Why should I reduce waste?
Ireland is working towards having a circular economy. A circular economy aims to eliminate waste and our reliance on natural resources, by encouraging us to keep products and materials in use. This reduces greenhouse gases, saves energy and creates jobs. By reducing the amount of waste you create, you help prevent pollution and protect the environment. You also limit the amount of waste going to landfill, preserve natural resources and save money.
How can I reduce household waste?
Irish households produce approximately 1.5 million tonnes of waste each year. Nearly half of this rubbish is general waste, which is collected from black bins and goes to landfill. Only a quarter of this waste is collected from our green and brown bins to be recycled or composted.
There are a number of things you can do to reduce waste at home and prevent your rubbish from going to landfill. These include:
Recycle, reuse, repair
Recycling is the process of collecting waste and turning it into other materials or objects that can be reused. When we recycle, we use less raw materials than when producing a new product, which reduces air pollution and improves the environment. Recycling household waste can also reduce the amount you spend on waste collection, as many waste collectors have no restriction on the amount of waste you can put in your green and brown bins. But, there are generally thresholds for the amount you can put in your black bin, and excess charges apply if you go above this. You can also take your recyclable waste to a recycling facility to be recycled. Find out more about recycling in Ireland.
The best way to reduce waste is not to produce it in the first place. So, reuse items whenever possible. For example, instead of buying plastic bottles of water, use a reusable bottle and refill it at home or at a free drinking water tap. If you’re going shopping, bring your own reusable shopping bags.
Instead of buying new items, try and repair the ones you have. For example, you could repair your clothes, furniture, bike or appliances. Information on how to fix most things is available on the internet. Or, you can get a local professional to fix your items.
Another option is upcycling. This is reusing items you no longer want, to make new products or materials of a higher value. It can be a fun and creative way of reducing waste and breathing new life into old items.
Avoid food packaging
When you’re in the supermarket, avoid buying items with excessive plastic packaging. In some supermarkets, you may be able to leave unwanted packaging behind.
Choose fruit and vegetables that don’t come prepackaged and bring your own bag to carry them home. Choose food items that come in recyclable containers.
Avoid single-use plastics
Single-use plastics (SUPs) are items that are used once, or for a short period of time, and then thrown away. For example, straws, cotton bud sticks and polystyrene food containers.
You should avoid using SUPs as they take a long time to break down and can damage the environment, particularly oceans. 70% of marine litter in the EU comes from SUPs.
Since 3 July 2021, certain SUPs are banned from the Irish market.
Buy second hand
Buying second hand products will save you money. It also decreases the demand for new items, which preserves natural resources. Cars, clothes, exercise equipment, furniture and books are all examples of items that can be bought and used second hand.
If you have items that you don’t want, instead of throwing them out, you could donate them to a charity shop. You could also donate or sell them through buy and sell websites or social media groups.
No junk mail sticker
Put a ‘No junk mail’ sign on your front door or post box. This will stop unwanted paper waste coming into your home, such as flyers, brochures and free newspapers.
How can I reduce food waste?
The average Irish household produces 117kg of food waste each year, which is the equivalent of approximately €700 of food.
Food waste also damages the environment. When it ends up in landfill it releases methane, a greenhouse gas that is more harmful than carbon dioxide.
Here are some practical tips to reduce food waste:
Make a weekly meal plan and shopping list
Plan out what food you will need for the week and make a shopping list. Check the recipes of meals you plan to make. Your shopping list should only have items on it that you will need and use. Take a photo of the contents of your fridge to remind you. Stick to the list as much as possible and avoid impulse buying.
Keep an eye on dates
Passing use-by dates is the main reason people throw out food. Keep an eye on dates and give yourself enough time to eat or freeze food.
Learn about ‘use-by’ and ‘best-before’ date labels on food.
Another practical tip for reducing food waste is freezing food. It makes food last longer and will save you money.
Find out more about freezing food to reduce waste.
Composting is the process of recycling organic matter, such as food waste or leaves, naturally. Over time, the organic matter turns into a material called compost which is full of nutrients and can be added to soil in the garden or indoor plants.
Find out more about composting.
How can I reduce waste at work?
Reducing waste at work is good for your organisation’s reputation and will save money. There are also financial supports for businesses going green.
Here are some tips for reducing waste in the office:
Choose digital over paper
Store information electronically, rather than on paper. It makes it easier for employees to collaborate and is typically more secure. Paperless billing will also reduce your carbon footprint and decrease operational costs.
Reduce paper waste by promoting environmentally friendly printing practices. For example:
- Put a ‘think before you print’ sticker on the printer
- Make ‘print both sides’ the default setting
- Use refillable toner cartridges
- Have a paper recycling bin within arm's reach of the printer
Use durable office equipment with a long life-cycle. This will save you money in the long run and keep office equipment out of landfill for as long as possible.
Provide appropriate recycling bins and encourage staff to recycle correctly. Here’s a step-by-step guide to managing your business waste (pdf). It includes resources, such as downloadable posters and bin labels, to help you reduce waste.
Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) must be recycled separately.
In the kitchen
If you have a canteen or a kitchen, provide reusable cutlery and cups for your staff. Use non-toxic cleaning products. A water cooler connected to the mains can significantly reduce plastic waste.