Shocking facts about waste - and what you can do about it

Posted by Steph Elswood on

This week we saw the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. With the theme for this year’s Earth Day being “climate action”, we wanted to investigate how we can contribute to slowing climate change.

As individuals, we can start by taking responsibility for our own ecological footprint: considering what we eat, how we travel, the water and energy we use and how we spend our money as consumers.

We took a look at some shocking statistics around fashion, food and water waste, and how we can do our bit.


Fast Fashion

Did you know?

  • Production of fabric is a huge carbon emitter, releasing the equivalent of 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere – more than international flights and shipping combined.
  • Every single second, 2,625 kilograms of clothing becomes waste that needs dealing with in some way. This is enough to fill the Empire State building one and a half times every day, and Sydney harbour every year.
  • Nearly 70 million barrels of oil are used each year to make the world’s polyester
  • The annual footprint of a household’s newly bought clothing, along with the washing and cleaning of its clothes, is estimated to be equivalent to the carbon emissions from driving an average modern car for 6,000 miles
  • The average garment is worn only ten times before disposal
  • UK adults only wear 44% of the clothing they own

What can you do?

  • Buy second hand
    Almost half of people in London never buy new clothes second-hand! An increase of 10% in second hand sales could save: 3% carbon, 4% water, 1% waste per tonnes of clothing.
  • Wear it for longer
    Extending the life of clothes by an extra nine months reduces its carbon, water, and waste footprint by around 20-30% each, and cuts the cost in resources used to supply, launder and dispose of clothing by 20%.
  • Support sustainable businesses
    Businesses like Stay Wild Swim and Tala (featured in a previous blog post) use recycled fabrics and ensure their supply chain is as sustainable as possible.


Food Waste

Did you know?

  • In UK households we waste 6.5 million tonnes of it every year, 4.5 million of which is edible. Those 4.5 million tonnes are enough to fill 38 million wheelie bins, or 90 Royal Albert Halls. It’s a lot, but we have the power to change this.
  • Global food waste generates 22 million tonnes of greenhouse gases – that’s four times more than all aeroplanes put together! If global food waste were a country, it would be third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the US
  • Half of the food we throw away can be eaten, keeping it out of the bin is good for our pockets and the planet combined.


What can you do?

  • Plan your meals
    Check your fridge, freezer and cupboard before going shopping, and make sure you shop with a list! That’ll ensure you don’t buy what you already have, and you only buy useful things you’ll use.
  • Store food properly
    Chill your fridge out and keep it at a lovely cool temperature of 5°C or below! Keep fruit and vegetables in their packaging until you’re ready to use them. Potatoes and onions should be kept out of the fridge, in a cool, dark place. If you aren’t going to eat it straight away, remember you can always freeze food before the use-by date. Eat leftovers within a couple of days after cooking. Make sure you seal packaging or wrap foods properly after opening. And keep an eye on use by dates! A helpful A-Z on food storage can be found here.
  • Eat what you buy
    Try buying loose fruit and vegetables – this means you’ll get the amount that you need, rather than buying a huge bag and end up chucking about half of them in the bin! Make the most of fridge dregs and pantry stores by throwing together stir fries, stews or soups. 


Water waste

Did you know?

  • The OECD reports that around 70% of freshwater withdrawal is used by agriculture in the world and that the livestock sector is currently using about 20% of freshwater for feed production.
  • 287 litres of water are required to grow 1kg of potatoes or 1608 litres of water per 1kg of bread from wheat.
  • Baths and showers are accountable for the highest usage of water consumption in the home at around 34%

What can you do?

  • Eat more plants
    Reduce your carbon footprints by eating more plants! A quarter of all global greenhouse gas emissions come from food. 58% of this comes from animal products. 
  • Bathe smart
    Take showers rather than baths to save water. And while you’re at it, take shorter showers, and switch to a water saving shower head. It’s a money saver too - if every home in the UK took one minute off their shower every day it would save £215 million on our collective energy bills every year!
  • Fill the washing machine
    Surveys show that a typical load of washing is usually much less than the maximum capacity of the model, so stuff in a few extra shirts to make the most of your loads! And make sure you use the ‘eco’ cycle to save water while you’re at it.


Wasting time 

The most worrying waste of all is time! You can start immediately by taking small and simple actions toward preventing climate change – and making sure we see Earth Day’s 100th anniversary!



References & more information:


Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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