Waste routemap

Waste accounted for five per cent of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2019, with significant reductions in emissions from waste being due to changing waste disposal practices.


Waste accounted for five per cent of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2019, with significant reductions in emissions from waste being due to changing waste disposal practices. Methane was responsible for 70 per cent of waste emissions in 2018, resulting from biodegradable waste decomposing in landfill sites. Emissions from energy from waste plants increased by 100 per cent between 2013 and 2018, with further plants being constructed or planned.

Reductions in food waste can also reduce emissions while delivering co-benefits throughout supply chains and financial savings for residents. Councils can contribute to emissions reductions by reviewing waste and recycling practices and working with businesses and communities to lower the amount of waste being generated. Applying the waste hierarchy can prioritise reuse and recycling and circular economy approaches to waste management, with incineration and landfill becoming the last resorts. Reviewing procurement processes to cut consumption can build waste reduction into everyday activities. Engaging communities and businesses in waste reduction offers co-benefits including addressing food poverty, building skills through repair and reuse, and financial savings.

The waste routemap suggests interventions that could embed sustainability in council services with a focus on waste, complementing existing council projects and actions. It enables you to reflect on your work in this area and how things could be improved.

This is the beginning of an ongoing piece of work for the LGA. These interventions are a first draft and we will be adding and amending them based on initial feedback. We welcome your thoughts on how we can improve and grow what we have started. Please fill in the feedback form (opens in new tab) to let us know your thoughts.

How to use the routemaps

The routemaps provide a menu of interventions council staff can reflect on and consider applying to their role, team or service area. Some may require collaboration and partnership with colleagues, other service areas, businesses or communities. Others may be within the remit of individuals to explore.

The routemaps are not broken down by service area or council type, as the themes are cross-cutting and affect all councils and service areas. Instead, the routemaps present categories and sub-categories of interventions, based on their potential to drive change and achieve the project goal.

View the Leverage Map drop down

Some interventions councils could consider include:



  • Returning organic waste to local authorities as compost to use in projects.
  • Simplifying waste and recycling collections.
  • Using reusable coffee cups and other drinks containers instead of disposables.
  • Using only unavoidable waste to create energy and designing plants to be able to incorporate Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) equipment in the future.
  • Considering less frequent non-recyclable waste collections with weekly recycling and food waste collections, for example, Wealden District Council.
  • Constructing local authority processing facilities for biodegradable municipal waste to prevent landfill disposal, for example, Scotland Zero Waste Plan.

Place-based solutions

  • Retaining regional solutions and differentiation.


  • Making public water refill points available.
  • Promoting a water-bottle refilling scheme to reduce single-use plastic consumption.

Community projects

  • Giving meanwhile-use space (temporarily empty buildings) to creators who are upcycling or repairing items.
  • Setting a requirement to provide community infrastructure for repair shops, tool libraries, and so on.
  • Changing allotments policy so community groups can have allotments and grow for their communities – giving priority to these groups.
  • Supporting local veg box schemes that provide food with reduced packaging.

Council policy and regulation

Policy and regulation interventions relate to local council policies and strategies.

Waste policy

  • Developing strategies, policies and service plans that put consideration of waste at the heart of everything the council does. 
  • Applying the 'waste hierarchy' to prioritise waste reduction.
  • Enforcing existing regulations for excess packaging through Trading Standards.
  • Accounting for the real cost of waste.
  • Banning disposal of biodegradable municipal waste in landfill, for example, Scotland Zero Waste Plan.
  • Introducing an assisted collection service to support residents who can’t move waste containers for collection from the edge of their properties, for example, Three Rivers District Council.

Food policy

  • Changing allotments policy so community groups can have allotments and grow for their communities – giving priority to these groups.
  • Considering fresh food purchasing practices and reducing orders or freezing and storing produce to prevent waste.
  • Exploring opportunities to collaborate on development of a food strategy based on health and wellbeing, food security, the economy, sustainability and resilience, for example, Leeds City Council.
  • Supporting organisations that redirect surplus food, including commissioning caterers that use surplus food stocks and vegetables in public sector catering.


  • Making it council strategy to embed sustainability in every decision – measuring against sustainability, not just cost.
  • Establishing where the gaps and barriers in sustainable practice are and prioritise actions based on impact.
  • Considering regulation – whether it could drive change and whether it is needed.​
  • Aligning councils’ net zero targets and scope within regions/counties.

Planning policy

  • Introducing requirements for planning applications for large-scale developments to provide communal laundry rooms, rather than machines in each home.

