The 5 R’s of Zero Waste

You might wonder: Where to start? How do I stop my garbage can from overflowing? Zero Waste starts by refusing things. Whatever you still have and use you should reduce to save resources. Substitute disposables for reusable options, and instead of tossing things repair them! Separate what little trash you have left and make sure to recycle. Compost what’s left and let it rot.

The 5 R’s:
1] Refuse
2] Reduce
3] Reuse (+repair)
4] Recycle / Repurpose
5] Rot

1] Refuse
Refusing will eliminate most of your trash. Learn to say no! Say no to produce wrapped in plastic. Say no to disposables. Say not to participating in unsustainable practices. The more we accept all those things that will inevitably end up in landfills, the more demand we generate for those unsustainable things. Easily disposable items of low quality are cheap, and we buy them because we didn’t have to spend a lot of money. But cheap things are cheap for a reason. To cut the costs, they were produced using chemicals and materials from questionable sourcing, which means very often they leach toxins. In the long run, those low-quality items will cost you even more than buying a good quality one from the start, since most are made to break easily – so you will buy a new one to replace it anyway.

2] Reduce
We all have a lot of things at home we never use. Some of them we haven’t even ever unpacked! Why? Because we buy on impulse. We see something, in that specific moment we like it, and bam, we bought it. However, the novelty and joy of having it wear off very quickly and then it’s just another item we have at home that doesn’t add any value to our life. Also, reduce your overall consumption. But if you actually refuse everything that comes packaged in plastic you will have anyway. All those things you are not using or do not need had to be produced at one point. It’s a waste of resources to have them collect dust at your home. Donate or sell them. This way, someone else can reuse your things instead of buying new products, using up more resources.

3] Reuse & Repair
Disposables are, well, disposable. Which means you have to buy them over and over. Which in turn means you keep spending money on things that you will throw away. You might as well throw away your money directly. At least that would have a better carbon footprint. For example, replace disposable razors with an electric shaver; tissues with handkerchiefs; paper towel with cloth napkins; coffee pads with a french press; plastic bags with totes; cling wrap with beeswax wraps and so on. If things break, repair them or have them repaired. Mend clothes, upcycle items you would otherwise toss. Buy second hand and remember: some things you don’t need to own, it’s sufficient to have access (i.e., movies, music, books, tools and gadgets). You can join clubs, associations and groups that rent, share and barter items. 

4] Recycle / Repurpose
After you have refused, reduced and reused there shouldn’t be much left to recycle. Still, make sure to separate your trash so that those resources can be reused instead of filling our landfills. With regards to 'repurpose' this is pretty simple too, just take something and use it for something else.  This requires a bit of thinking and crafty-ness, but doesn’t have to be difficulting or stressful. Check out our earlier blog – 40 Creative Ways to Upcycle - with loads of useful ideas.

5] Rot
Don’t just throw your kitchen scraps away! Get a worm bin and let those little fellows turn your waste into high-quality fertiliser! It’s the most efficient and local form of recycling where the trash doesn’t even need to be transported wasting fuel and whatnot. Some items that are compostable are all types of food, plant trimmings, leaves, flowers, weeds, and solid paper products (such as used paper napkins/towels/plates, coffee cups and paper to-go containers).

 

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