Waste Reduction: Where to start

The concept of the waste hierarchy has been around since the 1970s and became embedded in the New Zealand Waste Strategy in the form of the ‘5Rs’ in 1992. The hierarchy is an evaluation tool that draws on the precautionary principle and principles of sustainability. It prioritises the reduction of waste, then its reuse, recycling, and recovery and lastly the most effective method of final disposal. The waste hierarchy illustrates an order of preference for action to manage waste and can be roughly divided into two levels: those activities that can be carried out by individuals at home or work (reduce, re-use, recycle), and those that are carried out by specialist organisation (recovery and disposal).

  • Avoid (refuse) where not needed;
  • reduce waste generating activities;
  • reuse products rather than discard them;
  • recycle waste materials to make new products;
  • recover any useful materials and energy;
  • treat the waste with processes that remove or reduce its impact;
  • dispose of the waste safely

The aim is to extract the maximum amount of benefit from a product during its life cycle and generate a minimum amount of waste. The underlying assumption is that with an effective application of the hierarchy a number of environmental and societal benefits will follow such as reduction of greenhouse gases and pollutants, energy savings, resource conservation, job creation and the innovation of new technologies to combat waste.

It is better to spend time and energy avoiding waste rather than disposing of it. That is why One Planet aims to provide individuals, schools and businesses the resources to avoid waste where possible and information to dispose of waste in the most responsible way available.

A few tips for starting out:

  1. When working to reduce your environmental impact it is important to tackle one challenge at a time, so that you don't get overwhelmed. Don't throw out the stuff you have to replace it with more environmentally friendly options, wait until it runs out or needs replacing.
  2. Find like minded people to help support you and answer questions that come up along the way (check out Facebook for local groups, find out about local Envirohubs, talk to the people that run local organic and plastic free shops).
  3. Do what you can, when you can. Everyone in under different pressures and are in different circumstances. Make sure you are kind to yourself - accept when things are not possible to do waste free, and don't be hard on yourself. Take it as a learning curve and move on to the next thing. Bare this in mind when you are talking to others about their waste reduction journey as well, they may have different challenges to you and support and encouragement will go a long way.

We hope that this site gives you a good starting point for information on the ways you can reduce your environmental impact. Please get in touch if you have any questions or suggestions.