Lithium battery fires

Lithium batteries have caused fires in the rubbish lorries. Please do not put batteries in your waste or recycling bin. All batteries (including lithium batteries from e-bikes and e-scooters and other re-chargeable devices) can be taken to the Reuse and Recycling Centre at Northumberland Wharf.

Reduce your waste - top tips

Why you should reduce your waste

While reusing and recycling items are essential actions to take, reducing your waste should always be the first step. Reducing the amount of waste you produce means:

  • less of an impact on the environment,
  • your wallet, and
  • can even contribute to saving taxpayer money.

Reducing waste helps

  • preserve natural resources
  • save energy
  • reduce harmful greenhouse gasses
  • create jobs
  • limit the amount of waste going to energy from waste incineration
  • save money

Tower Hamlets Waste Reduction Map

Helps you find local businesses, such as repair shops, that can help you to reduce waste and reuse more.


Avoid food waste

love food hate waste logoFood production uses a lot of land, water, and energy. 25–30% of total food produced is lost or wasted every year and contributes 8-10% of total manmade greenhouse gas emissions.

  • The average London household produces 117kg of edible food waste each year. Without realising it, individual households waste approximately £600 of food.
  • The most common reason for food being wasted is that too much is prepared and cooked, then left uneaten and not stored for later

Reduce your food waste

  • Plan the meals you will eat on a weekly basis and eating the meals you plan.
  • Shop according to your meal plan by using a shopping list to avoid buying items which won’t get used.
  • Take a picture of what is in your fridge and food cupboards, so you know what food you have at home.
  • Do not buy more than you will eat and try and avoid impulse buying.
  • Try and keep to a recipe (i.e. measure your rice or pasta).
  • Buy loose items to avoid packaging where possible, like fruit and vegetables - loose fruit and vegetables is often cheaper than pre-packed alternatives.
  • Buy products with packaging that can be washed and used again (for example, glass jars)
  • Always check “use by” dates.
  • Buy plastic-free teabags or drinking loose leaf tea.
  • Buy staple food items in bulk, such as rice and flour.
  • Avoid multi-packs of small containers.
  • Take your own reusable shopping bags when you shop for food and avoiding plastic carrier bags.
  • Not shopping when you are hungry as this may encourage you to buy food that you won’t eat.
  • Use reusable water bottles, food containers for lunches/picnics, and coffee cups instead of ‘single use’ items.
  • Refill empty containers instead of buying new
  • Store your food well so it lasts as long as possible by keeping an eye on ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates.
    • Give yourself enough time to eat or freeze food
    • Check your fridge is set to a cool enough temperature so it is working effectively.
    • Freeze leftover food makes it last longer and will save you money.
  • Create new meals with any leftovers you have. Check out these rescue recipes for ideas on how to use leftovers in other meals.
  • Home composting food waste naturally turns into a material called compost which is full of nutrients and can be added to soil in your garden or indoor plants.

Shop smarter

Shopping smarter reduces the amount of waste we produce and can save money too. It’s easy, doesn't take any extra time, and it makes a big difference.

Think before you buy

  • Ask yourself: do I really need this? Can I borrow or rent it instead? Can I buy it second-hand?
  • Choose versatile items. Look for things with multiple uses, like a scarf that can also be a blanket or a container that can hold a variety of different items.
  • Buy long lasting and repairable items. Invest in quality products that will last and can be easily fixed when they break.

Reduce waste when clothes shopping

Reduce waste when shopping for the home

  • Using low energy lightbulbs. They save energy and money on your bills.
  • Buy household items, such as cleaning supplies and toilet paper in bulk.
  • Buy items that are longer lasting than disposable items, such as rechargeable batteries.
  • Plan eco-friendly parties including using real dishes and cutlery, instead of disposable ones. Avoid using balloons, single use wrapping paper, and glitter.
  • Buy secondhand furniture and appliances.
  • If you have items that you don’t want, donate them to a charity shop. Some even offer collection. You could also donate or sell them through buy and sell websites or social media groups.

Avoid single-use plastics

  • Carry a reusable bottle - use the Refill app to find a place to fill up your water bottle for free. Many cafes, restaurants and bars are also happy to refill your bottle too.
  • Using a reusable travel mug -  Many cafes offer discounts if you use your own cup.
  • Using your own lunchbox - you can use your own lunchbox to grab and store food on the go.
  • Carrying your own non-disposable cutlery – take a spoon or fork (or spork) with you so that you can avoid plastic cutlery.
  • Get your milk delivered - there are still places where you can get milk delivered in glass bottles, which are then collected and reused.
  • Carry reusable shopping bags – there has been an 85% drop in single use shopping bags in the UK since the plastic bag charge was introduced. Carry foldaway reusable bags with you so you will not need a single-use bag.
  • Give up cling film – storing food in reusable bags and containers is a good way to avoid cling film. Other reusable ideas are cloth or silicone toppers to cover bowls, pots and pans. You can also get beeswax wraps to cover your food.
  • Switch to reusable razors – many people are switching to razors that have replaceable blades (like safety razors). These can save you money in the long run.
  • Switch to non-plastic chewing gum - chewing gum is made from plastic and can be swapped for plastic-free alternatives on the market.
  • Switch to bars of soap – by switching from shower gel to bars of soap, you can easily reduce the amount of single-use plastics you consume.
  • Switch to reusable sanitary items - there are many reusable alternatives to tampons and pads such as menstrual cups, period underwear and washable cotton pads and liners. These reusable alternatives are available online, in chemists and in health stores.

Repair, don’t replace

In our fast-paced world, it's tempting to simply toss aside anything that breaks or shows signs of wear. But before you throw that item away, consider the power of repair. Mending and fixing not only saves you money, but it also reduces waste and extends the life of your belongings.

Start your repair journey with these steps:

  1. Assess the damage: Before diving in, take a good look at the item and identify the problem. Is it a loose button, a broken zipper, a chipped piece of furniture? Understanding the issue will help you determine the best repair approach.
  2. Gather your tools: You don't need a fancy toolbox to do basic repairs. Often, a simple sewing kit, screwdriver set, or some glue can work wonders. For more complex tasks, you might need to borrow or rent specialised tools.
  3. Consult the internet: The internet is a treasure trove of repair resources! Websites like iFixit offer detailed repair guides for almost any gadget imaginable. YouTube tutorials can also be incredibly helpful, providing visual demonstrations of repair techniques.
  4. Consider upcycling: Sometimes, a broken item can be transformed into something completely new. A chipped mug can become a planter, a torn shirt can be repurposed into a tote bag, and old furniture can be refurbished or given a new purpose. Upcycling is a great way to get creative and reduce waste.
  5. Ask for help: Don't hesitate to reach out for help. Local repair shops and community centres often offer repair workshops or have knowledgeable staff who can guide you.
  6. Get involved in the council organised repair and reuse events


Remember, repairing takes time and patience. But the satisfaction of giving your belongings a second life and learning new skills is well worth the effort.

By embracing a repair mindset, you can make a big difference in reducing waste and living a more sustainable lifestyle. Remember, every item you repair is one less item that’s wasted.

Reduce paper waste

  • Set your mail preferences to paperless billing and banking.
  • Only print documents that you need
  • Reuse packaging materials
  • The Mailing Preference Service (MPS) is a free non-profit service. It allows subscribers to stop receiving unsolicited addressed mail by having your name removed from most mailing lists in the country.
  • You can also use a ‘no junk mail’ sign on your front door or post box to stop unwanted paper coming to your home such as brochures, flyers, and free newspapers. You can request a free 'no junk mail' sticker by emailing your name and address to