It's time to take a stand against wasteful habits big and small, and we want your help to say: 'Don't waste!' so we all know how to recycle absolutely everything

Waste not, want not – that’s how many of us were brought up. And yet we live in a throwaway society, we’re all busy and often it seems easier to just discard an item and buy another, rather than make do, repair or find an alternative use for it.

But at a time when there are queues at food banks and 6.4 million people are struggling to afford enough to eat*, we in the UK are throwing away one third of the perfectly edible food that we produce.

Some is rejected before it even reaches the supermarket shelves, but most is wasted in the home. The average family bins an astonishing £700 worth of food per year – that’s £60 a month.

Wonky Asda veg box

Asda has boxes of wonky vegetables

And it’s not just food. Two million TV sets are thrown out annually, along with four million electrical items, including old toasters, computers and hairdryers – half of them in working order – plus unwanted furniture, clothes, mobile phones and much, much more. In Britain, we produce enough waste to fill the Albert Hall every two hours.

It’s not simply a colossal waste of money – it’s contributing to climate change, too. If we just stopped wasting food that could have been eaten, for instance, it’s estimated the carbon dioxide prevented by not disposing of it would be the equivalent of taking four million cars off the road.

But the good news is that there’s plenty we can do about it. We can save money and save the planet by putting a stop to waste. That’s why we’re launching our Waste Not Want Not campaign, to inspire and help all of us to take responsibility and do something about the appalling amounts of waste being generated in our homes, our communities and our country.

We’ll be giving you lots of invaluable advice and tips on how to live less wastefully, so together we can fight back – at the amount of waste and the effect it has on our expenses and our environment.

But it’s not all about us – we’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions, too. So please put pen to paper, email us or join us on Facebook (see details, below right) to get involved with our campaign, and look out for the Waste Not Want Not logo that will be appearing in the magazine in the coming weeks and months.

* Source: The Family Food report, published by Defra

The Waste Disgrace Facts

Food

The consumer is the biggest contributor to food waste in the UK. We throw away:
* 4.2 million tonnes of food – equivalent to the weight of 86 QE2 cruise liners!
* Bread, salad leaves, poultry and melon are the items most often left uneaten.
* Over Halloween, we bin 18,000 tonnes of pumpkin.
* Supermarkets: The big ones waste 200,000 tonnes of edible food a year. Between 20% to 40% of fruit and veg is rejected purely because it doesn’t look attractive enough.
* Restaurants: Of the 1.3 billion meals thrown away each year, around 30% of the food is leftovers from diners who ordered too much.

Clothes

£140 million of used clothes (350,000 tonnes) go to landfill sites every year.

Furniture

83% of sofas in the UK are sent to the dump for recycling rather than found a new home.

Water

A single leaky tap in your house can waste 5,000 litres of expensively purified water a year.

Medicine

Every year, £300 million worth of medicines are never used or go out of date.

Paper

At Christmas, 32 square miles of gift wrap is binned, much of which could have been recycled (although types with metallic or glitter finishes are best avoided).

Electrical

Britain is the worst offender in the EU for electrical appliance waste, producing around 1.4 million tonnes a year.

The Rotten Reality

We know recycling can be a confusing business. But it’s worth the effort when you realise how long it takes your rubbish to biodegrade:
Vegetables – 5 days to 1 month
Paper – 2 to 5 months
Cotton T-shirt – 6 months
Cigarette – 1 year
Woollen socks – 5 years
Tin can – 50 years
Plastic bottle – 70 years
Plastic bag – 500 years
Glass bottle – 1,000,000 years

Recycling (c) iStock

So much of what we use can be recycled (c) iStock

What We Can Do

Be mindful of what’s in your fridge and store cupboards – what do you already have, and when does it go off? Speaking of which…

* Don’t rely solely on the ‘sell by’ or ‘best before’ dates. The food can often be perfectly safe to eat after these. Check the appearance and smell before throwing it out. The label to heed is the ‘use by’, as the food isn’t safe to eat after that.

* Find out about food banks and charities that your local supermarkets support, and do your bit to help.

* If you have unused or out-of-date medicines, return them to your nearest pharmacy.

* To repurpose your unwanted electrical items, furniture and clothes, contact your local council, charity shops, or visit recyclenow.com

Join The Food Fightback

Supermarkets are slowly starting to tackle waste. M&S is teaming up with the social platform Neighbourly (visit neighbourly.com) to redistribute its surplus supplies to local food charities and projects. Asda’s Wonky Veg boxes let consumers buy the perfectly good, but not perfectly pretty, produce that would otherwise get binned at the farm gate for a cheaper price. The more boxes we buy, the more the supermarkets will be encouraged to sell.

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Email us at Womansweeklypostbag@timeinc.com
Write to us at Woman’s Weekly, 110 Southwark St, London SE1 0SU

Waste Not Want Not logo campaign logo