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Do more than just recycle!

Date updated: 23/03/2023

I already recycle

Recycling is great and is very much essential, resulting in numerous benefits for our environment. However, it is important for us to take some further steps in order to live more sustainably. 

We can take these additional steps with a transition to a circular economy.

What is the Circular Economy?

Currently we take raw materials to make products, we use them and then throw away as waste. A circular economy is a more sustainable alternative in which products are made to last, thereby eliminating waste. The circular economy benefits business, society and the environment.

The circular economy goes one step further from recycling by redesigning products to be reusable and easier to repair instead of throwing them away if they are damaged or no longer needed.

Learn more about the circular economy at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation

What can I do?

Manufacturers need to adapt products to help us become more circular. We can champion the circular economy at work and home by consuming less and consuming better. Simple changes like carrying a water bottle or coffee cup to reuse when on the go can help reduce your single use consumption and waste.

Plastic Free City

London gets through 1.2 billion single-use plastic water bottles every year. Following circular economy practices can help you to reduce the amount of single-use plastics that you use. Try carrying a 'reuse kit' around with you when you are out and about - including reusable bags, bottle or coffee cup, cutlery and straw.  

Plastic Free Shopping

Reducing your personal plastic waste can seem a little daunting when you don't know how. That's why we've come up with a list of local plastic free City of London shops:

Bulk shops:

Get Loose - Hackney City Farm, E2 8QA

Re-Store - Hackney Downs Studios, E8 2BT


Lush - Liverpool Street & 107 Cheapside

Package free shopping:

Eataly - 135 Bishopsgate

Package free veg:

Borough Market - Southwark Street

Unpackaged refills:

Planet Organis - Spitalfields

Other suppliers also exist and inclusion in this list is not a recommendation by the City Corporation.

Circular Economy Accelerator PDF (5MB)
Date submitted: 12/10/21

More swaps for more circular living

Bags - try to remember to carry and reuse a bag when shopping instead of having to use a single-use plastic bag. 

Batteries - use rechargeable batteries or consider a portable solar panel charger over disposables to reduce your waste. 

Bikes - CycleExchange sells preowned bikes, you can even sell or exchange your current bike. Numerous bike shops within the City can repair or service your bike and just outside the City  bike repair classes teach you to fix your own bike.

Bulk shops - purchase your shopping in your own containers to eliminate packaging waste. Some Holland and Barrett and Organic Planet stores have unpackaged or refill products. There are lots of independent and bigger bulk stores just outside the City.

Cars – A more sustainable way to utilise cars for transport is through car-sharing. Car-sharing minimises the amount of harmful emissions as fewer cars are being used, reduces traffic and congestion, and there is a lessened need for parking.

Christmas Tree - renting a sustainable pot-grown Christmas tree can help reduce the number of trees thrown away every year after the festive period. 

Zipcar – Zipcar is the UK’s biggest and most popular car sharing club. Its city living made simpler, smarter and greener.

Uk Getaround – As a global carsharing leader, Getaround are on a mission to bring fresh air to cities and city-dwellers with convenient 24/7 access to shared cars nearby.

Cleaning products - to reduce waste consider zero waste or refillable brands, refilling bottles at bulk shops or making your own.

Clothes - Secondhand clothes do not consume further resources, are a lot cheaper, and reduce waste production. There are several platforms where you can buy and sell used clothes and shoes –

Depop – a fashion marketplace app where you can discover unique items. With a global community buying, selling and connecting to make fashion more inclusive, diverse and less wasteful.

Vinted - Vinted is a Lithuanian online marketplace and community that allows its users to sell, buy, and swap new or secondhand items, mainly clothing and accessories.

Unwanted clothes can also be donated to the City of London Give and Take Days - people give items they don't want any more and take items they do want, all for free.

For advice and guidance about how to wash and repair clothes so that they last longer, visit the Love Your Clothes Care and Repair webpage.

Composting - New research has found that almost half of the food waste in the average rubbish bin could have been composted. You can do your bit to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill or other more costly forms of treatment by composting your food and garden waste at home.

Visit Wiggly Wigglers, an award-winning bird food and natural gardening supplies company.

