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Friday Takeaways

‘waste’ is uncountable

‘WASTE’ and all its ‘near-synonyms’ (rubbish, trash, litter, garbage, refuse) is UNCOUNTABLE, so it takes a SINGULAR verb e.g.

‘Plastic waste ends up in the ocean/in landfill’.

But there are also differences in the way these words are used.

A main difference is British/American English.

According to the Longman Online Dictionary:

waste: unwanted materials or substances that are left after you have used something: e.g. we need to recycle more houshold waste. 

|industrial/chemical/nuclear/toxic/hazardous etc] Harsh penalties are required to end the dumping of industrial waste into rivers and seas

litter: waste paper, cans etc that people have thrown away and left on the ground in a public place; There should be  heavy fines for people who drop litter.

British English

rubbish food, paper etc that is no longer needed and has been thrown away.

American English

garbage: waste material, such as paper, empty containers, and food thrown away.

trash: things that you throw away, such as empty bottles, used papers, food that has gone bad.


  • Formal
  • Notice the pronunciation /ˈrefjuːs/ (stress on the 1st syllable, unlike the verb to re’fuse – click here to listen)

We need to develop more effective methods of refuse disposal.

Water pollution is made up of organic residue from farms, industry and domestic refuse. 


Close synonyms for ‘throw away’

  • to discard
  • to dispose OF
  • to get rid OF (less formal)
  • to dump (has both an informal and formal meaning e.g. My boyfriend dumped me (informal) or ‘Britain dumps more of its waste than anyother EU country’ (‘to get rid of waste material by taking it from people’s houses and burying it under the soil)


The phrasal verb ‘end up’ 

You can use this phrasal verb for collacations e.g. most plastic waste ends up in landfill/polluting the ocean.


Other common countable/uncountable errors

Uncountable nouns for IELTS


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