Procurement policy

  • Considering how to minimise consumption through procurement, to reduce waste at end-of-use or through over-ordering.
  • Introducing a zero-waste procurement policy that bans single-use plastics, excess packaging, specifies recycled content, and favours appliances and goods that are repairable and recyclable.
  • Implementing a good food and catering procurement policy to require council-linked food services to produce an annually reviewed plan for reducing food waste and minimising its impact, for example, Bristol City Council.
  • Including green procurement policies in plans and contracts, for example, London Borough of Lambeth

Funding and investment

Funding and investment interventions relate to budgets and funding controlled and distributed by councils.


  • Providing funding to support community groups and grassroots organisations.
  • Applying for WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) funding through the Resource Action Fund to support resource efficiency projects on food, plastics, textiles, recycling infrastructure, and litter.


  • Encouraging investment in alternatives to plastic.
  • Investing in innovative solutions to explore new waste and recycling practices.


  • Developing the business case for capital projects to include consideration of waste production (and all sustainability aspects) through the build and lifespan of the building and assigning a 'cost' to it.
  • Accounting for the real cost of waste.


  • Investing in resources to support sustainability work.
  • Appointing waste reduction officers to inform households on how to dispose of waste correctly.


  • Surveying suppliers regarding plastics use, for example, Durham City Council.
  • Ensuring contracts consider alternatives to single-use plastic.
  • Making minimising plastic use a condition for organisations taking part in authority-run events and exhibitions.


  • Making being sustainable the default and more affordable option, so it is not regressive or negatively impacting the most vulnerable people in society.

Knowledgeable exchange

Community engagement

  • Providing funding to support community groups and grassroots organisations.
  • Encouraging ground-up initiatives.
  • Appointing waste reduction officers to inform households about how to dispose of waste correctly. 
  • Using apps such as Too Good to Go to reduce food waste.
  • Offering talks and support on recycling and waste to schools and community organisations, for example, Three Rivers District Council.
  • Using behaviour change projects to reduce waste and increase engagement with recycling facilities, for example, Bristol ‘Slim my waste’ project, Bristol City Council .
  • Providing support for people to plan healthy meals and reduce food waste.
  • Building residents’ knowledge and ability to grow their own food, for example, Derry City and Strabane District Council 'I can grow' project.


  • Working with headteachers to develop curricula that embed sustainability practices, such as growing food to eat at school and composting.
  • Embedding climate change in schools – curriculum, policies and practice.
  • Providing education for consumers at major life events, for example, when having a baby.
  • Providing continued education on sustainable behaviour beyond school.
  • Setting up waste and recycling visitor centres to educate people on waste, for example, Sunderland.
  • Work with local schools to educate children about the circular economy, for example, Colchester Borough Council and the University of Essex.


  • Holding workshops with finance officers, procurement officers and senior management from across councils to focus on resourcing.
  • Introducing reuse and repair centres where residents can learn new skills, including repairing bikes and clothing, for example, The London Borough of Hackney.


  • Using creative social media messaging to celebrate good work.
  • Communicating messages that will resonate with and motivate communities.
  • Including waste minimisation messages in climate emergency, public health and resilient recovery communications.
  • Considering sharing messaging to educate and encourage residents to use food waste bins, for example, Bristol City Council.
  • Linking with local media to share messages and achievements with the community.
  • Using county-wide external communication to ensure clarity and consistency in approach.
  • Ensuring internal communications to emphasise that sustainability applies to all roles and connect to co-benefits of embedding sustainability into services.

Collaborative working

External collaboration

  • Working with local businesses to share practices with others.
  • Supporting businesses to develop sustainable waste management policies.
  • Working with universities, colleges and businesses on product design.
  • Bringing local universities together with waste companies to work on anchor institutions’ (for example, hospitals, universities, businesses, schools) problems, to reduce costs and attract grant funding – allowing waste companies to invest in solutions.
  • Working within the local economy to develop solutions, for example, getting universities involved. 
  • Identifying products that are frequently thrown away and working with local universities to redesign circular solutions to enable reuse or dismantling for material reclamation.
  • Introducing a single-use plastic pledge to minimise the use of single-use plastic and help partners and suppliers adopt this approach, for example, Durham County Council.
  • Developing a food strategy based on health and wellbeing, food security, the economy, sustainability and resilience, with partners, for example, Leeds City Council food strategy.
  • Assisting businesses to adopt circular waste management practices to reduce food waste, for example, North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Circular Yorkshire project.

Internal collaboration

  • Working across departments to develop solutions.
  • Reviewing internal structures to reduce siloed working and promote genuine distributed responsibility.
  • Exploring opportunities to collaborate as part of a governance working group, with the potential to create a working group to lead on waste.

Knowledge sharing

  • Harnessing knowledge and expertise across the system, including the private sector.
  • Getting ideas from the private sector and industry groups like the National Association of Waste Disposal Officers (NAWDO) and the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) on sustainable waste management.
  • Sharing knowledge with other departments, organisations, businesses and communities.
  • Using free support for local authorities from the LGA (Greenhouse Gas Accounting Tool – Local Partnerships) and WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme), including benchmarking and guidance.


