Everyone has seen the three sided arrow indicating the environmental loop of reduce, reuse, and recycle. But what does that really mean to the average household beyond returning aluminium cans or donating a bag of clothes to a thrift store? Plenty. People make decisions every day that affect the way they live. Decisions to reduce, reuse, and recycle don’t mean deprivation. They mean one is submitting to a voluntary simplicity for the good of all.

Recycle Concept
Recycle Concept

Reduction, the First Step According to Julie Daniels, Executive Director of BRING Recycling located in Eugene Oregon, the average US residence has increased in size by 79 percent since 1950. Since nature loathes a vacuum, people have learned to fill that space with stuff. Reduction is also known as pre-cycling or waste reduction. This involves revisiting consumption patterns and making lifestyle and behaviour changes accordingly.

These decisions are important because the market listens to consumers .By refusing to buy products that have excess packaging; disposables or items with short lifespans; or, products not made in a socially-responsible manner, manufacturers will be forced to make their own changes or risk profit declines.

Reuse it There are many components to reuse. It could be repurposing an item into something else, such as, turning an old sweater into a tote bag that can be used in lieu of a plastic grocery bag. Things no longer wanted or needed can be reused by donating them to a thrift store; reselling them at a yard sale or consignment store; or by listing them or free cycle. Another way to reuse an item is to buy secondhand or rent.

Composting is also a method of reuse. Instructions can be found at most University Extension offices and the local Master Recyclers. These groups provide invaluable resources, advise, and support. Finally, be an advocate for reuse, mirroring your convictions by your own life.

Recycling – the End of the Line

The final process in the loop is recycling. The first step in this process is collection. It’s here that the average citizen has the greatest impact. Familiarising yourself with local options and following the guidelines provided allow citizens to contribute to the second step which is manufacturing. There, recycled products are converted into new products. One might think that their small amount of recyclables won’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but that isn’t so. Product contamination is the biggest issue facing manufacturers. For instance, a plastic margarine tub is recyclable but the margarine in it isn’t and can contaminate an entire truckload of plastics.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Daniels adds another “R” to the equation – rethink. That is, understand how the stuff used every day shapes the planet that is shared by all and act accordingly. Everyone can make a difference, regardless of how small and added together, will make change

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