Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.
We’ve all heard it, many of us even practice this mantra. But did you know that these three words are a part of a well thought out waste disposal hierarchy?
Reducing is by far the most effective way to cut waste, and therefore it is at the top of the hierarchy. If you reduce the amount of what you consume, you help conserve precious resources and limit the waste you create.
That means doing more with less and putting real thought into what you need versus what you want. Start with something simple like walking to work or school instead of driving or installing an inexpensive water displacement system in your toilets to reduce water usage.
Reuse is pretty self-explanatory. Before you recycle, think about how you can use an item over again, or perhaps several times — think water bottles, plastic food containers, etc. The more we can reuse items, or purchase items meant to be reused like cloth grocery bags and rechargeable batteries, the less reprocessing of these materials will need to occur.
There is also the notion of re-purposing to consider as well. While reusing means to use an item over again in its original form, re-purposing takes an item used for one purpose and uses it another way like turning a pickle jar into a vase for flowers, for example.
Then comes recycling
Recycling takes time and energy to process materials, which is why it’s not at the top of the hierarchy. But that is not to say that recycling isn’t good. So keep filling up those bins you have at home and at work.
If you have an item that had been truly used and needs to be disposed of, find out if it can be recycled. Remember recycling also means buying products that are made from recycled materials, using them to their fullest extent and then returning them to be recycled again.
And the hierarchy goes even deeper.
If you really want to help conserve our natural resources, consider other steps in the hierarchy like composting. Composting is Nature’s way of recycling.
At the bottom of the list are additional steps including waste-to-energy and land disposal, however those steps are usually conducted by a municipality or county.