Suzanne Holt
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Reduce – Reuse – Recycle

Recycle Boy 1THE THREE R’S: REDUCE – REUSE – RECYCLE

Did you know that:

  • In the U.S. the average person create 4.39 pounds of trash per day and up to 56 tons of trash per year?
  • Every year we fill enough garbage trucks to form a line that would stretch from the earth to halfway to the moon?
  • Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour?
  • Each year Americans trash enough office paper to build a 12-foot wall from Los Angeles to New York City?
  • Americans receive almost 4 million tons of junk mail every year and most of it winds up in landfills?
  • Forty-three thousand tons of food is thrown out in the United States each day?
  • Plastic bags and other plastic garbage thrown into the ocean kill as many as 1,000,000 sea creatures a year?

The three R’s – reduce, reuse and recycle – all help to cut down on the amount of waste we throw away. They conserve natural resources, landfill space and energy plus reduce pollution. REDUCE means to find different ways to decrease the quantity of garbage that finds its way into our landfills. REUSE means finding methods to use things repeatedly instead of throwing them away and buying new things. RECYCLE literally means to convert something that is old into something new.

The most effective way to begin is by PREVENTING WASTE in the first place. This can help you save money and reduce your impact on the environment.

Preventing and reducing waste include:

- Purchasing durable, long-lasting goods and making them last longer by repairing them when necessary.
- Reusing products and packaging, and reducing the amount of packaging that is discarded.
- It is also seeking products and packaging that are as free of toxins as possible.
- Buying products that can be recycled.
- Buying products made out of recycled materials.
- Purchase in bulk.
- Using the least hazardous cleaning products.
- Buy only what you need for projects, such as painting, and properly store what is left.
- Maintain your vehicle.

Reuse takes many forms, but all with the same goal – to keep items useful as long as they have a function or value. It can save money and help the environment. Some ways to reuse are:

- Share – many items are needed only for special projects or activities.
- Try to repair an item before throwing it away.
- Organize a community exchange at your community center, library, school, or church.
- Shop at garage sales, estate sales, or auctions.
- Use consignment stores or thrift shops.
- Online options:
The Twin Cities Free Market is an internet-based listing service for residents who want to give away or get free reusable goods for their home, garage or garden. www.twincitiesfreemarket.org.
The Freecycle Network is similar to the Twin Cities Free Market. It is an online group of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. http://www.freecycle.org/.
Craigslist has free stuff and items for sale and is city-specific: www.craigslist.org.

Recycling uses waste such as glass bottles, paper, aluminum cans to make new products. Items and resources for recycling include:

  • Recycle more paper with your curbside collection, including:
    Magazines and books with hard covers removed.
    Window envelopes and junk mail.
    Boxboard containers, toilet paper rolls, tooth paste boxes, paper towel rolls.
    Cereal boxes, cracker boxes, pasta boxes, cake mix boxes, tissue boxes.
    Shoe boxes, gift boxes, electronics boxes.
    Newspapers, phone books, inserts, school papers .
  • Aluminum cans as well as foil and aluminum scrap are highly recyclable.
  • Generally, most colors of glass bottles are accepted in curbside recycling programs and drop-off recycling centers.
  • Recycle more household hazardous waste and make your home safer. Go to county HHW programs for a listing of Household Hazardous Waste Facility locations in Minnesota.
  • E-Waste includes old computers, printers, fax machines, televisions, radios, audio equipment, cell phones, etc. Find recycling opportunities for consumer electronics: www.pca.state.mn.us/ewaste.
  • Several major manufacturers of computers and electronics are offering consumers recycling and reuse alternatives for their products when you purchase new ones.
  • Toner and Ink jet cartridges can also be recycled in areas of Minnesota. For MORE information about recycling ink jet and toner cartridges go to the MPCA recycling markets directory for a listing of locations.
  • Plastic garden containers can now be returned to specific garden centers throughout Minnesota. Go to Garden Minnesota.com for a complete list of dates and locations.
  • In general, yard waste facilities accept leaves, grass clippings, and other plant materials. Most often, this does not include wood debris. Contact your county recycling coordinator for more information about yard waste recycling in your area.

[Note: Minnesota sources used but each state has similar agencies and resources. ]

The benefits of recycling include:

  • Recycling protects and expands U.S. manufacturing jobs and increases U.S. competitiveness.
  • Recycling reduces the need for landfilling and incineration.
  • Recycling prevents pollution caused by the manufacturing of products from virgin materials.
  • Recycling saves energy.
  • Recycling decreases emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change.
  • Recycling conserves natural resources such as timber, water, and minerals.
  • Recycling helps sustain the environment for future generations.

Putting source reduction into practice is likely to require some change in our daily routines. If we don’t reduce waste, the economic and social costs of waste disposal will continue to increase, and communities—large and small, urban and suburban—will face increasingly harder decisions about managing their trash. A fourth “R” – Rethinking – is also becoming part of the process associated with educating ourselves about recycling. By thinking creatively, many new uses for common items and new possibilities for source reduction and recycling can be discovered.

One of the steps we can take to reduce waste, to reuse products, and to lessen the negative impacts of household pollutants on our environment is to use environmentally friendly products for our personal care and household cleaning!

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