I’ve talked a lot on the blog about reducing waste & improving recycling, but today I wanted to share all the 5 Rs towards zero waste to help show the whole picture. By gradually trying to implement all 5 of these we can all head down the zero waste path together!
Steps 1 & 2 together focus on eliminating unnecessary items from coming into our homes and lives – the consumption side. The remaining steps are all about what we do with the items we do need once they are no longer useful to use – the conservation side. When both sides are working in harmony we’ll find ourselves with very little waste at all!
Step 1: Refuse
Whilst this might be the first step it’s also one of the hardest, and it really comes down to refusing the things that we don’t need. It starts outside the home and often includes lots of super small things – like turning down the free pens or water bottles at a work event. This step includes avoiding as much as possible single use items like bags, straws, coffee cups and the like. It also includes things like junk mail, leaflets and paper bags, even though they are able to be recycled the best option is to avoid them being brought into our lives in the first place. The best way for us all to send a message is to politely decline these unnecessary items and over time that will reduce the demand to make more.
Step 2: Reduce
Step 2 really relates to mindful consumption and is all about only buying what we really need. A great way to work through this process is to evaluate things you have bought in the past – maybe room by room whilst decluttering – and really think about what you need to buy moving forward. This will help create better shopping habits moving forward and therefore reduce the amount of waste you will be creating and resources you’ll be using.
Another great way to reduce your waste is through meal planning as this will significantly reduce your food waste, whilst also saving you lots of money.
Step 3: Reuse
Reuse of items is focussed on extending the life of our items and helping reduce resource use. There are a few different parts of the reuse stage, including:
- Choosing reusable items over single use, like coffee cups, water bottles, bags and straws
- Shopping at second hand stores, and donating your unused items to them for someone else to use
- Join the sharing economy – rather than having your own car, tools and the like, hire them as needed
- Repair clothes, furniture and the like rather than disposing them and buying a new version
- Buy refillable, rechargeable or durable items
Step 4: Recycle
The next step is all about recycling – which most of us are thankfully pretty good at! The thing is, we want to actually be recycling as little as possible, and as we work through the preceding 3 steps we actually find ourselves with less things to recycle! Make sure to set yourself up for success with convenient spots to collect recyclables in your home to avoid them ending up in waste bins.
Every Council area will have a different list of what can and can’t be recycled, but there are usually solutions that can be found for things that might not go in your kerbside recycling bin. I did a long-ish post about how to dispose of household recycling a while ago which might be helpful, otherwise check your Council website.
Step 5: Rot
The last step in our towards zero waste journey is to rot any leftover food in your compost, which should leave very little (maybe even nothing!) in your waste bin. If you’ve been meal planning then you shouldn’t have too much food waste, but anything you do have can then be broken down in the compost and then reused in your garden. What can go in your compost (meat, dairy etc) will depend on the kind of compost system you’ve got, but your fruit and veggies scraps are a-ok. Even if you’re in an apartment like me you can get composting with something like a bokashi bucket.