Reduce, reuse and recycle is much more than just a slogan, though it looks good on a bumper sticker too. The 3Rs of the waste hierarchy are actually waste management strategies, ranked in their order of desirability. This in turn depends on their ability to minimize waste, conserve resources and reduce the burden on landfills. As construction companies, small and large businesses and residential neighborhoods begin to evaluate their garbage disposal policies, these strategies present environmentally friendly choices.
The 3Rs of waste management strategies
The waste hierarchy refers to the “3 Rs” – reduce, reuse and recycle – which classify waste management strategies according to their desirability in terms of waste minimization. These represent a continuum, from the most environmentally-favorable to the least-favorable actions. It essentially defines garbage disposal and waste management best practices from the point of view of sustainability.
A sustainable management strategy integrates all three practices, with the goal of moving up the continuum. They also represent the lifecycle of each object, which should ideally pass through all three stages. The goal is to derive maximum use and benefits from each object and to minimize the amount of waste. Recycling at the end also reduces the financial and environmental cost of the production of new items made from the same raw materials.
— Recycling Counts (@RecyclingCounts) September 25, 2020
Recycling is cheaper
The 3Rs are not only desirable from the environmental point of view, they are also preferable in financial terms. It’s actually cheaper to recycle items than to dispose of trash in a landfill. The average cost of recycling services amounts to $30 per ton, while garbage disposal in a landfill costs $50 per ton.
As everyone reading this probably already knows, American lifestyles are geared to waste. Even if they don’t want to, average Americans will throw away 600 times their body weight in garbage over their lifetimes. On average, each person produces more than four pounds of trash every day. A little thoughtfulness, and minor lifestyles changes, can turn a large proportion of this garbage into recyclables instead.
Reducing waste by recycling and composting
More than $11.5 billion is spent every year for litter pick up and garbage removal. Recycling can make a difference to this enormous wastefulness. The largest component of municipal solid waste or MSW are organic materials, like paper and paper board which account for 27% of the total, and yard waste and food that account for another 28%. This could be composted instead of being put out for garbage disposal.
It takes only very minor lifestyle changes to turn your garbage into recycling. Most Americans, around 87%, have either curbside pick-up, or they can bring their recyclables to a neighborhood collection center. In many locations, it’s not even necessary to separate out recyclables into paper, plastic and glass. They can all go into the same container, making it easier to achieve an environmentally-conscious lifestyle.
Taking steps to reduce, reuse and recycle can minimize waste, with a range of benefits across different areas. It reduces pollutants, conserves resources, and reduces the carbon footprint in the manufacture of new products. It helps in the development of green technology, reduces environmental pollution and contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Creative application of waste management strategies can also lead to job creation, involving people in work that has both meaning and purpose.
With the introduction of municipal waste management, no longer do homeowners have to wonder how to recycle paper and plastic. Now, the best way to recycle waste materials is to leave them at the curb for pickup. Most communities now have some kind of municipal recycling service in order to eliminate the growing waste problem we have in the United States.
Because of the growing green movement, some wonder do you have to recycle. Namely, are fine levied against those who put returnables in the trash? This can vary depending on the community. Although it is unrealistic to expect any community employee to go through the trash looking for bottles, cans, and paper that belong in the recycling bin, now that we know all about recycling and the benefit it provides it is simply irresponsible to not do your part to help mitigate the level of waste this country produces.
For those communities that do not yet have municipal recycling pickup, there are still things you can do. First off, contact your representatives and demand a recycling alternative. Second, the best way to recycle waste materials is to find a local independent recycling center.