Waste minimisation at home

Every busy household produces waste. It’s right there in your face unless you find responsible ways to deal with it. That’s why the home a great place to start your waste minimisation journey.

Start with a waste audit…

A ‘waste audit’ involves looking at and documenting rubbish and recycling. It’s an effective way to see the types and amounts of waste you produce, and what alternatives you can use to reduce this.

To get a good understanding of waste minimisation and the waste hierarchy before getting started, check out the waste minimisation page.

An easy guide to conducting a waste audit can be found on the Plastic Free July website, but the basic steps involve:

  • gathering your rubbish and recycling bins together
  • separating their items into piles
  • estimating the amount or percentage of waste in each pile (weigh it if you can)
  • documenting the amount in a table or photograph
  • identifying one or two items to swap out to reduce or reuse.

Any change counts. You can do follow-on audits later on too, to find out how you’re doing on your waste minimisation journey and identify more items for reuse and recycling.

…Or focus on one room at a time

Another way to approach minimising household waste, is to focus on individual areas of the house one at a time. For example, you could start by looking at eco-swaps for bathroom waste and alternatives first, then move on to the laundry, the kitchen, and so on.

Remember though, it’s your waste minimisation journey, so make small changes that you feel comfortable with, based on where you’re at.


Swap plastic shampoo and shower gel bottles for soap bars. These can often be found package-free in bulk bin stores.

Replace disposable razors with safety razors, which allow you to change the blade (once it’s blunt) but keep everything else, saving on the waste. Some companies even take back used blades for recycling.

Use a regularly-washed flannel instead of make-up removal wipes, or use repurposed old textiles, plus a removal lotion. Some wipes – even the ‘flushable’ and ’biodegradable’ ones – can contain plastic fibres and other materials that clog up our waterways and don’t break down.


Grow your own fresh herbs at home – this will pack in some flavour while also saving on packaging.

Swap hard-to-recycle plastic wrap for reusable beeswax wraps to keep food fresh – you can even make your own.

Repurpose takeaway containers to store leftovers in the fridge for lunch the next day, or freezing for a later date.


Check your cupboards and make a list before shopping to avoid unnecessary food waste.

Avoid multi-pack items and buy in bulk where you can. It’s less wasteful and usually cheaper, too.

Use old (and clean) jars, containers, and bags to buy package-free produce such as nuts, grains, pasta, cereals, flour, etc. at supermarkets and bulk bin stores. Lots of supermarkets will now also accept containers for delicatessen items too.

Laundry and cleaning

Make your own environmentally-friendly cleaner from some basic pantry ingredients and citrus scraps – check out this recipe.

Swap paper towels for reusable cleaning cloths, or repurpose old textiles cut down to size – they won’t add much to the weekly wash.

Refill options are available for laundry detergents and soaps at bulk bin stores – just take your own container and weigh it before filling up.


Buy second-hand clothing wherever possible. There are a variety of ‘op shops’ across Hamilton, and your money will go towards a great cause.

Donate clothing that you no longer need or wear – it’s far better than sending them to landfill, and charities are always grateful to receive good quality, re-sellable items.

Check a friend’s wardrobe instead of buying new. There are also plenty of garment rental services online.


Ditch the disposables and try reusable nappies. They’re easy to use and will save you a heap of money in the long run.

Join a local toy library like toylibrary.co.nz where you can hire puzzles, games, learning activities and more, for a set period of time, rather than buying new.

Swap out material gifts for memory-making. Instead of the latest toy or gadget for every birthday and Christmas, consider whether there’s a museum, zoo, aquarium or other experience-based gift that your child would enjoy.