16. September 2021

Reducing waste - what can I do?

Have you ever paid attention to what we throw away every day? On average, every person in Germany alone produces over 220kg of packaging waste per year. The resources for the production of plastic, paper, etc. are very limited. It uses large quantities of water and oil for the production of plastics. Often plastic waste also ends up in the environment, where it takes several decades to decompose.

How can we make sure that less waste is produced? Here are 5 tips for you:

1. Avoid waste already while shopping.

To reduce waste in general, try to buy foods that are not packed in plastic when grocery shopping. In many cases, this is not so difficult: Use soap bars instead of liquid soap, buy loose fruits and vegetables instead of plastic bags of them, etc. It is often worthwhile to go to local markets also. Or to buy directly on a farm. This way, you are also supporting local businesses instead of large corporations. Also a good idea: bringing a shopping bag or a backpack, so you do not have to buy new bags every time you go shopping. Or get a reusable water bottle, so you can bring your own water and do without buying new plastic bottles from the supermarket every time. (Especially useful if tab water is drinkable in your country, of course.)

2. Throw away less food.

Every person in Germany throws away more than 80 kilograms of food on average per year. Quite a lot. And that is just the food that has been bought. In total, only half of all food produced is eaten at all. Bread from the day before? Not perfect looking vegetables? Food close to the best before date? Lots of food that would be edible without problems is thrown away by supermarkets and stores before it is even sold. So it's good idea to buy only what can actually be consumed. And remember; the best before date is a minimum date - otherwise it would be called "toxic from now" date. Many foods can be enjoyed for a long time beyond that.

3. Upcycling instead of throwing away.

With a little creativity, almost all things can be used further instead of being thrown away. Clothing, furniture, bottles or packaging - almost everything can be upcycled. Material will continue to be used differently and therefore upgraded. In many cases, you can even do it yourself with just some manual skill. Old clothes can be turned into pillows, you can make a purse from old tetrapaks ... With relatively little effort and even less costs you can create new things out of old.

4. Separate waste and dispose of it so that it can be recycled if possible.

You have got some things, still, that can not be upcycled even with the best of intentions? Then dispose of them of in a way that they can be recycled as best as possible. This is especially important for plastic and metal packaging. By recycling those, many resources and energy can be saved compared to new production. So seperate waste. Dispose of glass in a glass container. (Glass containers are not meant for ceramics, porcelain, light bulbs, drinking glasses and flat glass such as window panes or mirrors.) Just find out how recycling works in your location and what you should be aware of when separating waste. By the way: electrical appliances do not belong in the trash either. You can sell, give away or donate working devices. Even defective devices you can still sell, because many parts can be recycled.

5. Join a clean-up action and raise awareness on the topic.

September 18th is World Cleanup Day! The idea for this day comes from Estonia, where in 2008, 50,000 people collected rubbish from public areas together. In 2020, 11 million people participated in the action in 166 countries. Picking up garbage so that it can be disposed of is certainly not the sustainable solution to the whole problem, but with such an action, you don't only temporarily clean a small piece of nature - you can also make others aware of the issue. Just check if there is already a group in your city that meets for clean-ups!