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Top 5: Innovative Eco-Friendly Strategies

There is often a lack of harmony in the human world we make for ourselves, whether it's through pollution, urbanisation or environmental neglect. But there are ecofriendly innovations that have worked to redress the balance and lessen our impact on the natural world, all while benefitting society:

Plastic Bag Charge

Environmentalists and conservation organisations such as the Marine Conservation Society played a significant role in the introduction of the plastic bag levy in the UK. Having been initiated in Wales in 2011, and Northern Ireland and Scotland in 2013 and 2014 respectively, the number of plastic bags per hundred metres found on beach cleans was significantly reduced. And now after just one year of the levy in England the amount of single-use plastic bags found across UK shoreline has fallen by 40 percent!

WikipediaSome countries have gone even further with this issuing total bans and higher taxes on the bags, including Italy, France, Myanmar, Bangladesh, China and many states in the US. Hawaii for example issued a total ban on single-use plastic bags after recognising the detrimental effects on marine life, especially sea turtles mistaking them for food.   


The UK bag levy changed public opinion and behaviour in regards to single-use bags, with an Economic and Social Research Council funded study finding post-levy 90% of people take their own bags to shop. However, despite the success in the UK, MCSUK beach clean efforts found that although plastic bags are down, plastic bottles remain a huge problem.

Deposit Return Systems

flickr | Steven DepoloDeposit Return Schemes are already enacted in Germany, Australia and some US states, whereby charging a small fee for the purchase of a plastic bottle or aluminium can, and refunding it once it is returned to a collection point, ensures the drinks containers can be properly recycled instead of ending up as potential landfill.

There are calls to get this scheme implemented across the UK especially after the plastic bag charge showed an immediate effect on pollution. The Zero Waste Scotland group have been advocating the efficiency and environmental benefits for over a year, and have 78% of people in Scotland in favour of a 10p-20p DepositReturn.   

Reverse Vending Machines

WikipediaAnother ingenious way to ensure plastic containers get recycled was the installation of plastic compacting machines that would give deductions on public transport fares. Similar Reverse Vending machines around the world, for instance in Amsterdam and Sydney, also offer discounts off shopping bills or even a donation to charity per bottle.

In Germany these machines are positioned in supermarkets, and are in fact part of their Deposit Return System. Each bottle has a 15c-25c deposit depending on size; the more bottles you put in the more gets deducted from your bill.


This is a great scheme to reduce litter and help both consumers and charities, but Beijing put another environmental benefit into the scheme by putting the machines in train stations; the more bottles recycled the more knocked off your train fare, encouraging both recycling and use of public transport.

Germany's Duel Waste Collection and Green Dot Symbol


The Dual Waste Collection system was the result of legislation that made manufacturers and producers responsible for the waste management of their packaging. Manufacturers pay a license fee to the waste-management corporation DSD to dispose of their waste properly.

The cost of the license fee differs depending on type of material, the weight of packaging and the overall yearly production of said materials. The more sustainable a manufacturer the lower the fee, therefore encouraging producers to keep their packaging to a minimum, and only use sustainable or recyclable materials.

The Green Dot logo was created as a recognisable symbol of sustainability working in tandem with the Duel Waste Scheme companies, enabling those who pay the DSD licence fee use of the logo. This both notifies consumers of responsible, packaging-aware producers, as well as how to properly sort them to ensure processing and/or recycling in DSD facilities.

flickr | onnola

Germany's stringent colour-coded waste system further reinforces successful recycling, as if incorrectly sorted it is simply not collected until it has been resorted. This ensures fewer contaminated loads end up as landfill, as well as encouraging people to buy Green Dot products; less packaging means less sorting, plus assurance of recyclable materials actually being recycled.

Past Sell-by Date Supermarket

Wefood in Amsterdam sells food past its sell-by date to cut down on food waste. The store is run by volunteers and all profits go to charity, however the shop does rely on donations from producers, wholesalers and export/import, so stock can vary wildly in both number and condition.

flickr | U.S. Department of Agriculture

Selling "expired" food is legal in Denmark, so it is at the consumers discretion to purchase such food. Selling food past its sell-by date is illegal in many countries, but if legalised and kept on the shelves so people could use their senses to determine whether it's safe for consumption, literal tonnes of waste would be saved and many more people would have much needed access to food.

This strategy is a win for society and the environment as unnecessary expiration dates (and produce deemed "aesthetically displeasing") are responsible for the throwing away of 1.3billion tonnes of food every year. This massive amount of readily consumable food is enough to sustain the 1billion people that make up the global hunger crisis, but instead is left to rot in landfill, contributing to climate change.

If you would like to work on a project that using eco-friendly strategies check out our Zambia Eco Construction Project

By Thomas Phillips - Online Journalism Intern

Frontier runs conservationdevelopmentteaching and adventure travel projects in over 50 countries worldwide - so join us and explore the world!

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