First published: 23/06/2023 -

Last updated: 21/03/2024 -

Verified by our Editorial Panel

Protecting the Environment

We need to work together and take action to protect our environment and tackle climate change. Pollution to our air, land and water is harmful to our health and to the environment, and sounds and noise can also have impacts on our physical and mental health. Pollution is caused by things like harmful emissions from petrol and diesel vehicles, burning of fossil fuels (such as coal and gas), sewage and chemicals in our water, and litter and waste on our land and in our seas. It can lead to illnesses, such as respiratory diseases, reduce the amount of clean, drinkable water available and harm to animals and plants.  A cleaner environment is healthier, safer and improves our wellbeing. 

What can we do?

The way we live, where we work and how we enjoy our leisure time are all impacted by the quality of our local environment. Connecting with nature is also important to our mental health. We need to learn how to respect nature, to protect it, repair damage and do our bit to help reduce the impact of climate change. How can we all do this better?    

Arrow pointing right

Dispose of household waste responsibly

As householders, we have a waste duty of care. This means we must only transfer waste to someone authorised to accept it. As well as our usual weekly refuse, household waste also includes furniture, electrical items, building waste and green waste. By making sure that everything you're disposing of is handled safely and only passed to people authorised to receive it, we can protect the environment and human health. Check that the person or organisation you've chosen to take away your waste is a registered waste carrier on the Natural Resources Wales website.

Arrow pointing right

Don’t litter

Dropping litter or fly-tipping is illegal and can hurt people, wildlife and pets who may come into contact with poisonous chemicals or sharp objects. As well as making us feel unhappy about the places we live in or visit, it also costs money to clear up rubbish that could be better spent improving local environments. Where possible, it's better to reuse, donate and recycle unwanted items to keep materials in use and reduce waste. See the Keep Wales Tidy website for ideas on how to help keep your local area clean, and read the Welsh Government’s Litter and Fly-tipping Plan to learn about action being taken to help drive down the improper and illegal disposal of waste items in Wales.

Arrow pointing right

Use less plastic packaging

Manufacturing single-use plastic generates harmful emissions. It often doesn’t biodegrade and if it does, this can take a long time and break down into micro-plastics that harm soil, waterways and even the air. Littered plastic packaging also pollutes our seas.  

Arrow pointing right

Choose reusable products over single-use

Wales will be introducing a Deposit Return Scheme by 2025. This follows legislation to ban a number of single use plastics. We can also play our part by carrying reusable shopping bags, drinking coffee from a reusable cup, avoiding bottled water, purchasing clothes made of natural fibres, taking reusable cutlery with us and packing our own food containers.

Arrow pointing right

Be a responsible dog owner

Dog fouling carries harmful bugs which can lead to infection, asthma and even blindness, and the bacteria can live in soil long after the dog mess has decomposed. By law, dog owners must pick up faeces left by their dog in public spaces. Picking up after a dog is easy, and as well as in marked dog fouling bins, bagged dog fouling can also be disposed of in general litter bins. If there isn’t a bin nearby, take it with you to dispose of at home. See Keep Wales Tidy for more information.  

Arrow pointing right

Look after gardens naturally

For those of us with gardens, we can look after them more naturally by mowing the lawn less often and leaving grass clippings on the lawn once the job is done. This allows natural decomposition, which is a good source of nitrogen, needed by lawns. Avoiding toxic pesticides and weed-killers can also help you create a wildlife-friendly space – see the RSPB website for tips on non-chemical pest control

Arrow pointing right

Protect water

Try to use cosmetics, cleaning and gardening products that don’t contain chemicals which harm our environment. Reduce the number of products you have in the bathroom, use soap instead of handwash and shower gel and try making your own at-home cleaners with natural ingredients. Use less water, for example by limiting showers to four minutes where possible. Make sure you dispose of household chemicals and medicines appropriately. 

Arrow pointing right

Protect sewerage systems

Only flush or drain away natural human waste and toilet paper to help stop blockages, sewer flooding and pollution. Throw all wipes (even those which are labelled flushable can cause blockages), sanitary items, cotton buds and nappies in the bin. In the kitchen, wipe pans and other greasy items with a kitchen towel before washing them and place the kitchen towel in the bin. Pour cool unused cooking oil into a container to dispose or recycle if your local authority allows. Scrape food into a bin and not the sink. 

Arrow pointing right

Reduce chemicals in the air

Chemicals such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and some flame retardants affect indoor air quality and the health of ourselves and our family members. They’re found in things like paint, wood preservatives, carpets, furnishings and fittings, aerosol products and printer ink. Try to use fewer aerosols and switch to pump or roll-on. Always check the ingredients of what you’re buying; you can replace solvent paints with water-based, for example.   

Arrow pointing right

Think about cooking and heating

Burning coal and biomass (e.g. wood) contributes to household air pollution when used for cooking and outdoor air pollution when used for heating. Check efficiency ratings for home heating systems and cookstoves to use models that save money and protect health. Regular maintenance of our wood stoves, fireplaces, ventilation/air-conditioning systems and heat pumps to keep them operating efficiently and quietly, using cleaner fuels, using dry, rather than humid or coated wood, using air purifiers, alongside insulating our homes are some of the things we can do to improve the quality of our environment.  

