Reduce, reuse and repair

We all know recycling is better than throwing things away, but did you know it should be a last resort? Recycling uses resources like energy to turn waste materials into new products. There are a lot of 'R's that should come before recycling including reduce, reuse and repair! Here are a few of them.

Reduce

Reducing waste means avoiding buying things that will become waste. Here are some ways you can do that:

  • Only buy the food you need, and make sure you eat it! It sounds simple, but food is one of the biggest categories of waste we throw away, and one of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters. We all waste food - find out what you can do at Love Food Hate Waste.
  • Take your own containers to a refill shop to reduce packaging. You can re-use packaging containers that you normally recycle, like large pickle jars and wide-top jam jars. Find local refill shops at Zero Waste Near Me
  • Choose loose fruit and vegetables. If options seem limited check what local greengrocers and veg box delivery schemes offer. 
  • Grow your own! Even if you just have a windowsill, there will be something you can grow which usually has packaging - herbs, salad leaves, cress.
  • Borrow - use your library or borrow items in your community. The Party Kit Network lends out plates, cups etc for parties. 
  • Buy less, choose well, make it last. Vivienne Westwood said this about clothes, but it's a great mantra for all purchases. Each time you are thinking about buying something, ask "Do I really need this?". If you do, choose the best quality you can afford, in a style which suits you and won't go out of fashion. Then look after it by checking care labels and washing instructions.

Re-use

This can mean passing on your unwanted items and buying second-hand; or finding a new use for something that would otherwise be recycled or thrown away e.g. re-using an ice cream tub or takeaway container to store leftovers in the fridge; or it can mean choosing a reusable alternative to something disposable. Did you know you can find reusable...

Repair

Repair Cafes bring together people who like fixing things with people who have things which are broken. Please bring along your electronics and electricals, household gadgets, tools, toys, clothes, jewellery and bikes. If you can carry it, they’ll probably be able to look at it for you!

All of the below things can be fixed at a Repair Cafe:

  • a broken vase
  • a jammed paper shredder
  • an old sewing machine which won't sew
  • a desk lamp which doesn't work
  • a pair of trousers with a hole in the knee

If you have broken items, you can bring them along to one of the Repair Cafes. There are no promises and no guarantees, but if the repairers have time, and can fix the item, they will do so, free of charge. To be sure your item is looked at its best to book it in. You can book your item in on the Repair Cafe website.  

We help volunteers to set up new Repair Cafes.

Working with voluntary organisations, Cambridge Carbon Footprint and Transition Cambridge, who run the successful Cambridge Repair Cafe, we have helped set up Repair Cafes in Histon, Waterbeach, Girton, Fulbourn and Sawston. 

Cambridge hardware store Mackays and their suppliers, Draper, have donated a generous toolkit for use at the Repair Cafes.

If you are interested in setting up a Repair Cafe and would like support, or if you would like to volunteer as a repairer, please email us at Zcc@scambs.gov.uk.

Useful resources:

There are lots more R's that we can do before recycling: re-purpose, re-fashion, rethink! How many can you think of?

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