Discover our ideas for actions on the 3Rs
Whatever kind of action you are implementing: Remember to take pictures and videos and to use them to develop exhibitions to show the results and to publish via all channels available (media, print, information booth, social media etc.).
Reduce – strict avoidance and reduction at source
Reduce means using fewer resources in the first place. It includes strict avoidance as well as reduction at source. Waste reduction can be defined as the complete range of measures and actions taken up before a substance, material or product becomes waste.
The best waste is the one that is not produced!
Ideas for action
- Information campaigns:
- Exhibition or information booth to inform about the environmental, social and economic impact of waste and the need to reduce waste
- Round-table discussion or a conference to inform and discuss the issue
- Produce videos on the impact of the waste we produce and the need to reduce waste and publish it via all channels available (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, TV, Cinema…)
- Site visits (such as: composting, social economy, repair stores for bikes, tools, clothes, furniture or electronic goods), followed by a discussion
- Screening of awareness-raising movies (Trashed, Plastic Paradise, Bag it!, Waste Land) followed by a discussion and concrete everyday tips for the audience
- Waste reduction competition (of short movies/games/posters etc.)
- Promotion of No Junk Mail stickers for letterboxes
- Showcasing the reduced environmental impact of your work-place because of the measures taken with regard to waste prevention
- Interact with and question children on their waste production and their actual awareness of their daily school (and after school) activities
- Brainstorming session at school: How can we reduce the waste we produce at school?
- Initiate an “eco-citizen loyalty card” that rewards eco-behaviour or promotes sustainable business
- Reduce the use of resources:
- “Water Bar” action: blindfold tasting of various types of water, including tap water
- Activity to demonstrate and promote reusable nappies
- Waste reduction action at offices (double-sided printing, reuse of one-sided paper, using water from the tab or a water dispenser, glasses/mugs instead of plastic cups, using bulk tea instead of tea bags, etc.)
- Launch of an eco-design product
- Adopt a policy of sustainable purchases for office/school/kitchen supplies and production lines
- Install water coolers instead of giving out bottled water
- Install coffee machines that accept mugs instead of plastic cups and promote the use of mugs
- Reduce packaging:
- Workshops, for example a course on how the packaging of food could be limited
- Promote the purchase of unpacked food
- “Unpacking” action at cash register & raising awareness about single-use plastic bags
- Shopping trolley comparisons: Who bought products with less packaging? How can we all improve our shopping to avoid over-packaging?
- Information boards in supermarkets that help the consumer to opt for products with less packaging
- Promote/offer reusable shopping bags and the use of empty supermarket cardboard boxes
- Develop a concept on how to reuse the packaging used in your company
Adopt a policy of sustainable purchases for office supplies / production lines / kitchen supplies
- Reduce food waste:
In 2014, the European Week for Waste Reduction focused on food waste reduction. You can find factsheets on how to implement actions in the scope of fighting against food waste on the Prevention Thematic Day 2014 page.
- Zero waste lunch/picnic/dinner
- Workshop: cooking with leftovers
- Workshops on the reading of labels (use-by dates, best before dates…)
- Screening of short movies on food waste. You can contact the Love Food Hate Waste campaign or
- Recycle Devon, for this purpose, or check the Love Food Film Competition
- Start composting at home or work
- Initiate community composting
- Hand out shopping lists and help consumers to better plan their shopping to avoid unnecessary purchases
- Workshop: How to avoid food waste when shopping and/or cooking?
- Improve the concept of the school or office cafeteria to reduce the food wasted there
Whatever kind of action you are implementing: Remember to take pictures and videos and to use what you’ve achieved to develop exhibitions to show the results and to publish via all channels available (media, print, information booth, social media etc.).
Why is waste reduction so important?
Waste reduction is an emergency for the European Union. Household waste has doubled in weight since 1970 and stayed at a high level since 15 years. In 2018, 492 kg of municipal waste were generated per person in the EU Member States (EU-27, average. Source: Eurostat). This waste is the result of non-sustainable modes of production and consumption. Furthermore, the consumption of products (including their production, transport and distribution), represents nearly 50% of emissions contributing to climate change. This increase in the amount of waste to be managed requires more collection and treatment infrastructures, the cost of which puts a strain on the budgets of local and regional public authorities. In this context, waste reduction has become a simple and essential concept in the area of waste management: it is a fundamental technical factor in waste management at local level but also a notion that should remind us of the scarcity of natural resources.
Reuse and preparing for reuse
Reuse means any operation by which products or components that are not waste are used again for the same purpose for which they were conceived.
Preparing for reuse refers to checking, cleaning or repairing recovery operations, by which products or their components that would have become waste are prepared in a way so that they will be reused without any other pre-processing.
Why is reuse important?