  • Using local strategic partnerships to bring institutions together to find solutions using anchor institutions.
  • Ensuring partners involved in strategic partnerships are at strategic level.
  • Linking up community garden groups and allotments with food banks.​
  • Using community networks to test new ideas.
  • Setting up repair and reuse networks to increase recycling and provide co-benefits, including wellbeing and inclusivity, for example, Pembrokeshire County Council – 11 repair cafes, library of things, and remanufacture workshops.

Systems working

Redesigning systems

  • Developing the business case for capital projects to include consideration of waste production (and all sustainability aspects) through the build and lifespan of the building and assign a 'cost' to it.
  • Identifying opportunities for greater engagement and efficiency in commercial waste and recycling collections and to reduce emissions from vehicles servicing multiple contracts for different businesses.
  • Creating a food waste system that uses anaerobic digestion to produce biogas and biofertiliser. Use biogas to produce electricity or upgrade it to biomethane to fuel ‘bio-buses', for example, Bristol City Council.

Circular economy

  • Considering all lifecycle stages, starting at the design stage and running through to treatment and disposal.
  • Creating a culture of reuse and repair.
  • Repairing items disposed of at recycling centres and selling them to fund projects or raise money for charity.
  • Applying circular economy ideas to reduce waste and use previously unused materials.
  • Supporting a ‘library of things’ to enable people to hire appliances and other items to reduce consumption.
  • Supporting a sharing economy for businesses, residents and councils to share resources and items.
  • Assisting businesses to adopt circular waste management practices, for example, North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP)’s Circular Yorkshire food waste reduction project.
  • Investing in processing facilities to enable the disposal of biodegradable municipal waste to be banned.
  • Developing a local reuse and recycling economy by educating residents on how to repair furniture and electrical products, for example, Newham Council.

Mindsets and beliefs

Behaviour change

  • Investing in behaviour change projects that focus on cost saving.
  • Removing incentives to over-consume – through behaviour modelling and interventions such as removing the profitability related to it (for example, through tax).
  • Encouraging the use of reusable coffee cups and other drinks containers.
  • Promoting changes in farming and eating habits to reduce food waste.
  • Check the LGA’s guide on behaviour change and the environment


  • Setting a good example of how waste can be managed sustainably.
  • Adopting an approach of the council being an influencer rather than doing all the work.


  • Supporting citizens to take responsibility and act sustainably.
  • Defining progress to enable evaluation of whether actions are making a difference.
  • Adopting distributed responsibility governance systems to empower staff across all services to act.


  • Thinking through the potential risks and unintended consequences of interventions and how to mitigate these.
  • Applying innovative thinking to planning, practice and problem solving.
  • Testing new ideas and not being afraid of failure.


  • Creating a culture of reuse and repair.
  • Supporting a shift to a service and experience-based economy.
  • Addressing equity and poverty before focusing on consumption – recognising consumer privilege.
  • Minimising plastic use as a condition for organisations taking part in authority-run events and exhibitions, for example, Telford and Wrekin.

Business norms

  • Repairing broken items.
  • Accounting for the real cost of waste.

Case studies

Pembrokeshire County Council

Share, Repair, Reuse Network

Pembrokeshire County Council’s Share, Repair and Reuse Network was launched in 2021. The network includes repair cafes, with individual specialisms, a library of things in Haverfordwest, and re-manufacture workshops that take, repair, upcycle and sell unwanted objects to support local charities.

The repair network includes training and workshops, providing skills training and job opportunities for residents and people who face barriers to work. The council works in close partnership with employment charities. The scheme enables people to access lower-cost solutions and has raised awareness of the benefits of a circular economy.

Developing a digital platform as well as considering the location of facilities has been key to community uptake and inclusion. Working in partnerships and using a proven business model that combines income and non-income-generating elements have also contributed to making the network a success.

Three Rivers District Council

Boosting Recycling Services

In 2019/20, Three Rivers District Council in Hertfordshire recycled 64.1 per cent of its waste – the highest recycling rate in England. The council attributes the high rate to several factors: co-operation with neighbouring councils, effective communication and community engagement, and a wide range of recycling services.

The amount of waste disposed of in general waste bins has reduced, which is linked to logistical practices – weekly collections of recycling and food waste and a reduction to fortnightly collections of general waste are responsible. The council also offers services for specialist waste items, collecting textiles and offering a reusable nappy discount scheme. Assisted collection services enable older residents and people with disabilities to recycle more waste and engage with schemes, increasing the accessibility of services.

Three Rivers focuses on education ahead of punitive measures, from addressing contamination issues, to delivering talks in the community and at schools. The council’s local plan also encourages waste minimisation through planning – developers are encouraged to build recycling infrastructure into applications.