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Reducing household waste

Photograph of vermiculture - composting waste using worms.

On this page: The three Rs, reduce, reuse, recycle, make it a habit, find out more

There are many things we can do around the home to reduce the amount of waste we produce.

The three Rs

By applying the three Rs of the ‘waste minimisation hierarchy’ in our daily lives, we can reduce the amount of waste going to our landfills.

Next time you put your rubbish bag out, take a good look at your rubbish. Ask yourself:

  • what packaging could I have avoided buying? (reduce)
  • what plastic container could I find a new use for? (reuse)
  • what could I recycle or compost? (recycle)


There are many ways you can reduce the amount of waste your household produces, such as:

  • choose long-lasting instead of disposable items.
  • choose products with minimal/recyclable packaging.
  • buy in bulk to reduce the amount of packaging.
  • mend broken items when possible.

Love Food Hate Waste logoLove Food Hate Waste

New Zealand families waste about $560 each year on food which is thrown uneaten into the rubbish bin. This adds up to a staggering $872 million for the whole country. It also results in 122,000 tonnes of edible food going to landfill and generating greenhouse gases.

This year, we're part of the national Love Food Hate Waste NZ campaign which aims to turn this around, by inspiring and enabling people to waste less food. 

Some facts

  • Globally the UN Environmental Programme estimates that a third of the food produced for human consumption is wasted.
  • In New Zealand, we throw away 122,547 tonnes of food annually, enough to feed 262,917 people - or double the population of Dunedin - for a year. New Zealanders spend $872 million a year on food that will be thrown away uneaten.\
  • The average Kiwi household sends the equivalent of three shopping trolleys of edible food to the landfill each year (about 79kg). For some families that is around $560 worth of food going to waste.
  • Bread is the most wasted food item, with 20 million loaves thrown away each year – and that doesn’t include the bread we throw to the birds! 
  • Eliminating this food waste would have the same effect as reducing CO2 equivalent emissions by 325,975 tonnes – equivalent to planting 130,390 trees or taking 118,107 cars off the road for a year.
  • The food wastage figures are based on national research that included surveying 1,365 people, examining the contents of 1,402 household rubbish bins and giving 100 families a diary to record their food consumption and disposal for a week.
  • 89% of Kiwis believe wasting food is wrong.
  • The Love Food Hate Waste campaign is being run by 60 councils across the country. Similar campaigns overseas have resulted in significant reductions in food sent to landfill – by 18% in the UK. Such a reduction in New Zealand would see 41,224 tonnes diverted from landfills annually. 

For practical tips on how to reduce your own food waste and save money visit or check out their Facebook page.

Image about food waste in New Zealand


There are many household items that can be reused around the home or given to another person to reuse. Here are a few places you can take unwanted reusable household items:

  • books and magazines – hospitals, doctor’s waiting rooms, schools, kindergartens, second-hand book shops.
  • toys - hospitals, doctor’s waiting rooms, kindergartens, opportunity shops.
  • good used clothing and household items – opportunity shops, local church.


Worried about what to do with different types of waste? Here are some ideas for making the best of what you’ve got:

From the house:

  • Cans - kerbside recycling, or take to a refuse transfer station for recycling.
  • Glass - kerbside recycling, or take to a refuse transfer station for recycling.
  • ‘Green’ kitchen food scraps (no meat/fat/grease/dairy products) - compost heap.
  • Paper - kerbside recycling, or take to a refuse transfer station for recycling.
  • Plastics (types 1 and 2) - kerbside recycling, or take to a refuse transfer station for recycling.
  • Vacuum cleaner dust - compost heap.
  • Mobile phones - give your old mobile phone to Starship Children's Health, where phones are on-sold or recycled with profits keeping the Starship National Air Ambulance flying. Just take your old phone in to any Telecom, Vodafone or 2degrees store.

From the shed:

  • Car batteries - refuse transfer station.
  • Motor oil - refuse transfer station for recycling.

From the garden:

  • Animal manure - compost heap.
  • Garden waste - compost heap.

Find out where your local recycling facilities are located and what they will take for recycling.

Make it a habit

People who succeed at recycling make it part of their day-to-day routine. Try some of the following tips while at the supermarket or at home:

At the supermarket

Reduce the amount of waste you produce by reducing the amount of packaging you take home.

  • Buy larger sizes, concentrates and refills.
  • Check to see if you can recycle the packaging, for example, paper, cardboard, glass, cans and plastic types 1 and 2.
  • Take your own shopping bags or box to take your shopping home in.

In the kitchen

Make recycling easier:

  • Rinse tins, plastics and glass when you’ve finished washing the dishes.
  • Sort your recycling straight after rinsing.
  • Keep your kerbside recycling crate close by so it’s easily accessible.
  • Have a container for your kitchen scraps and add them to your compost (remember no meats or fats).

In the garden

Composting is a great way to reuse your kitchen and garden waste. Try these composting tips:

  • Sprinkle your compost with water to it keep moist and add a shovel of soil now and then.
  • Don’t add any dairy products, meat, fat or cooking oil.
  • Don’t add any diseased plants or persistent weeds such as oxalis and dock, to your compost.

Find out more

Find out about reducing business waste.