUSE, REDUCE, REUSE, REPAIR or ROT the items you do not need. That said, recycling has its place in a zero waste lifestyle and it is important to recycle items such as glass, applicable plastics and cardboard if you cannot do anything else with them.
  • It’s really important to know what is kerbside recyclable and what isn’t – this basically means what your local council will and won’t accept through their recycling scheme. Often, items that are billed as being recyclable are still not accepted by local councils, as they have to be broken down into their individual component parts before they can be processed for recycling, which is too time heavy and costly for councils to invest in. Whilst we are hopeful that councils and recycling plants will keep investing in new technologies that will mean items not currently classed as kerbside recyclable are moved into this category, this is a long term aim, and as such consumers need to be aware of what can be picked up from the kerbside and what can’t.

Obtainable Goals


  • Buy nothing new except the essentials – every new item you buy has a manufacturing footprint, not to mention the sheer amount of plastic packaging a lot of items are wrapped in.
  • Research the companies you do buy from – do they operate with sustainable practices, are they making the effort to do their bit for our planet?
  • If you fancy a treat, make sure it’s a sustainable one – don’t take a straw from a fast food restaurant, use your own (reusable) one instead. The same for coffee cups, and don’t forget to take a drink bottle out with you instead of buying a drink on the go.


  • As well as refusing to buy or use certain items, reduce what you’re actually buying, even if what you’re buying are living essentials. An example of this would be making the choice to reduce the amount of cosmetic items you buy, or household cleaners in different scents, for example.
  • This also relates to gimmicky items – an example here would be looking to buy quality presents for friends and family or giving vouchers or money instead of gifts they may not want or use.


  • Before you make the choice to throw something away, look at it in a different light – can you reuse it, even if not for the original purpose you bought it for. A simple example here could be reusing cardboard cereal boxes – yes they can be recycled, but you can also reuse them for storage or kids crafts.
  • The same idea applies to repairing items – instead of throwing them away, can you repair them, even if you have to pay a specialist to do so.


  • As discussed above, composting is a great way to stop food waste going to landfill. Even though this will biodegrade, this will release methane and other gases into the atmosphere without benefiting organic processes such as plant growth, and does not contribute to a circular economy.
  • As such, if you don’t already have a compost bin or area in place, why not look to set this up. Many councils now provide compost bins and collections, it is definitely worth researching this as a starter.
  • Even if you don’t have a council compost scheme in your area, another goal could be to set up a worm bin – these are popular in built up areas where people do not have space for composting. Worm bins turn kitchen waste such as food scraps into nutrient rich compost and liquid fertiliser which can then be used on plants and allotments.


  • Most people are clued up on recycling these days as councils across the country have been promoting this for a number of years now, but if you don’t already recycle, now is the time to start. Whilst recycling does still have a carbon footprint, it is a better alternative to putting items into landfill!
  • If you don’t recycle already, a good starter goal is to buy or apply for a recycling bin from the council (check what their scheme allows first, as all councils are different). Once you know what can be put into the recycling bin, make a list of everything you regularly dispose of (i.e. plastic bottles, glass jars, cardboard boxes etc) and whatever you can recycle, recycle!
  • If you do already recycle, your goal could be to increase this where possible. Items you know you cannot put into the recycling bin may currently go into your general waste bin, which in turn goes to landfill – can you reduce the amount that you do put in this category by using specialist recycling schemes. A good example is the free Terracycle crisp packet recycling scheme which is operated by Walkers and accepts all brands of used crisp packets to ensure these are recycled properly, instead of going to landfill. With over 1,600 public drop off locations nationwide, there’s no reason why this shouldn’t be used by every crisp eater in the country!

Whilst moving to a zero waste style of living isn’t something you can do overnight, even making small changes has a big impact on the environment and the carbon footprint of how we live.