Arrow pointing right

Drive less

Where possible, use public transport, cycling or walking to get around. Consider low or no emission vehicles if a car is necessary. Diesel vehicles, particularly older ones, are large contributors of black carbon which are carcinogenic for health and damaging to our climate. Drive less often and less fast to reduce fuel consumption and air and noise pollution 

Arrow pointing right

Prevent fires

Sometimes, fires occur naturally, ignited by heat from the sun or a lightning strike. However, with climate change leading to more frequent heatwaves, the risk of wildfires caused by human carelessness are on the rise. See the British Red Cross website for information on how we can help to prevent and protect ourselves, our homes and our communities from wildfires.

Arrow pointing right

Reduce noise pollution

Sounds and noises continually vying for our attention can affect us when awake and asleep, impacting our physical and mental health. There are many ways we can help reduce noise pollution: From driving less often, more slowly and avoiding vehicle idling, to considering an electric vehicle when our petrol/diesel car needs replacing and turning off electrical items when not in use. Planting trees or bushes in gardens or growing plants in pots on balconies or indoors can also help reduce noise levels. The Welsh Government is consulting on a new Noise & Soundscape Action Plan, laying out priorities for the next five years. This includes minimising the likelihood, severity and frequency of noise associated with renewable energy technologies, such as heat pumps and on-shore wind turbines.

Why take action?

What elements of our environment are affected by human activity and climate change?   

air icon


Air pollution is the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK. Emissions, including from sources such as buildings, home heating and cooling, power generation, agriculture and industry pollute the air. They upset the natural balance of our ecosystems. For example, plants need nitrogen, but air pollution contributes to excess nitrogen which can actually damage them. Changes in climate can also affect air quality. Hot summers may lead to more pollution, such as smog.   

well-being icon


We need to change how we live to mitigate and adapt to climate change. These lifestyle changes may expose us and our neighbours to a different mix of sounds than those we were previously accustomed to. New technologies and ways of working need to be adopted and maintained in ways that do not negatively impact on people’s health and well-being. 

Water drop icon


Even after water treatment, the chemicals we use can get into the water and have adverse effects on aquatic life. Phosphates in laundry and dishwasher detergent have a fertilising effect which triggers widespread growth of algae that takes the water’s oxygen, reducing biodiversity and upsetting the balance of nutrients. Climate change also affects the world’s water and will reduce its availability.

Water drop icon


Peatlands absorb and store carbon emissions safely, preventing them from being released into our atmosphere. Our peatlands are drying out and eroding as a direct result of climate change. This means they are releasing carbon emissions into the atmosphere which further adds to the problem of a changing climate.   

Forest icon


Some products we use can pollute our waterways and air or can drive deforestation and habitat destruction overseas. This might be products for livestock feed in Wales, palm oil used in everyday cosmetic items, cocoa used in treats and desserts, or even rubber used to produce latex or car tyres.  

terrain icon

Land extraction

Much of our economy is reliant on what are known as ‘critical raw materials’ like lithium and tantalum which can be found in mobile phones. Many of these materials are in short supply and can be ‘high risk’ causing significant damage when mined and processed. Extraction of those resources can also cause deforestation and destruction of important habitats. 

wave icon


Litter has a significant impact on the environment, especially our seas. The Welsh Government has been working with the other governments of the UK to take measures to address the issues caused by plastic pollution and marine litter.  

What is Wales doing?

The Welsh Government and its partners are already working on ways in which they can reduce air, water and noise pollution and manage our land to support biodiversity and offset carbon emissions. Here are some examples of what they’re doing: 

  • Improving air quality  

    The Clean Air (Wales) Bill sets out the plan to improve air quality and reduce the impact of air pollution on human health, biodiversity, the natural environment and our economy, as well as improve the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales. The Welsh Government will work locally and regionally to reduce air pollution by setting air quality targets.   

  • Default 20mph speed limits 

    From 17 September 2023, the Welsh Government is introducing a default 20mph speed limit on restricted roads across Wales. As well as making streets safer, the intention is to reduce air pollution from traffic within our cities, towns and villages.  

  • Land management 

    Net Zero Wales (Wales’ current emissions reduction plan) commits to a number of policies and proposals associated with releasing land, increasing woodland creation and safeguarding and increasing carbon stores in soils and biomass.  

  • Noise management 

    Noise Management – The Welsh Government has published a Noise & Soundscape Action Plan for consultation. This will be Wales' first national strategy on soundscapes under the Environment (Air Quality and Soundscapes) (Wales) Bill.

  • Water quality 

    The Welsh Government’s programme for government commits to improving water quality. The Welsh Government has been working with the other governments of the UK to take measures to address the issues caused by plastic pollution and marine litter. Natural Resources Wales will undertake a multimillion-pound programme of capital works, funded by Welsh Government, to address the multiple challenges facing Welsh rivers, including impacts on water quality. 

  • Protecting our environment 

    Schemes such as banning single-use plastic, keeping resources in use for as long as possible and encouraging people to reuse, repair and recycle will help protect our environment. Making the circular economy in Wales a reality. 

For further support or advice call

0300 0604400

Follow us on social media for more hints and tips