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  • Writer's pictureEmma Napper

The Waste Hierarchy, what is it and how can you use it to help you live more sustainably?

What is The Waste Hierarchy?

The Waste Hierarchy aims to help you create less waste. There are 5 steps in this flow, with prevention being the most important and disposal being the last resort. 


By preventing waste from the get-go you can completely avoid waste altogether. Some easy ways to do this are by avoiding packing when possible eg when buying fruit and vegetables choose loose items and either don’t bag them or bring your own reusable produce bags.


Reducing waste when possible can be easier than you think. Similar to prevention think about ways you can avoid waste or cut it out. Use bulk food stores like GoodFor to refill everything from your pantry staples and treats to cleaning and bathroom products. By using the containers you already own, you're reducing the amount of waste you'll create


We should always reuse materials whenever possible. I’m sure many of us have used an ice cream container as a lunch box or a fizzy drink bottle as a water bottle. By reusing items for similar purposes, we can help keep them away from landfills. If the items are no longer fit for their initial purpose then it’s time to get creative and see what else you can use them for. You might use a bowl with a crack as a pot for a plant or a wooden single-use fork to keep the plant upright.

Recycle or Compost:

Recycling is something that has become very commonplace in today's society which is great! When you’re unable to reuse an item make sure to find out how you can effectively recycle it. Earlier this year, Aotearoa made changes to our recycling system so that it’s consistent across the whole country. If you’re not up to speed on these changes yet, you can read more about them here. Remember that only around 9% of the plastic that’s ever been made has been recycled, so reducing and reusing are much better options to begin with.

Of course, the Foodprint team are big on composting food scraps too. Composting it important for the parts of food that are not edible. By composting food scraps and feeding them back to your garden, you’re keeping those nutrients in the food system and preventing the food from releasing methane as it breaks down in landfill. 


With items like smartphones and other electronic devices, these can’t be easily recycled but often precious metals like copper can be recovered from these to be used in new products. Some electronics stores accept old phones and other electronics or your local Environment Centre or Council will have information online about where these can be given new life.


Disposal is the absolute last resort when you have no other choice. We want to avoid sending items to landfills whenever possible so make sure you check that an item can’t be reused, recycled or recovered before you throw it in the bin. 

Next time you go to throw something in the bin, we suggest you have a think about what else you can use the item for and try to use the highest option on the waste hie

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