Most of the world's waste is produced by people from the "developed world" (which includes Britain), even though these people only make up 5% of the world population.
What's the problem?
According to CB Environmental, the average household in the UK produces more than a tonne of waste every year. Put this together and it comes to a total of 31 million tonnes per year. This is equivalent to the weight of three and a half million double-decker buses, a queue of which would go around the world two and a half times!
Every year we produce about 3% more waste than the year before...
If we carry on at this rate, it means that we'll be doubling the amount of waste we produce every 25 years.
The problem is, where does it all go? Some of it is recycled, but UK Government statistics claim only around 7%, whilst 40% ends up in landfill. 40% ends up in landfill, that's 12.4 million tonnes of rubbish every year!
Given this fact, it's more important than ever that what we buy should have an extended life. This means either being passed on to someone else in the original form, or by being repurposed.
As a provider of a professional Decluttering & Organising service, I believe I have a responsibility to ensure that as far as possible, the items that my clients no longer want, don't make the landfill issue worse.
So what are our options?
Repairing - happily since I first published this blog back in 2019, we have seen a renewed interest in repairing items which might previously have been discarded and replaced with new.
Clothes mending is one area in which people are reviving old skills and learning new ones, in order to make their garments last longer. Have a look at Repair What You Wear for mending tutorials and teaching materials.
Repair Cafes are springing up around the country, apparently there are around 58 dotted around the country, run by volunteers who are willing to share their skills and teach people how to fix their own household items. My Dyson was continually cutting out, so I recently put my local repair cafe to the test (once a month in Maidenhead library). It was fixed within minutes in return for a voluntary donation.
Re purposing/Upcycling - do you have things in your house that you would like to keep (maybe for sentimental reasons), but you don't love them as they are, or where they are? Think about using these items elsewhere in your house or for a different purpose.
I have a basketwork and metal doll's high chair, of sentimental value. It's bulky to store though and I don't want to give display space to it in my house, so I've repurposed it as flowerpot holder on my patio. It works perfectly, and I see it everyday, instead of it being stuck out of sight in a storage box.
I inherited a pair of Parker Knoll chairs from my parents, the green fabric wasn't really to our taste so we had them re upholstered by Gaff in a grey felt fabric.
Now we love them and they fit in with our style.
Older furniture is so worth re upholstering, revarnishing or even painting/spraying, as it's often far better made than furniture available to buy now (and the trees have already been felled!). If you have a piece of furniture you'd like turned into something really different, have a look at Boogaloo Boutique (now running DIY decoupage courses). Berkshire resources for re purposing and upcycling items include The Cushion Cafe (upholstery service) Alistair Price Antiques (specialist furniture restorers) and L'Atelier Lucie (furniture upcycling).
There are some amazing companies out there that have built their businesses around repairing and repurposing items. Since 2005 Elvis & Kresse have been making handbags and purses out of de commissioned fire hose, donating 50% of their profits to the Firefighters charity.
Sophiti & Chess will take unwanted jeans, cashmere, merino wool and supermarket "bags for life" and turn them into wash bags and re useable sandwich bags! Sew Eco is always on the lookout for men's shirts to turn into hankies and other fabric to use as the backing for re usable make up wipes.
Consider having heirloom pieces of gold and silver jewellery melted down and remade into a design you'd wear. Recycle your cashmere jumper into gloves via Turtle Doves.
Selling - generate some cash from your clutter! There are many outlets these days for selling unwanted items, both on and off line. For high value items and antiques contact your local auction houses and dealers (local Bourne End Auction Rooms and for vintage costume jewellery, watches and badges, Joy's Antiques and Collectables).
Almost anything can be sold on eBay or at a local car boot sale. Try Ziffit or Music Magpie for books, CDc, DVDs and video games, mobile phones and Lego. Register with Kidd3r to sell or swap sports, music and tech equipment.
