Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle—you’ve heard the slogan countless times on the radio, television, and online. You’ve learned it from companies, environmental organisations, schools, even the government.
But what do the three R’s actually mean? We’ve heard this so many times that it can lose it’s meaning and we forget their importance.
Not to worry! We’re here to bring you up to speed as to why they are so important. You’ll learn what the three R’s stand for and how you can practise them in your own life.
The Problem: Waste Pollution
Pollution impacts the environment the most today. There’s air pollution, which contributes to climate change. Another is waste pollution, which fills up landfills beyond their actual capacity. The waste takes too long to decompose or, in most cases, never decay.
Finally, pollution gobbles up essential natural resources that all of us need. In numbers, the amount of waste we have produced amounts to approximately 67 million tonnes from 2016 to 2017 alone. Without a proper plan to address this issue, the world, including Australia, will be a far different place than it is now in five or ten years.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – the Three R’s
Countries all over the world largely depended upon landfills, and the three R’s aim to curb dependence on those facilities. Aside from that, they promoted both economic and environmental sustainability for the sake of future generations. Plus with Australia essentially in a recycling crisis, it’s more important than ever to make that a last resort.
First of all, reduction is the change in a consumer’s lifestyle or behaviour. People then cut down on consumption that produces waste. One prime example is bringing a reusable bag for groceries or other shopped products to decrease plastic grocery bags.
Other examples include water bottles or flasks to reduce plastic bottle consumption, glass containers or paper bags for food, ingredients, shampoo, soap, detergent, and many other small items that reduce plastic container use. Furthermore, you can buy items or products with no packaging or have eco-friendly packaging, leading to less waste thrown in landfills.
Making your own snacks from home rather than buying pre-packaged snacks is another way to reduce plastic intake. Shopping at bulk food stores is a great option because you can bring along your reusable containers.
By reducing waste, consumers also influence manufacturers and retailers to use less packaging which harms the environment. Imagine multinational corporations contributing to the fight against waste pollution!
Secondly, instead of disposing plastic, metal, Styrofoam, or other durable material, consumers can reuse or repurpose these materials for less waste. Homeowners can use plastic in many simple ways with a little bit of creativity. For example, plants can flourish in plastic containers used as pots. True innovators can even create vertical gardens with used water bottles.
Packaging also has many new uses, such as for storage or even play. Reusing old items that people would otherwise throw out as rubbish cuts down on waste, yet, at the same time, anyone can supply himself or herself with small but practical solutions to common concerns in everyday life.
Reusing can even go further into clothing. If you’ve got something with a tear in it, try and repair before going out and purchasing something new.
Lastly, but not least, recycling relates more to the role of manufacturers and waste management facilities. The latter breaks down recyclable materials into usable elements. In turn, recycling programs can create new and recycled products out of the mentioned elements.
On the other hand, manufacturers take the packaging or containers that they use for their products. They break them down and create new packaging or entirely new products. Nonetheless, consumers can still participate in this practice by bringing their recyclable waste to recycling bins or facilities.
One great Melbourne initiative is RedCycle. With bins in supermarkets across Australia, it’s a great way to recycle soft plastics which usually would not be able to go in your council recycle bin.
Follow the hierarchy
By now, you may be thinking about or making some changes towards recycling and waste reduction. However, there is a method to the three R’s.
Before you reuse, before you even recycle, first try to reduce. Altering your lifestyle as much as you are comfortable with has the effect of reducing as much waste as possible. A zero-waste lifestyle is even possible! Once you practice reduction in the first place, you commence a chain effect that decreases the amount of reusing and recycling you have to do later on.
When you can no longer reduce, or any more reduction places you in an inconvenient situation, you may reuse items such as glass bottles or plastic bags. Use as much as you can for your needs at home, work, school, or even the car. With a little creativity and some vision, you can easily upcycle these items.
Take note: others can reuse what you have as well. When you have what you need, you may instead donate old clothes or other second-hand items to others who can reuse them.
Once you have reduced and have reused as much as you could, the next step is recycling. Excellent reduction and reusing by now, however, will leave you with only a handful of items left for the recycling process. Less waste means less to drag to the recycling bin!
Concerning food waste, you can try composting. Composting gives you much-needed fertiliser for plants you have at home, especially when you have a yard and a garden. It’s a much better alternative than throwing your food waste into garbage. If you don’t have the space for home compost, see if there are any community compost bins near you.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle the right way
By following the hierarchy of the three R’s, you can be happy to know you’re making a difference. Once this becomes second nature you won’t even need to think about it, and you can start implementing other ways to reduce your waste and carbon footprint in your life.