Many of us are familiar with the slogan the 3Rs – Reduce Reuse Recycle. This is the mantra of those who campaign and educate about waste reduction. The logo quite rightly shows the three actions feeding into one another – one causes the other.
But I’ve always thought that REDUCE comes first in the slogan for a very good reason. When people find out that I’m a bit of an eco-nut they often proudly pronounce “I’m really serious about recycling”.
That’s good as far as it goes but Recycling should be a last resort. Sadly in practice throwing it away for burying or burning is our current last resort but we’ll gloss over that for now.
We’re talking about reducing everything – materials (especially plastic), energy, water and waste.
It’s always better for an item to NOT be made in the first place and of course re-use is a big way to make that happen. Other things to think about are:
- Do I need it? Can I manage without it? Can I reuse something else?
- Could I borrow it from someone else?
- Have I made the choice which has the least packaging?
- Do I need all these alternatives? (I am very guilty of having loads of different cleaning products under my sink).
- Could I buy this item in larger quantities to reduce the amount of packaging?
- Reduce the amount of unwanted mail you receive by emailing the companies who are sending it and ask them to stop.
- Do I need something that runs on batteries? Could I plug it in instead?
- When you buy something, is there a choice which is more re-usable than the others?
- It’s best not to use disposable crockery and cutlery – always difficult to use again.
- Consider using loose tea rather than tea bags. Tea bags often contain plastic and don’t compost.
- Carry a reusable cup to avoid using single-use takeaway ones.
I’m not going to talk about reducing energy or water in this one as the post will be much too long! Plenty of time for that another day.
This should be Plan B after Reduce has been explored. Things to think about:
- Donate items to charity shops
- Can someone you know use the item?
- Can the packaging be used again? (Wrapping presents in newspaper is very fashionable, and all sorts of packaging can be used for sending stuff in the post – as long as there is a clear address label the Post Office don’t mind).
- Consider holding a car boot or table-top sale if you have a lot of unwanted items. Make it cheap enough and people will buy anything!
- Does your local school or pre-school take waste products such as egg boxes and yogurt cartons? Why not ask them?
- Do you have a compost bin in your garden? All of your vegetable peelings, fruit waste, bits of paper and cardboard, tea leaves and coffee beans can go in there and make you some fabulous compost for the garden.
- Join a library if you haven’t already. Re-using at its best!
- If batteries are really necessary, use re-chargeable ones.
So recycling is Plan C. Sadly there’s a still lots which can’t be recycled. Step one is signing the petition to make black plastic packaging illegal. All I can say is pleas recycle anything you can which has not been sorted out in Plans A and B.
There’s probably loads more tips out there on the 3Rs. If you put “Reduce Reuse Recycle” into Google (other search engines are available) lots of helpful sites will be listed.