Recycling uses resources like energy to turn waste materials into new products. It’s better than throwing things away – but trying to reduce, re-use and repair can mean less waste and less recycling.
Reducing waste means avoiding buying things that will become waste. To do this, you could:
- Only buy the food you need, and make sure you eat it! We throw away more food than many other types of waste, and it is one of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters. Visit Love Food Hate Waste to find out how you can reduce your food waste
- Use the Kitche app to help you use up food before it goes off, and the Olio and Too Good To Go apps to share or find surplus food in your community
- Carry a reusable water bottle and download the Refill app to see where you can top it up
- Use your own containers and reduce waste by buying from refill shops
- Choose loose fruit and vegetables. If options seem limited, check what your local greengrocers and online vegetable box delivery schemes offer
- Grow your own food! Even if you only have a windowsill, you could grow herbs, salad leaves or cress that would otherwise come in packaging
- Use your library or borrow items in your community (ask on neighbourhood Facebook groups). The Party Kit Network lends out crockery and cutlery for parties. Hire rather than buy occasional outfits like prom or wedding attire from local shops or sites like Hirestreetuk.com. You can hire carpet cleaners from large supermarkets
- Swap! Look out for local 'Swish' clothes swap events (check Cambridge Carbon Footprint or Transition Cambridge event listings) to refresh your wardrobe or try out apps like Vinted
- “Buy less, choose well, and make it last.” Vivienne Westwood said this about clothes, but it's a great mantra for all purchases. Whenever you are thinking about buying something, ask whether you really need it – if you do, choose the best quality you can afford, in a style that suits you and won't go out of fashion. Look after your clothes by checking the care labels and washing instructions
Re-using can mean passing on your unwanted items and buying second-hand, or choosing a reusable alternative to something disposable. It can also mean finding a new use for something that would otherwise be recycled or thrown away, such as storing leftover food in an empty ice cream tub.
You can buy many re-usable items, including:
- Clingfilm alternatives
- Nappies and baby wipes
- Period products – visit City to Sea to find out about plastic-free periods
- Pass on your unwanted items to charity shops (some like British Heart Foundation can accept electrical items), sell on eBay, Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree, or give away through Freegle, Freecycle, the Olio app or local Facebook 'freebies' or 'Life Is A Gift' groups
- Support the circular economy - each time you need to buy something check if you can find it second-hand in charity shops or online
Pop-up repair café events bring together volunteers who like fixing things with people who have things that need repairing. Visit Circular Cambridge to find out more about how repair cafés work and where they take place.
If you are interested in setting up a Repair Cafe in your community and would like support, or if you would like to volunteer as a repairer, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Circular Cambridge also has a directory of local repair shops that offer services ranging from computer repairs to re-upholstery and bike repairs.
If you want to have a go at repairing something yourself, there are lots of video guides online, and iFixit provides repair guides for many products. Love Your Clothes has advice on how to mend and care for clothes to keep them looking good for longer.