Reducing waste - saving energy and money

Harlow Council recognises the importance of reducing energy usage and waste in both its own operations and across the district. Harlow Council are continually working towards reducing our own carbon footprint and waste, and we would encourage residents and local businesses to do the same. Every year, thousands of tonnes of unnecessary waste are sent to landfill. By reducing what we consume we can prevent waste and save energy, water and resources.

What can I do to reduce energy and waste?

Below are some ideas to help you reduce energy and waste and some could save you money:

  • Think before you shop - buy only what you need, use second-hand items, rechargeable batteries, buy items with less packaging and reduce your food waste by planning your meals
  • Leave unnecessary packaging at the shop - buy concentrated products such as fabric conditioner and washing up liquid, which go much further
  • Grow some food - reducing the need for excess packaging and unnecessary food miles
  • Avoid taking home more plastic carrier bags - choose reusable shopping bags and keep them handy
  • Use your garden and food waste to compost
  • Having a clear out? - find out what to do with Textiles, furniture and electrical items
  • Help to stop unwanted advertising mail - put a ‘No Junk Mail’ sticker on your letterbox and contact the Mailing Preference Service and Royal Mail
  • Reduce paper waste by reading newspapers online and ebooks
  • Use water wisely - drink tap water instead of bottled water and don't leave taps running
  • Use reusable cloth nappies
  • Green travel - use travel options that minimise emissions from your journey
  • Home energy usage and insulation - make your energy use as efficient as possible and insulate your home as much as possible
  • Reduce you energy bills by registering during the Essex Energy Switch
  • Home renewables - consider how you could generate your own energy

Food waste

We throw away 7 million tonnes of food and drink from our homes every year in the UK. Wasting food costs a family £700 a year. Reducing food waste can save a family up to £60 a month!

Top Tips on Reducing Food Waste:

  • Check what you have at home before you shop.
  • Make a list - it saves time and money.
  • Shop with meals in mind - you'll end up throwing less away.
  • When shopping, check the best before and use by dates and choose longer dates for food you won't eat right away.

Find out how you could reduce you food waste and save:

Food miles

'Food miles' is a way of describing how far food travels from the farmer who produces it to the consumer who eats it. That includes the journey from farm to processor, then from processor to retailer and finally from retailer to consumer. It includes travel within the UK as well as between countries. Transporting food large distances, whether it travels by lorry or plane, generates significant carbon dioxide emissions, which lead to climate change. In addition, the further food has to travel, the longer it spends in transit meaning vitamins are lost and nutritional values inevitably decline.

Food miles facts:

  • Food transport for UK consumption accounts for around 30 billion kilometres of vehicle travel every year and accounts for around 25% of all mileage clocked up by lorries in the UK.
  • The average UK family spend £189 every year on fuel visiting the supermarket to do their weekly shopping.
  • Around half of all vegetables and 95% of all fruit consumed in the United Kingdom are produced overseas.
  • The amount of food air-freighted around the world has risen by 140% since 1992.
  • The average number of miles travelled from farmer to plate for all vegetables for local produce and those conventionally sourced are 56 miles and 1,494 miles respectively

Boy compostingComposting

Essex County Council has teamed up with to provide an exclusive offer of home compost bins and other great green products. Composting at home turns most kitchen and garden waste into a rich compost to keep your garden blooming year after year.

Regular gardening can create lots of waste but home composting is an easy way to reuse your cuttings, raw vegetable peelings and tea bags for your own benefit.

You can carry out composting at home by just heaping your garden waste and food waste in a corner of your garden or by using a compost bin. You can make your own compost bins out of old pallets, tyres or carpet for example or you can buy a compost bin from a local DIY store. As well as helping to do your bit for the environment, home composting will provide you with a free supply of good quality compost, which will benefit your garden.

  1. Composting at home is easy, all you need is a mixture of garden clippings and kitchen peeling
  2. It’s free, once you have bought your compost bin or built a heap.
  3. Essex County Council helps residents get started by providing low cost compost bins and a helpful online guide

Recycle unwanted items

Harlow Council is committed to ensuring waste is diverted from landfill wherever possible.

Many residents have items of bulky waste (such as furniture) and electrical items they wish the Council to collect. We charge for collection of non-electrical items. In order to prevent bulky waste going to landfill, we have launched, with local charity ECCO, a bulky waste re-use scheme. More information on the Bulky Re-use Scheme

Find out what you can do with your unwanted clothes, shoes and fabric items.More information on Textile recycling

There are other recycling and selling sites available and some are free to list:

Real cloth nappiesCloth nappies

Disposable nappies may seem to make life easier, but they create huge amounts of rubbish that can take hundreds of years to decompose in landfills. Switching to cloth nappies for all or part of the time can make a difference. A baby in disposables will need between 5,000 to 6,000 nappy changes in total, as opposed to 25 cloth nappies hanging on your washing line. Over 2.5 years the cost of disposable nappies soon adds up and you could save up to £1000 per baby by using cloth nappies. If you don’t want to wash them, you can join a nappy laundering service which will do it for you. For more information and how to claim £30 back against the purchase of any cloth nappies or laundering fees visit Love Essex - nappies website.

