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THE 5 R’S: REFUSE, REDUCE, REUSE, REPURPOSE, RECYCLE

by in Uncategorized July 4, 2022

Excerpts adapted from Article by Shelby Bell – Roadrunner Smarter Recycling

RECYCLING IS USUALLY NUMBER ONE ON THE LIST, BUT TODAY, IT’S LAST…

According to the 5 R’s, four actions should be taken, if possible, prior to ‘recycling’: refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose, and then recycle. Incorporating this methodology into your waste reduction and recycling efforts will minimize landfill waste and help take your recycling program to the next level. In this post, we explain each of the 5 R’s and the benefits of putting them into practice.

HOW TO APPLY THE 5 R’S

Applying the 5 R’s to your waste management and recycling strategies can positively impact the outcome of your program by significantly reducing the amount of waste you generate. In the 5 R’s hierarchy, remember to treat recycling as a last resort after attempting to refuse, reduce, reuse, or repurpose. Before disposing of your waste, walk through each of these steps in the following order:

STEP ONE: REFUSE

Refuse: the first element of the 5 R’s hierarchy. Learning to refuse waste can take some practice, but incorporating this step into your strategy is the most effective way to minimize waste. Consider refusing to buy wasteful or non-recyclable products. When working with vendors, refuse unnecessary product packaging and request reusable or returnable containers. Making smarter purchasing decisions and setting standards and expectations early in the process makes it easier to “refuse” waste in the first place.

STEP TWO: REDUCE

Reduce the use of harmful, wasteful, and non-recyclable products. Reducing dependency on these kinds of products results in less waste materials ending up in landfill and the associated negative environmental impacts. We recommend always using the minimum amount required to avoid unnecessary waste. For example, when printing a document, print double-sided to cut your waste output in half. Other commonly used items to focus on reducing include single-use plastics, plastic packaging, organic waste, and Styrofoam cups.

STEP THREE: REUSE

Single-use plastics have created a “throw-away” culture by normalizing consumer behavior of using materials once and then throwing them away. The rate at which we consume plastics has become unimaginable, and the plastic crisis has become one of the world’s greatest environmental challenges. In an effort to reduce waste, reuse items instead of buying new ones. Begin by focusing on one area at a time. Replace all of the single-use eating utensils, Styrofoam cups, water bottles, and paper plates with compostable or reusable alternatives. Once you master one area, prioritize reuse for other products, like packaging peanuts, printer cartridges, cardboard boxes, food containers, and rechargeable batteries.

STEP FOUR: REPURPOSE

For every item that can’t be refused, reduced, or reused, try repurposing it. Many people in the green community refer to this method as upcycling. You may be surprised to learn how many common products serve more than one purpose. Sometimes it requires using some creativity, but the possibilities are endless. Try using wasted printer paper for scrap paper, cardboard boxes for storing supplies, binder clips to hold power cords and chargers in place, and even mason jars, coffee mugs, and tin cans for holding pens and pencils. Designate an area as an Upcycle Station for collecting and storing supplies. Encourage everyone to add items to the station they no longer need and to check there before purchasing new supplies.

STEP FIVE: RECYCLE

Last but definitely not least: recycle. Once you’ve gone through all of the other R’s, recycling is the most environmentally friendly waste disposal method. If you don’t recycle already, start today!

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