Reuse confronts the same problems than reduce: there is too much waste being produced in the European Union! By extending the lifespan of products, preparing for reuse and reuse are influential measures to reduce the amount of waste produced. Reuse has a strong value for sustainable development because it not only promotes environmental protection through waste prevention but also contributes to social aims and has economic benefits.
Reusing items decreases the use of material and energy resources and reduces pollution and natural capital degradation. Recycling does so too, but to a lesser degree.
Environmental benefits of reuse:
- Reduction of the amount of waste, including hazardous waste
- Pollution prevention
- Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to global climate change
- Decreased strain on natural resources (raw materials, fuel, forests, water)
- Preservation of the “embodied energy” that was originally used to manufacture an item
Social benefits of reuse:
- Fight against poverty by providing affordable products to low income households
- Social inclusion by bringing disadvantaged people back in the labour market and society
- Job creation in collection, sorting, testing, refurbishment and reselling of items reused
- Training opportunities in fields such as driving commercial vehicles, carpentry, electrical engineering, marketing, or even handicraft and art
Economic benefits of reuse
- Monetary savings (customer: in purchases and disposal, state: less social costs through job creation and training)
- Savings in energy, materials and chemicals embodied in the appliance
Ideas for action
- Collection for reuse: Organise the collection of clothes, books, tools, furniture, electronics or other items to donate them to social enterprises, schools or reuse organisations
- Swap events
- Second-hand markets
- Creative reuse workshops/exhibitions/fashion shows
- Repair café/workshop/event/fair
- Give box
- Reused packaging
- Office supply reuse action: When disposing of archives, retrieve folders, ring binders, one-sided printed paper and other items that can be reused and reuse them yourself or donate to schools, social enterprises or reuse organisations
Read more about the benefits of reuse:
Waste sorting and recycle
Recycling means any recovery operation taking place after collection and by which waste materials are reprocessed into products, materials or substances whether for the original or other purposes. It includes the reprocessing of organic material but does not include energy recovery and the reprocessing into materials that are to be used as fuels or for backfilling operations.
Put materials back in the product loop and save resources!
In order to ensure that waste materials get recycled, selective collection and the sorting of waste is essential. Successfully establishing selective collection schemes and encouraging citizens to sort their waste are thus crucial for improving recycling rates.
Recycling reduces the amount of waste that is landfilled or incinerated and secures that waste material, after being transformed, forms part in manufacturing new products. Through recycling, waste constitutes a source of secondary raw material. Recycling therefore helps to decrease the use of material and energy resources and reduces pollution and natural capital degradation.
Benefits of recycling
- Reduces the amount of waste and resources lost in landfills or burnt;
- Prevents pollution by reducing the need to collect new raw materials;
- Saves energy needed to make new products from raw material;
- Reduces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change;
- Helps sustain the environment for future generations;
- Helps create new well-paying jobs in the recycling and manufacturing industries.
Ideas for actions
- Exhibition or information booth to inform about the environmental, social and economic impact of waste, particularly about incineration and landfill, and the need to waste sorting and recycling;
- Developing easily understandable sorting guides for households and distribute them amongst your target audience;
- Introduce waste sorting at work, in schools, in public spaces (supported by sorting games);
- Screening of awareness-raising movies about waste and resource scarcity, followed by a discussion and concrete everyday tips for the audience;
- Site visits at recycling and composting sites, followed by a discussion;
- Movie competition on raising-awareness for the necessity of waste sorting and recycling;
- Recycling workshop/competition
Let’s change the way we act!
Waste reduction in different situations
- Only print out those pages you really need, and use the “recto-verso” option on your printer.
- Remember to give back empty cartridges to the supplier company to be refilled. As well as respecting the environment, this small-scale action generates activity and so helps to create new jobs.
- At the office, bring in your own mug! That way you’ll save filling up the waste paper basket with plastic cups.
- Why not keep used office paper in a drawer so you can reuse it for drafts ?
Choose your office supplies with care, giving priority to rechargeable or reusable stationery, recycled or recyclable materials and products that come with a European ecolabel !
- Think about buying coffee or tea in a large packet rather than in small packs; you’ll produce less waste and you’ll save money.
- Think about giving used electronic equipment to associations, who can give it a second life.
- Choose to cook with fresh foodstuffs; that way you’ll eat healthily and you’ll save a lot of packaging waste compared with an over-packaged ready meal.
- Remember to use up those products that have a short use-by date. Taking more care of perishable products, for example, putting products with a short use-by date at the front of the fridge or cupboard is a simple way for everyone to reduce their production of waste.
- Fill up a jug of tap water! You’ll save the money you would have spent on buying a pack of bottled water and limit the amount of plastic wasted !
