Waste-Free Households Project


In November 2002, RoWAN's Waste Free Households project was launched with the support of external funding. The project objective was to provide structured support to 100 volunteer households in a deliberate attempt to become as close to waste-free as possible, using the existing infrastructure.


Strong ongoing communication between the project officer and volunteers was key and necessarily two-way - bottom up and top down. Households were required to measure different categories of waste, to document and report this information. Support had to be informative, practical and motivating.

A two-tier measurement system was adopted: weekly landfill measurements and monthly measurement of six categories of waste. Materials were categorised according to what happened to them eg: recycled, re-used or burnt. The monitoring programme also allowed for unusual one-off waste items. Both quantitative and qualitative information was gathered.

The Volunteer Support programme included both written material and a range of incentives, meetings and activities: monthly bulletins; fact sheets; local waste guide; equipment give-aways and structured individual & group feedback.


The project was a great success achieving a significant reduction in waste to landfill, increases in composting and recycling, and a real reduction in total waste arisings and sustainability. 100% of respondents to the Review Questionnaire stated that their waste minimisation behaviour had changed for good. The project results clearly demonstrate the effect of targeted education and support to changes in behaviour and lifestyle with respect to waste minimisation.

RoWAN’s Waste Free Households Project has achieved these results:

  • Landfill decreased by 58% and this decrease had been sustained
  • Total waste arisings (including home reuse, composting and burning) down by 22%
  • Total waste arisings (using same formula as local authority [landfill + recycling]) down by 39%
  • Recycling rate increased from 35% to 49% (using local authority formula)
  • Composting rates increased from 51% to 77% of all organic waste
  • The composition of the total waste raisings is fairly similar throughout the project.
  • The composition of landfilled waste did change over time, with both paper/card and organic decreasing markedly as these wastes were diverted.
  • The waste arisings for the individual materials: paper/card, plastic, glass and other wastes all decreased.

These findings show that volunteers made behavioural changes with quantifiable effects on their waste, ranging from waste avoidance to increasing recycling and composting.


View the Final Report, and Best Practice Guide and Waste Guide for further information.