Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle

The average person makes approximately 5 pounds of trash a day. This trash, or solid waste, has to go somewhere and the Solid Waste Management Hierarchy was developed to rank waste management strategies on their environmental impact. The top of the pyramid shows the most preferred methods of waste management, the bottom half show the least preferred—or those with the largest environmental impact. You can make small changes to your routine that will have a big impact! Explore the Solid Waste Management Plan Hierarchy below and Rethink Your Waste!

Source Reduction
Source reduction is another way of saying “Reuse”. Using less is one of the most preferred methods of Solid Waste Reduction because—there is less waste to manage! Did you know that if 100 people used a reusable water bottle, they could prevent 50,0000 single-use cups from going into the landfill? Small actions can have a big impacts! Check out more ideas below!

Source Reduction/ Reduce

  • Only buy what you need.
  • Buy in bulk instead of single servings.
  • Buy used items from thrift stores or consignment shops.
  • Borrow, rent or share items that are used infrequently like Halloween costumes, party decorations, pool toys.
  • Printing double-sided.
  • Avoid buying non-recyclable products.

Our Pinterest page is full of ideas on how to reuse materials around the house, for school projects, in the garden, and more!

Reuse is next to “Source Reduction” on the Solid Waste Management Hierarchy. Reusing an item can mean using something that you already have multiple times, like reusable water bottles, lunch boxes, or metal straws. It can also mean Repurposing and Upcycling and existing items into something new. When you reuse and item instead of recycling it, no energy is used to process the item! This is why it is ranked right next to reducing on the pyramid. Check out below for ideas on how to Reuse, Repurpose, Upcycle, and Rethink your waste!

  • Carry a durable and refillable water bottle.
  • Use reusable travel mug for coffee or other beverages while also saving money. Some coffee shops will give a small discount for bringing your own mug.
  • Take your own reusable bag when shopping.
  • Take your own reusable mesh /or cotton produce bags when food shopping.
  • Pack a reusable lunch bag with reusable utensils (no single use items such as plastic utensils or straws).
  • Use cloth napkins or hand towels.
  • Use reusable cleaning cloths instead of paper towels.
  • Purchase refillable pens and pencils.
  • Donate things such as magazines, “gently used” clothing, children’s toys, surplus equipment to a school, church, or a local charity, check with the organization first to see what they need. Click here for the EPA’s list of national donation resources.
  • Repair items. Check out DIY videos for simple repairs.
  • Turn an item you no longer want into something different with a new purpose. Repurpose, refinish, reclaim outdated items.
  • Participate in a paint collection and reuse program.
  • Styles and clothing change with the season, but clothing does not have to go to waste. Shop consignment shops or have a clothing swap.
  • Have a garage sale! 
  • Repurpose 
    • Look for creative ways to repurpose items: blogs,Pinterest.
    • Repurposing can be a fun arts-and-craft activity to do with children.
    • Make decorations and costumes for the holidays from old and used items at home.
    • Utilize items at home that might be outdated such as old clothes to use as rags and towels for your project.
  • Upcycle
Recycling aims to close the loop on resource consumption and preserve them for continued use by turning them into new products. Recycling is different from reuse because materials are fundamentally changed, they are often ground up into smaller parts and reprocessed. Milk jugs and other plastic containers can be made into new bottles and containers, or even furniture and playground equipment. Paper can be recycled into toilet paper and tissues, and thin cardboard boxes and cartons. If these items were to go to the landfill, they could not be recycled into new items taking years or centuries to breakdown completely.

Recycling is in the second tier of the Solid Waste Management Hierarchy because reprocessing materials into new ones takes energy. Trucks picks up recycling and takes it to the MRF to be sorted by hand and by machine by material types. These items are then shipped to factories they will recycle them into new items.

Remanufacturing items saves energy and our limited natural resources, but it is important to Recycle Right and avoid “Wish-cycling”.

Wish-cycling is a practice of throwing something that into the bin that you hope with be recycled or sorted into the proper place. This practice leads to contamination which turns potentially recyclable items into trash.

Check out below for some quick tips on how to Recycle Right and How to avoid “Wish-cycling”.

  1. We are humans! Much of your recycling is sorted by human hand. Please only put accepted items into your bin, that will help keep the workers safe.
  2. Keep it clean- Making sure your recycling is clean and dry prevents contamination!
  3. Hang loose– Do not bag your recycling or put plastic bags in your recycling. Plastic bags get caught in the gears of the machines causing them to break down! Keep them out!
  4. Avoid the Oops– Be great, don’t contaminate! Use the Know Your Nos to make sure you are Recycling Right!

Be a Recycling Wizard: Use our Recycling Wizard tool to find out where you can recycle other items like electronics, batteries, lightbulbs, household waste, and more!

Additional Resources
Linked below are resources where you can reduce, reuse, or find recycled goods for purchase!