A famous phrase synonymous with recycling, known off by heart by most of the population. However, first two words are often forgotten, and people feel accomplished by recycling alone, which isn’t something to be shunned. But if we follow the first two words in the slogan, we have the ability to have a much more of an impact to benefit the environment.
It wasn’t until I saw the three words written down that I stopped and thought about what the slogan really means. They’re the steps that should be taken when we think about waste.
The first thing that we should do when we’re trying to tackle waste is to reduce the amount we produce, recyclable or not. This can be done by choosing products with less or no packaging. Planning meals so that we don’t over buy food which will then go bad before it’s eaten and then get thrown away. And really thinking about whether we need that new pair of shoes or if we need to add to the collection of 17 mugs in our cupboard. By avoiding impulse purchases or buying unneeded items allows us to prevent waste. To avoid the realisation that we don’t need those items and then throw them away.
Once you have reduced the amount of waste you have produced, the second thing you should consider is reusing what you already have. More recently been branded “upcycling” you can take what you already own, alter it and give it a new lease of life. From altering clothes to fit differently/be a different colour, to using old spice pots to store crafting supplies. If you personally can’t think of another use for a product then donating usable items to charity shops is a way of “reusing by proxy” and will continue the lifecycle of the item. Reusing products rather than throwing them away is taking them out of the waste cycle.
We in the UK are excellent at recycling. According to DEFRA, in 2017 the UK recycled 45.7% of all household waste, which is astonishing. It’s clear that as a nation it is one of our strong points. However, it is something that we can improve on. For example, when looking at plastic item it is important to look at the small number in the triangle, this will tell you what type of plastic the item is made from. By looking at your local council’s recycling guidelines you may find out that something you normally recycle can’t go in the green bin or something you would ordinarily throw away can be recycled. Furthermore, some packaging is totally recyclable but only if you separate the different parts so look out for packaging made of multiple elements. Lastly, rinse out anything with food residue, like tins of beans or soups, you don’t need to scrub it clean, but it will need a quick swill out, otherwise it may be too contaminated and need to be rejected.
If we view the “Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.” slogan as three steps rather than just the slogan for recycling we will have a far greater impact to benefiting the environment than recycling alone.