- When going on a picnic, bring along airtight containers for food, flasks and everyday hardware cutlery. That way there is less rubbish left over at the end of the picnic, which of course will be thrown in the nearest bin, or even better taken home for separating and disposal.
- Choose products that come with eco-labels. European or national eco-labels are official certifications that guarantee the quality of products as well as their reduced impact on the environment throughout their life cycle. Several hundred products (including school exercise books, bin bags, household products, coffee filters…) are available with eco-labels, so keep an eye out for them!
- Choose products with less packaging and avoid disposable, single-use products. From the moment of purchase, you can often choose a product which will generate less waste. You will save raw materials and help to cut down on the pollution generated through the production process. You can also save money!
- Choose to buy products in bulk. It often works out less expensive, and helps to minimise packaging waste. Packaging represents 23% of the weight of our household waste, and a significant part of the volume of your bin.
- Buy in quantities that are adapted to your needs Buying a quantity of food that is well adapted to your needs allows you to avoid producing waste but also to stop you from having to throw away products that you have paid for, making savings
- Opt for reusable bags for your shopping Disposable bags from shopping centres are used for an average of 20 minutes before being thrown away. Not only do they become waste very quickly, but if not disposed of carefully they can pollute the countryside and the sea. Plastic bags that end up in the sea can kill sea turtles, dolphins or sharks who confuse them with jellyfish and swallow them.
- Opt for eco-refillable products. Eco-refills are often available for household products, cosmetics, as well as certain foodstuffs.
- Save batteries: at home, plug your small appliances into the mains or use rechargeable batteries… you’ll also save money.
- Try to avoid unnecessary purchasing of products, especially around festivities and holidays: work out which items you really need to avoid over-buying of food, decorations and gifts
- Next time you have a birthday present to buy, why not get a “dematerialised” gift, such as tickets for a show or concert in the area, or a subscription, a massage, cooking lessons… pleasure without waste!
- When it comes to buying new school materials, check the condition of stationery and materials that are left over from the previous year, to see if they can be reused. For those items that still need to be purchased, opt for materials that come with an eco-label, or those that seem durable and will withstand a few scrapes!
- Opt for rechargeable stationery that can be kept for a long time.
At snack time, bring your food in a reusable hardware tub, and your drink in a flask.
- Help to cut down on paper waste by writing on both sides of the page
- Why not rent or borrow the materials you need?
- Call for a special collection for your dangerous waste.
- For any chemical waste from DIY jobs, such as household products, batteries, or strip lighting…etc. take them to the nearest civic amenity site or collection point.
- Why not rent the gardening tools that you only need occasionally, or borrow them from a neighbour?
- Think about buying a natural fertiliser that’s adapted to organic farming methods. Even better, start home composting and use the compost as fertiliser!
- Opt for low-energy light bulbs. An energy-efficient light bulb uses 80% less electricity, and it lasts 6 to 8 times longer!
- Opt for durable products over disposable ones; they create a lot less waste! Some examples are cleaning cloths, razors, cups, refillable pens, rechargeable batteries…etc.
- Before throwing an object out, find out about reuse associations in your area which could give that object a new life!
- Choose to buy soap instead of shower gel. With less packaging, soap helps to cut down on waste!
- Fight against excess paper waste: put a “No Junk Mail” sticker on your letterbox.
- More than 30% of the weight of our bins is composed of biodegradable waste (kitchen waste, garden waste, ashes…etc.) Having a compost to put green waste into will mean you throw away less and gain an excellent source of nutrients for your flowers and vegetable garden.
- Reuse and repair as much as possible! 13 to 25kg of electric and electronic equipment such as fridges, telephones, computers etc. are thrown out per person per year, yet these products often contain harmful components such as lead or mercury, and the majority can be repaired or reused. Think about giving used appliances and unwanted furniture to associations that will take on the job of restoring them.
- Give your unwanted clothes a second life by giving them to charity collections or associations, or to friends and family members.
- Buy reusable diapers for your child. Until a child reaches the age of 3 years, the number of diapers he or she uses can vary from 5,000 to 6,000, that is to say approximately one ton of soiled diapers per child. You will save a significant amount of waste, and you’ll save money too.
You want to get to the heart of the matter? Find out 12 good habits for reducing waste. You will also find out more ideas for actions to be implemented during the European Week for Waste Reduction on this website.
12 good habits for reducing waste in everyday life
- Opt for reusable bags
- Put a “No Junk Mail” sticker on your letterbox
- Avoid food waste
- Buy in bulk or in large-size packaging
- Buy eco-rechargeable or refillable products
- Drink tap water
- Use rechargeable batteries
- Restrict printer usage
- Start composting
- Donate old clothing
- Borrow or hire tools
- Repair goods and appliances