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Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

This website is adapted from Going Greener Together, used under creative commons licence CC-BY-NC and is run by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations. Find out more

Waste & reuse

Cut down on waste to save energy and create a more circular economy

We need to rethink our relationship with 'stuff' if we are serious about tackling climate change. The circular economy is about getting people and organisations to consume in new ways, where we avoid landfill.

Reduce the amount of waste you produce by avoiding unnecessary printing, avoiding food waste and considering every purchase carefully. Try to think ahead before using anything, is it necessary or is there an alternative that you could do/use to reduce waste. Engaging with your staff, volunteers and the people who use your spaces is essential to change old habits.

You should especially reduce using single use items as much as possible such as paper towels, plastic cups and bottles, and cheap pens. Have a think about any single use items your organisation uses or purchases. Can you find sustainable alternatives?

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Make sure that you're recycling properly - this means ensuring that you separate waste out by whether it's paper, plastic, glass, metal or food. This helps reduce contamination (which might mean waste ends up not being recycled).
Check locally to find out exactly what can and can't be recycled in your area.

Make it as easy as possible for people using your premises to recycle by having separate, clearly labelled bins. If you can, remove individual waste paper or kitchen bins to encourage people to use the recycling bins instead. Having visible recycling facilities can also help keep it in people's minds, and can hopefully encourage them to think about what they buy and use.

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Rather than buying new equipment (especially if you will only need it occasionally), see if you could borrow from another organisation.

Renting equipment might be more cost-effective than buying and reduce waste. Renting equipment is a great way to make sure you only have what you need, particularly if you would only need some equipment for a short time.

Could you start of library of things in your building or community to encourage sharing of equipment? Or organise a collection of old phones and other devices from your staff and wider community. Device refurbishment projects can give these a new lease of life.

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It is easy to think that there is plenty of water in Scotland. However, as our climate changes, we will experience water shortages more often, and also be at greater risk of floods as the land is not able to soak up excessive rainfall.

Energy use is also a big factor in water production. Scottish Water is one of the largest single users of electricity in Scotland- collecting, treating and pumping drinking water into buildings, and waste water out for treatment before it is returned to the environment. 

It is important to regularly check that plumbing and pipes are well maintained, and to install water saving devices where possible. 

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Plastic takes a lot of energy and fossil fuels to create, takes forever to decompose and impacts negatively on animals and nature. Single use plastic in particular is a big issue. 

By reducing the amount of disposable plastic purchased and thrown away across your organisation you can cut emissions, protect the natural resources and reduce the amount of waste ending up in landfill. 

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Always consider repair options before throwing equipment away e.g. did you know you can buy new keyboard stickers when the letters fade on keyboards?

Instead of just throwing things away, see if there are affordable ways to repair them - this saves you money as well as saving the planet as you won't have to buy new. Getting equipment repaired by local small businesses also supports your local economy. 

Repair cafes and community projects are also springing up all over Scotland, supported through the Share and Repair network - check and see if there is one near you.

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Litter spoils the places where we live and work. Keep Scotland Beautiful’s evidence shows that problems such as litter, dog fouling, graffiti and flytipping are worse for those living in our poorest communities. 

Not only that, they are getting worse. Littered and dirty areas are contributing to poor health and well-being: litter is a social justice and environmental issue.

There is lot of support available to organise or join a litter pick in your local community as part of the Clean Up Scotland campaign.

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Some tech providers will do this for you when you upgrade, but if there's still some life left in your device (such as phone, laptop, computer or tablet) why not give it to a new home.

Send it to get refurbished and give it a new lease of life. There are lots of charities provide electrical (and other) recycling schemes. Do a bit of research and see what you can find before throwing things away.

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