12 New Year’s Resolutions to Reduce Waste

The beginning of a new year is a popular time to set goals for the coming 12 months. Businesses update targets while many people renew gym memberships and try to stay away from cigarettes, chocolate, or other vices. January feels like a fresh start for making behavioural changes.

Beyond the traditional tried and tested New Year’s resolutions, why not aim for something that benefits the environment this year? Reducing waste is important for businesses and households across the world. Setting a few simple goals helps keep you on track with just some small behavioural tweaks needed to reach them.

Get started with our 12 New Year’s resolutions to reduce waste – one for every month of the year. Each goal helps protect the planet but may also save your business or household money. Choose your favourites, do them all, or try one a month, whichever method you prefer should make a positive difference.

New Year fireworks over a city skyline.

1. Go paperless

In the modern digital world is there much need for paper? Request online rather than paper bank statements, read eBooks as opposed to hard or paperbacks, and opt for an email receipt wherever possible. Take a bag when you go shopping or collect a takeaway to avoid being given items in a paper bag.

Many offices can reduce their number of printers to minimise the amount of pointless documents printed out and paper wasted. Making it less convenient to print off posters or other items should ensure staff think twice before doing so. Move from paper to online pay cheques too.

2. Avoid packaging

Completely avoiding buying anything in packaging is almost impossible, but there are things you can do to reduce packaging waste. Take reusable containers to zero-waste shops and fill them up with dry goods like coffee, pasta, and spices instead of buying packaged items in supermarkets. Visiting greengrocers, butchers, and fishmongers also avoids purchasing overly packaged foodstuffs.

As a business, you could switch suppliers to those that use no or minimal packaging for their products (or at least recyclable and sustainable materials). Reuse boxes and containers for storage, set goals to cut shrink wrap usage, or offer return schemes for packaging where possible.

3. Shop second hand

Strive to buy as many things as you can second hand. This avoids the items going to waste, saves on energy and resources to create new products, and is always cheaper. Scour charity shops or online marketplaces such as Gumtree, Vinted, and eBay for clothes, furniture, cooking equipment, suitcases, games, and almost anything else you need.

4. Carry reusables

Stamp out single-use plastic in your life by always being prepared. Have a reusable bag in your car or coat pocket in case of an emergency trip to the shop when you’re out and about. Keep a reusable water bottle and/or coffee mug/thermos in your bag to fill up at work or elsewhere without resorting to a disposable plastic cup.

5. Repair and upcycle

Avoid the impulse to throw something away as soon as there’s a slight issue with it. Lost a button on a shirt? Sew a new one on. Snapped the handle off your favourite mug? Stick it back on with some glue. You can always take items in need of repair to professionals such as a tailor, cobbler, or electrician.

Businesses can offer discounts on damaged goods, whether it’s superficial damage to the packaging, a part missing, or something with a minor crack or blemish. Alternatively, find ways to improve and upcycle slightly damaged things by adding a fresh coat of paint, accessories, or using other creative methods.

6. Reuse packaging

Eliminating packaging from your life might be impossible, so focus on reusing it to reduce waste. Most types of packaging are great for storage, such as empty takeaway containers, jars of jam or sauce, and cardboard boxes. Clean out glass jars and reuse them when buying loose coffee and pasta from zero-waste shops.

Cardboard boxes can be used by households and companies for storage. They’re also useful to transport deliveries or for help when moving home. Make it your mission to find a way to save, reuse, or recycle all packaging you end up with this year so that none of it goes to landfill.

happy new year sign with leaves.

7. Start a compost pile

A great way to deal with food waste is to start a compost pile. If you’ve got a garden or even just a small back yard you could buy a compost bin or create your own heap. This is a natural way to recycle waste food and create fertiliser. Learn how to compost.

8. Donate unwanted items

This year make your motto ‘give away don’t throw away.’ Dontate clothes, toys, books, electricals, and more to charity shops, friends and family, or community groups rather than chucking them in the bin. It gives the items a new lease of life, reduces waste, and saves others money.

9. Recycle rubbish

Try to throw as little rubbish as possible into your general waste bin. Aim to check anything you’re about to dispose of with general waste and work out if you can recycle or reuse it. If you can’t recycle it in your household recycling bin, make a pile for items to take to your local household waste recycling centre (HWRC).

Workplaces should make a New Year’s resolution to increase recycling rates too. An easy way to start this is by introducing more recycling bins for different materials that are easy to access. Consider separate bins for cardboard, plastic, glass, metal, and food waste – or smaller businesses can combine with one dry mixed recycling bin.

10. Eliminate food waste

Homes and businesses can do more to reduce food waste this year. Simply buying less food is a good place to start – make a list of what you need and stick to it. Rotate food in your pantry and fridge to ensure items with the shortest date are used first before they expire.

Preparation waste is unavoidable when working with some ingredients, which is where soups are the saviour. Use vegetable peel and scraps as the base of a tasty soup rather than throwing them away. Look for other recipes where you can use leftovers to eliminate food waste and add a fresh dish to your repertoire.

11. Give up non-recyclables

Aim to avoid buying anything that can’t be recycled, reused, or donated. Stay away from food, electrical items, clothes, and other goods in non-recyclable packaging and any items made from non-recyclable materials like certain plastics. Over time you’ll start to make it a habit to check if something is recyclable or reusable, gradually giving them up.

12. Buy in bulk

Purchasing larger packets of food means the ratio of packaging to its contents is smaller, which reduces waste. It’s often cheaper in the long run to buy in bulk as well. If you’ve got storage space then stock up on dry goods such as cereals, pasta, and coffee in big boxes, which saves on the number of shopping trips too.

More ways to reduce waste

Want more ideas for ways to reduce waste in your home or business this year? Explore our expert guides and find out how to reduce specific waste types and rubbish across various industries.

How to reduce waste
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