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20/03/2021 Sustainability

The 3 R’s of Waste Management: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

The 3 R’s of Waste Management: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Are you in the middle of Spring cleaning or thinking about starting to get sorted? Chances are, if you have started to complete your spring clean, you might now have a couple of piles of “things” you’re not sure how to get rid of. You will be familiar with the concept of the 3R’s of waste management: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

As a nation we are great for the old green and brown bins, sorting, rinsing and recycling in whatever way we can in the home. The same goes for cleaning out your home as you might be surprised how much you can actually recycle! So take a little extra time before choosing to place everything in the black bin and see what you can recycle.

Most of us don’t really understand that while recycling is good, the real goal should be to reuse and better still reduce our waste.


Reducing consumption includes buying and consuming less, as well as throwing away less. Among the three Rs, reducing is the most effective in terms of producing less waste as well as saving resources, and inevitably, saving money when it comes to your household waste.

Most goods come with excess packaging, some protective, some decorative, some just unnecessary. Become aware of what you are buying. For instance, while out shopping, buying loose fruit and veg will save on plastic and cardboard trays, foil, cellophane, and the rest. Buying loose also helps with only buying what you need. If you don’t have a big family, why purchase a bag of 12 apples?

Even though it may go against your first instinct, always feel free to say no to a freebie! Promotional collateral like flyers, pens, stickers, lanyards - as nice as they are to have on the day, will inevitably end up in the bin.

Three for two offers sound great but they are not great value if you are not going to use all three.  What’s more, they are storing up extra waste for landfill, not to mention the resources used to produce the product in the first place.

Ask the question, “Why are we purchasing this item?” or, “Why do we need this?”

Reuse and repurpose

The second ‘R’ in the hierarchy, reusing is better than recycling because products don’t have to be reprocessed before using again.

Old clothes are a perfect example of ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’. Unless they are ruined, never throw out clothes! If you are finished with the items, offer them to your friends or family (nothing wrong with hand-me-downs!) or take them to a charity shop to be sold on to a deserving owner. If they are ruined, cotton items like old t-shirts and vests make for great cleaning rags. On that note, avoid fast fashion where possible and try sustainable shopping. Charity shops have treasures when it comes to clothes, furniture, and more.

If something is broken, try repairing before binning. There are heaps of repairing and upcycling shops and websites to help decide what to do. You can also reuse and share things like old books, glass jars, bottles, old furniture, newspapers, to name but a few.


This is the one we are all very familiar with. Recycling is a key component in the hierarchy, and it is about making new things out of old materials. The old materials are broken down into their basic elements for raw materials to make new items.

You don’t need to start big to make your mark. Every little helps, so it doesn’t matter whether every effort is big or small. Starting small means starting with yourself and your household. Before you start, you need to be aware of what to recycle and where to send them for recycling. Recyclables need to be cleaned and separated from the rest of your waste. Some coloured plastic and paper may not be accepted, so it is worth checking in with your waste company.

Moral of the story is, do what you can, when you can. If you can’t reduce, reuse. If you can’t reuse, recycle.

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