Recycle Now have a home composting guide that you can use for help and guidance with composting.

Electronic items – donate unwanted small electric items at Tech-Takeback events for repair and redistribution to charities/groups.

Repair Directory lists local businesses which can repair your broken electrical device. 

Face masks - with an estimated 129 billion masks being used worldwide every single month, making a reusable one can really make a difference. 

Food – The UK wastes £9.7 billion of food each year, with 3.6 million tonnes of food being wasted by the food industry every year. We must combat this in order to transition to a Circular Economy where waste is eliminated.

Too Good To Go – a mobile application that connects customers to restaurants and stores that have unsold food surplus.

Olio – Olio is a mobile app for food-sharing, aiming to reduce food waste. It does this by connecting those with surplus food to those who need or wish to consume such food.

To help reduce food waste in the first place, Love Food Hate Waste, and Out of Date are campaigns which provide guidance and advice.

Furniture – donate unwanted but good condition furniture to charities or share on platforms such as Freecycle and Freegle or the City of London Give and Take Days. 

Gifts – help reduce waste from unwanted gifts with charity donations, gift an experience, re-gift a gift, or give the gift of time or an act of kindness.

Library of Things - 'Library of Things' helps you save money and reduce waste by affordably renting out useful things like drills, sound systems and sewing machines from local spaces.

Menstrual hygiene – single use menstrual products create large volumes of waste, washable and reusable alternatives are available.

Milk bottles – getting your milk delivered to your house in a glass bottle and then returning the empties instead of buying it in plastic bottles can help reduce your plastic waste.

Mobile Phone - Fairphone adapts a modular design for easy repair.

Nappies - the UK disposes of around 3 billion disposable nappies each year. Reusable nappies are cheaper, better for the environment and for baby.

Paint – It is estimated that 50 million litres of decorative paint goes to waste in the UK each year. The average household has 17 part used paint tins stored in cupboards, garden sheds, and garages. The paint is often left unused or becomes damaged due to poor storage, causing the paint to become waste. There are sharing platforms for paint –

Community Repaint – Community Repaint work with community organisations, local authorities, retailers and more to, collect reusable paint and redistribute it to the community.

Personal care – to reduce your waste from cosmetics, toiletries and beauty products consider; zero waste or refillable brands; refill bottles at bulk shops; switch to soap bars or make your own.

Refills - refilling your own containers when shopping can help reduce your plastic consumption. The Refill app maps locations where you can eat, drink and shop without packaging by refilling and reusing your own containers. 

Sponges – dishwashing or cleaning sponge alternatives include reusable washable and plant-based compostable sponges or you could try a brush with plant-based bristles.

Straws – The UK consumes approximately 4.7 billion single-use plastic straws per year, contributing to 3570 tonnes of all plastic waste. Most of these straws do not enter the recycling process and take up to 200 years to decompose causing a detrimental impact on our environment. The UK government have actually enforced a ban on supplying plastic straws and stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds in England, marking yet another major step in the Government’s fight against single-use plastic waste to protect our environment and clean up our oceans.

Switch to straws made from metal, silicone, glass, straw, bamboo, or paper. These are all better alternatives to plastic.

Tin foil/cling film – store food leftovers at home in a Tupperware box or bowl covered by a plate. When on the go beeswax wraps are a reusable alternative, plant based wraps are also available.

Toothbrush – bamboo toothbrushes are a sustainable alternative to the trusty plastic toothbrush. Check the label when you dispose of it, bristles will need removing before throwing the handle in the compost bin. Upcycle or reuse your toothbrush to extend its life; old toothbrushes are great for cleaning jewellery, muddy shoes, hard to reach spots in the bathroom and household appliances. Be sure to keep the toothbrush separate and mark it so its not used on teeth.

Wipes – ditch the disposables used as part of your beauty routine, baby care or housework. Swap for bamboo or cloth which can be machine washed and reused. Pick up a handkerchief instead of a tissue, there are even paper towel, cotton wool and toilet roll alternatives.

Wrapping paper – creates waste for gift wrapping use more sustainable alternatives such as paper we may already have; old newspapers, maps, calendars. Mind the wrap explores more creative options.