What Does Reduce Reuse Recycle Mean?
Image Credit: Michael Lorenzo
The phrase Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is often used when we talk about how to be more environmentally friendly, how to be greener, how to be ecologically sound and how to live sustainably.
But what does it really mean?
The Three R’s of Recycling
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is sometimes referred to as the ‘Three Rs’ of recycling. These three terms all refer to ways that we can minimise the amount of materials that we use, the amount of the Earth’s resources that we use, the energy that we use and the amount of waste which we produce in our everyday life.
Let’s take a look at the three R's one at a time.
Image Credit: Crown Agency
The first of the three R’s is Reduce.
Reduce is first on the list because it is the best and most important way of minimising your impact on the Earth’s environment. It means that you try to reduce the amount of materials that you use and also the resources such as fuel and water that you use.
Here are some examples of ways that you can reduce:-
- By not buying items that you do not need, for example by only replacing items when they can no longer be used or are beyond repair.
- If an item is damaged, try to repair the item rather than buying something new. Clothes and electronics are good examples of items which are often thrown out when they become damaged, yet they can often be repaired.
- By not buying and using single use items such as straws, plastic cups and drinks that are sold in plastic bottles which are used once then thrown away.
- You can also reduce your impact on the planet by refusing to buy items that have excessive packaging, for example chocolates that come in plastic boxes or items that are sold in an unnecessarily large container.
- If you need to print out a document, print on both sides of paper. If you have paper that you have printed on one side only, you could use the back to write on. Here are some more ways to save paper.
- By choosing to walk, cycle or take public transport rather than using a car.
- By hanging washing outside to dry rather than using a tumble dryer.
Image Credit: Island Born
The second of the three R’s is Reuse
If you have an item that you can no longer use or simply do not want, but is still in perfectly usable condition, you should try to find a way that it can continue to be used rather than throwing it away.
Here are some examples of ways that you can reuse:-
- Sell the item, for example by advertising it on one of the many websites such as eBay, on Facebook groups or via local newspapers. If it is an antique or collectable item you may be able to sell it to a local antiques shop.
- Give it to a friend that needs the item.
- Donate it to a charity shop (thrift store) where it can be sold to raise money for a good cause.
- Give it to somebody who is looking for something, via websites such as Freecycle or Freegle.
- Hold a yard sale or get a pitch at a car boot sale.
- Make the item into something else completely. This is sometimes referred to as ‘upcycling’.
- If you do need to buy something, before you buy it new, see if you can buy one second-hand, borrow it from someone else or hire the item. As a bonus you will also save money!
Image Credit: renato cardoso
The third of the three R’s is Recycle.
When we say recycling, it means to break down an item and to make something new from the materials.
Processing these materials still requires time, energy and cost, therefore an item should ideally only be sent for recycling if there is no other way that it can be reused or repaired. It is the last term on the list because it is in fact the least useful of the three ways of reducing your impact on the planet, however it is still vastly better than sending waste to landfill.
Some examples of recycling are:-
- Textiles such as clothing and bedding which are in such poor condition that they cannot be used or mended can be used to make cleaning rags, or for filling furniture.
- Waste paper can be pulped and used to make new pieces of paper.
- Plastics can be melted down and made into new plastic items.
- Electrical items can be broken down and the metal components melted down to make a new item (this is particularly important in the recycling of mobile phones as they contain small amounts of rare and valuable metals.) The plastic casings can also be recycled.
- Glass can be melted down and made into new glass items.
How you dispose of an item depends what local recycling facilities there are where you live. Here is how to recycle many common household items.
So if you want to minimise the impact that your lifestyle has on the planet, you can do this by considering all of the ‘Three R’s’. Reduce the amount of materials that you consume, reuse items that can still be used and then ensure that any item that is recyclable is sent for recycling when it’s useful life is over.