Last reviewed 5 October 2021

This year’s Zero Waste Week annual campaign gave local authorities and businesses the opportunity to encourage all of us to reduce, reuse and recycle more of our waste. Caroline Hand reflects on the Week and the impact it had.

A look back at the week

Prior to 10 September, the daily themes and challenges were a closely guarded secret but we can now look back to see how the Week progressed.

This year’s Zero Waste Week was different from previous ones, as the organisers looked to ordinary people to share their experiences, challenges and top tips on social media platforms.

Day 1

The main message coming through on Day 1 was that it’s OK to start with small steps, rather than being daunted by the achievements of “Zero Waste Heroes” who manage to get through the whole year creating only one bag of waste, or hand-crafting all of their cosmetics and cleaning products. “We don’t need a few people doing Zero Waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing Zero Waste imperfectly.”

A good way to start is to do a quick waste audit of your bin or your home, and choose just one way to reduce waste. It can be very simple, like swapping to reusable containers.

The day 1 challenge was to tell someone else the very first thing you did to reduce your waste.

Day 2

Day 2 gave people the opportunity to share their struggles and setbacks, encouraging people not to be discouraged. For example, one of the Zero Waste Week organisers had to rely on supermarket deliveries because of her health, so couldn’t eliminate packaging as she wished. The moral is simply “don’t beat yourself up, or set your sights too high. Just do what you can, when you can, and the waste reduction will come naturally, easily and without any battles with loved-ones who are not quite on board.”

People were challenged to share their struggles and offer solutions to others.

Day 3

This was all about the funny side of waste reduction! People shared stories of disasters which they could laugh about in retrospect, like Zoe’s homemade toilet cleaner which ate through the pipes. The day’s challenge was to pick up three pieces of litter, because “whilst it is funny, and also hopefully inspiring – in a cautionary tale kind of way – to read about the Zero Waste Disasters, the biggest waste disaster is the constant leaking of packaging, plastics and litter into the environment.”

Day 4

On day 4, Zero Waste Heroes and Ambassadors recommended their favourite books, documentaries, facebook pages and podcasts on waste, and its environmental impact. Their can be found on the Zero Waste Week website at https://www.zerowasteweek.co.uk/zero-waste-week-2021-day-four/.

The day’s challenge was to look at just one of these, and find one thing you can do to reduce your own waste.

Day 5

The Week ended with a chance to share top tips, aimed very much at householder’s new to waste reduction.

What was the impact?

Organiser Rachelle Strauss stated that “we were wondering whether everyone would be thinking about Covid and Brexit too much to take part in this year’s Zero Waste Week. However, it turned out that people really wanted this week to happen!”

Lots of big organisations and groups shared the Zero Waste Week message with their followers. Fortnum and Mason encouraged their users to use reusable water bottles, Friends of the Earth shared tips about reducing packaging, British vets shared advice for veterinary surgeries wanting to be more sustainable, and the Royal Society of Chemistry explored tech consumption and asked whether we could avoid plastic water and preserve precious elements by holding on to our smartphones or laptops for longer.

Rachelle also reported that “people are definitely talking about how and why we need to reduce waste” and looks forward to the day when Zero Waste shopping is normal life; buying less but better is what most people do; and industry fully embraces the circular economy.