"Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" is not just a fun saying! It is also a helpful tool to remember the order of importance when deciding which option to pursue first.
Most of a product’s impact is from extraction, production, transportation, and use; not simply it’s disposal, so refusing to buy a product in the first place is usually the most sustainable option! The following sections will define each step of the waste hierarchy and provide examples of how to implement them in your life.
Prevention focuses on eliminating the amount of waste created from the source and by refusing to buy materials with excess packaging. Prevention is the highest priority on the waste hierarchy and is the first step to reducing one's waste. To prevent waste, it is important to understand and rethink how items are manufactured, packaged, recycled, and disposed of in order to prevent the greatest amount of waste from being created.
Reduction involves minimizing or eliminating waste by reducing the number of items bought, created, or used. Some ways to reduce your waste are to invest in multi-use or multi-purpose items (like refillable pens); stop buying things that you often find yourself throwing away or not using; rent tools that you use infrequently instead of buying them; invest in longer-lasting, durable products; repurpose something you already have instead of buying new (old clothes and glass jars have a lot of different uses, for example); and donate things you don’t have a use for anymore instead of throwing them away.
Reuse refers to using an item in its original form again or using it as a different function. Some ways to practice reuse in your life include repairing damaged items, purchasing second-hand goods instead of buying new and donating old items instead of throwing them away, buying products with reusable packaging like glass jars, or repurposing or upcycling old items. Upcycling is when you use an item for a different function and could include reusing food jars and plastic tubs as storage containers, cutting up towels to make rags, or making t-shirts into bags.
Recycling is the process of collecting and processing materials that would otherwise be disposed of as waste and turning them into new products. Recycling also includes composting, as it involves converting organic matter into something new. Although recycling is an important part of reducing the amount of waste one produces, it is also a lower priority on the waste hierarchy list. This is because it still involves the creation of materials and uses time and energy in the recycling process. Here are a few tips to help you get started: check out the recycling guides for on-campus and the general Corvallis area, make sure you’re cleaning your recycling adequately to avoid any contamination from food or pests and familiarize yourself with the special collections offered in town for things like e-waste and other special materials. Republic Services and First Alternative Natural Foods Co-op both accept items for reuse and recycling.
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