The best way to prevent waste is by removing its production at source. Ask your local retailer to charge customers for carry bags. Industry should be encouraged to build products which last or can easily be recycled. We need action to ensure the producer pays directly for controls and disposal of waste. For example, a waste and pollution tax. If this or a similar system of incentive and disincentive was applied and enforced on industry there would be a remarkable improvement in the quality of the environment.
We need comprehensive recycling facilities with separate components of waste collected by councils, not the voluntary system currently operating.
We can set higher targets for reducing waste. For example, halving waste in five years. This could be achieved if legal limits were made on packaging.
To reduce air pollution, walk, cycle and make greater use of public transport. If you really have to use the car, try car sharing and combining errands into one trip. Keep your engine properly tuned and tyres at the correct pressure.
Buy water-based or low-solvent paints, preservatives, varnishes and glues. If you must use solvent-based paints keep the lid on the tin as much as possible to prevent evaporation of hydrocarbons. Use a brush or roller rather than a spray. Avoid household products that contain hydrocarbons. These include cleaning agents, furniture polish, fabric softeners, hairspray, nail varnish, shaving cream, car waxes, lubricants and aerosols generally.
Avoid bonfires. If you must burn off choose a day when there is suitable air quality. Daily information on current air quality, and health advice for when it becomes poor, are usually available through your local government website.
To control noise pollution we can introduce penalties for car and burglar alarms. We can research ways of making roads quieter. We can establish noise control zones for cars and aircraft.
All methods of domestic waste disposal create some problems, yet waste has to be disposed of somewhere. If disposal methods are properly managed environmental impact can be minimised.
We can reduce the number and size of landfills. Landfills can be designed so that the methane gas they produce can be harnessed to produce significant quantities of energy. Some experts consider that energy equivalent to 2 million tonnes of coal could be produced by landfill sites, and 27 million tonnes of landfill waste has an energy equivalent of 9 million tonnes of coal.
Waste can also be converted to Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF). These pellets may be used in industrial boilers in place of fossil fuel.
Incineration of waste reduces the weight of the waste by about two-thirds and its volume by 90%. High temperatures and safety controls are essential for plastics and toxic materials. Incineration can be a valuable source of energy. In Switzerland 80% of domestic waste is disposed of by incineration with heat recovery.
Unnecessary waste can be avoided. Products can be designed to be re-used and materials can be recycled. Deposit schemes can also encourage the re-use of containers, particularly for beverages.
We can separate household waste at home for recycling. The organic component of waste can also be separated and recycled by composting and in doing so will enrich the soil.
There must be an outlet for the recycled material, but the price paid for 'scrap' materials may not be high enough to justify recycling on economic grounds alone. As waste disposal options become more expensive the economics of recycling become more favourable - but recycling cannot always make a profit. Some financial support in the form of government subsidies for recycling may therefore be necessary. The packaging industry will also have an important role in clearly marking packaging materials suitable for recycling.
Ocean and river water standards can be much higher. Beaches can be cleaned up and restored to a state of health where they are fit to be used for recreational swimming again. The coast should not be a dumping area for sewage, including treated sewage. Regulations can be introduced and enforced to ensure clean and safe river and marine waterways.
Sewage can be biologically treated and converted into fertiliser. We can have enforced controls on the agricultural practice of contaminating water supplies with pesticides pollution. Heavier fines can be imposed on offenders. We can phase out pesticides and impose an immediate ban on their use in water catchment areas.
We can have sustainable methods of catching fish.
Recreational and commercial vessels should not be allowed to get away with the discharge of their sewage directly into the seas and oceans just off our coastline. All vessels should be required to carry a toilet treatment system which complies with an agreed Standard. All ports should have a sewage receival station which recreational and commercial vessels are compelled to use.