Green travel

One way to reduce our carbon emissions is to consider travel options that minimise emissions from your journey though not using fossil fuels. Options such as cycling, or using transport which uses fossil fuels as efficiently as possible by carrying many passengers, such as a train, can reduce emissions.

Transport facts:

  • Using in-car air conditioning significantly increases fuel consumption.
  • The most efficient speed depends upon the car in question but is typically around 55 - 65mph. Faster speeds will greatly increase your fuel consumption.
  • Idling to heat the engine wastes fuel and causes rapid engine wear.
  • Accessories such as roof racks, bike carriers, and roof boxes significantly affect your car's aerodynamics and reduce fuel efficiency, so remember to remove them when not in use.
  • A cold engine uses almost twice as much fuel and catalytic converters can take five miles to become effective.
  • Check your tyre pressure regularly - under-inflated tyres can increase fuel consumption by up to 3%.
  • In the UK, 58% of car journeys are less than 5 miles and 25% are less than 2 miles.
  • In the UK, 70% of all journeys to and from work are by car.
  • In the UK, bus and coach travel account for just 1% of all road travel.

Home energy usage and insulation

There are many ways to reduce energy consumption and help to tackle climate change. One of the most cost effective ways in which residents can do this is to install loft and cavity wall insulation. Around half of heat loss in a typical home is through the walls and loft. Data from Energy Saving Trust (2009) shows that if your home does not have effective cavity wall and loft insulation, you could be wasting over £265 every year: Cavity wall insulation typically saves £115 on fuel bills and 610kg of carbon dioxide (CO2). Installing 270mm of insulation in a loft with no existing insulation typically saves £150 on fuel bills and 800kg of CO2. Installing cavity wall and loft insulation will help to prevent this heat loss and save you money on your heating bills.

Energy Saving Trust website - home energy saving quick wins

Home energy facts:

  • By installing simple energy efficiency measures such as loft and cavity wall insulation and remembering to switch of lights and appliances, the average household could save around two tonnes of CO2 a year.
  • Installing cavity wall insulation could save the average home £120-£160 on their annual energy bills and if everyone in the UK with gas central heating installed an A-rated condensing boiler it would save around 13 million tonnes of CO2 every year and almost £1.8 billion per year on household energy bills.
  • Installing 270mm of loft insulation could save the average home £180-£220 on their annual heating bills and if all homes in the UK with cavity walls installed cavity wall insulation annual emissions of CO2 would be reduced by nearly 7 million tonnes.
  • Energy saving bulbs use just 20% of the energy of a standard bulb (saving around £8-£10 each every year) and last for up to 12 years.
  • In the UK, 95% of the energy used by mobile phone chargers is wasted. It takes a forest with an area equivalent to 500 football pitches to absorb all the CO2 produced by chargers that are left plugged in every year.
  • The standby function can use up to 80% of the energy that the appliance needs to run, all of which is wasted, and each home in the UK has an average of 12 appliances on standby or charging. Switching your TV, DVD player and Sky box off every time (rather than leaving it on standby) can save up to £50 a year on your electricity bills.
  • Not overfilling your kettle can save up to £30 each year on electricity bills and if all homes in the UK did this for 1 year enough energy would be saved to power over 50,000 homes.
  • Remembering to switch lights off when leaving a room or going out can save the average household around £32 a year on their electricity bills.
  • Making sure that your thermostats are set correctly can save around £45 each year on your energy bills, as well as helping to keep your home healthy. The ideal temperature is 18-21°C for the heating thermostat and 60°C for the hot water cylinder thermostat.

More energy efficiency information:

Solar panel installation


Home renewables, and low-carbon microgeneration such as micro-CHP, are good for the environment and good for your pocket too. Low-carbon technologies such as wind turbines, solar panels and biomass boilers let you generate your own energy, saving money and reduce your carbon footprint in the process.

When you generate your own energy, you don't just save money by not having to buy that energy – you could also get paid for the energy you produce.

Please note you may require Building Regulations and/or planning approval for the installation of some renewable technologies.

Full details of renewable technologies and any grants available on: Energy Saving Trust website

Energy Saving Trust

The Energy Saving Trust provides lots of information on how to reduce your emissions through energy efficient measures for your home, travel and lifestyle. The Council works closely with the Energy Saving Trust and other local energy carbon reduction bodies. The Energy Saving Trust are also able to provide advice on reducing waste and water and put you in touch with relevant funding schemes and local services.

Water Wise

Waterwise provides handy tips on how to reduce the amount of water you waste and make your home more water efficient