For specialist dealers try searching, by product or type of product, online (local for rare books Jonkers), for coins try Coin Heritage. As "curator of our family stamp collection" I found an amazing stamp valuer and dealer, Gustamps in Brighton. The owner is a true enthusiast, keen to pass on his passion and knowledge to the next generation, but unless you have some real gems in your collection it's a buyers market so don't expect to make much money!
"Considered Rehoming"/Donating - what I mean by "considered re homing", is taking the time to find absolutely the right "new home" for an item or items, (this can be particularly important for those with a high sentimental value). Apart from donating to charity shops and listing on Freecycle, or Facebook selling and Buy Nothing groups, there are many more specific options.
Do you have kids that struggle to part with much loved toys & games long after the've outgrown them (I know that scenario, I blame it on watching Toy Story too many times!). How about telling them about these amazing charities? Donate to Loved Before, the soft toy adoption agency and your child can fill in a "re homing form" telling the toy's story to accompany a beloved teddy. The Teddy Trust is another option and The Toy Project accept all types of toys and games. Build on Books is a charity which accepts donations of books and re distributes them to children in Sierra Leone.
When you have more pens and pencils than you can ever use, donate them to Pens for Kids and they'll be passed on to those who need them.
If you have sports equipment you no longer need, search for a specific charity which would welcome the donation. Growing up I had my own horse and had kept various bits of horse equipment for years, thinking (hoping) that I might use it again in the future. One day whilst browsing online, I came across Ebony Horse Club which gives riding opportunities to young people living in South London's most disadvantaged communities. Instantly I knew that I wanted this place to benefit from my unused items, I packed them up in my car and delivered them to the stables in Brixton, where they were so gratefully received.
School libraries/music departments are often happy to take donations of books, stationery, musical instruments and sheet music, whilst residential care homes are grateful for magazines. Some high street opticians including Boots, hospitals and GP surgeries collect reading glasses for recycling. Homeless charities and pet rescue centres are usually happy to take towels and bedding off your hands (locally The Cowshed take donations of new or used clothing, footwear, bedding & curtains and pass them on). New or barely used toiletries & make up are collected (locally by (Clean Consience). Smartworks collect women's workwear and shoes.
Tools are collected by Work Aid, whilst the Wee Charity will collect old computer equipment free of charge from your home, wipe your data securely if required, refurbish it and pass it on to those who need it. Baby equipment no longer required can be donated to The Baby Bank, branches throughout the UK. The British Heart Foundation provide a free furniture and electrical goods collection service nationwide, those in Berkshire can also donate these items to Thames Hospice. Foreign coins and stamps are collected by Oxfam.
Did you know that you can even donate flowers after an event and have them re delivered to hospices and care homes by Floral Angels, what a fabulous idea!
If you have items to donate and are willing to post them, try searching on DropPoint.
Recycling - these days we need to be recycling much more than paper and (some) plastics. Many councils (including the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead) now collect bags of worn out textiles to be recylcled, as well as small electrical items, so check the website of the council in your local area.
The Alzheimers Society are collecting and recycling old jewellery (including broken pieces and costume jewellery) as well as many other "difficult to dispose of" items such as foreign coins and old film.
Reducing waste requires a change in mindset. It takes a bit more effort, but involve the whole family and imagine how good it will feel. Knowing that all your clutter has gone somewhere it will do good and be appreciated by others, is surely preferable to dumping bin bags at the tip and passing the problems on to someone else, or (worse and the more likely option), it all ending up in landfill?
Please note that this article is UK specific and some of the organisations listed are specific to Maidenhead, Berkshire.
For information on schemes in your area, do search by item on the internet as there are some amazing and creative re purposing and recycling schemes everywhere, with many more springing up everyday.
I'm sure there are so many more ideas for reducing household waste, if you have any to add, please share them in the comments below.
Jo Hall is a Professional Home Organiser and Clutter Free Living expert 🏠
If you would love to have a really good sort out but don't know where to start, or maybe you've made a great start with it, but have since lost your way, Jo can help!
Jo works online with clients worldwide 🌍 via 1:1 sessions, DIY resources and group courses 👩💻 Guiding overwhelmed people to break free from the burden of stuff.
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