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Community waste reduction projects

Our vision for South Cambridgeshire is for a thriving Circular Economy where communities and local businesses help to keep resources in use for as long as possible without them being discarded. Here are some ideas that your community could take up to be a part of this, with links to get you started.

We would love to hear about your circular economy projects and ideas. You may also be able to apply for funding through our Community Chest or Zero Carbon Communities (ZCC) grant funds.

Food projects

A Community Fridge is a space where anyone can share surplus food, and anyone else can take it to save food waste. A local example is Gamlingay Food Project. You can find out more about setting one up from environment charity Hubbub.

Olio is a smartphone app which connects surplus food from shops and restaurants with local people who can use it. By signing up as an Olio Food Waste Hero you perform the vital role of collecting the surplus food and listing it on the app.

Community meal projects cook meals for local people to enjoy together from food which would otherwise go to waste. A local example is Cambridge FoodCycle.

Community composting projects are where a group of neighbours 'home compost' together. For example, the co-housing community at Marmalade Lane in Cambridge have communal composting bins for residents, which are maintained by their gardening group. The compost is used on their allotments for growing veg for shared meals. You can read more about home composting on our dedicated web page.

Clothing projects

A Swish is a fun swap event where you bring unwanted items of clothing in good condition and choose from those that others have brought. A local example is Histon Swish. You can borrow all the kit to run your own event from Cambridge Carbon Footprint.

Clothing Amnesty events are a great way to tackle a specific type of clothing that can be wasteful or outgrown. Schools or PTAs are well-placed to run amnesties for Christmas jumpers, school uniform, World Book Day outfits or Halloween costumes. Simply collect, organise by size and set up a table or event for people to choose another, either for free or for a donation. A local example is Cottenham Primary School PTCA.

Sharing projects

A Library of Things is just that – instead of borrowing books, you can borrow tools and appliances which you only need occasionally. A local example is the Swavesey Sheddit mobile tool library (which has received a ZCC grant).

Toy Libraries often run regular playgroups with a option to borrow large toys for a small membership or one-off fee and deposit. A local example is Sawston Toy Library.

Village ‘freebies’ or ‘Life Is A Gift’ Facebook groups help neighbours to pass on unwanted items that still have life in them, pick up things that they need, or ask to borrow items. To set one up you just need to have a Facebook account and be prepared to manage and moderate the group. A local example is Freebies in Cambourne.

Cloth nappy libraries allow parents to try out different types of washable nappy before purchasing to see which work best for them. A local example is Cambridge Nappy Library run by the NCT in Cottenham.

Repair projects

A Skills Share event brings people together who have skills, for example, in bike maintenance or darning, with those who want to learn new skills. This helps to keep resources in use by stopping items from falling into disrepair. A local example is Sew Positive’s ‘make your clothes last longer’ workshops.

Repair Café events bring together skilled volunteer repairers with people who have broken household items - from toasters to jeans. There are over 30 Repair Cafés around our area, but if there isn’t one near you already, there is great support to get one started from Cambridgeshire Repair Café Network.

Refill projects

Installing a water fountain in your community, or encouraging local businesses to become Refill hubs and display a window sticker, can help people avoid single-use plastic bottles. A local example is Fen Ditton Parish Council.

Restoration and upcycling projects

Upcycling is taking something like a piece of furniture, which is no longer fit for its original purpose, and re-inventing it into something new. A local example of a charitable upcycling venture is at the Emmaus charity shop in Landbeach.

Re-use projects

Creating and giving away re-usable items like cloth shopping bags encourages a move away from disposable items. A local example is the collaboration between Trumpington Stitchers sewing group and The Cambridge Period Project to make cloth pads for those experiencing period poverty.

Recycling at community events

If you are hosting an event, try to reduce as much recycling and waste as possible (see our Waste-Less Event Guide [PDF, 0.5MB]), and for any additional material, you can use the blue household bins from the event organisers. If there is additional volume required, our commercial waste service can offer as many recycling and general waste bins as you require. You can contact them at to discuss quantities and timing. The price is £60 per 1,100 litre bin which includes the delivery, recovery, and disposal costs. All food waste from events can go in household green bins loose or wrapped in newspaper or paper liners (not bio-plastic).

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