Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
Produce Less Waste by Practicing the 3 Rs:
Reduce the amount and toxicity of trash you discard.
Reuse containers and products; repair what is broken or give it to someone who can repair it.
Recycle as much as possible, which includes buying products with recycled content.
EPA's national effort to conserve natural resources and energy by managing materials more efficiently
Waste prevention, or "source reduction," means consuming and throwing away less. It includes:
- purchasing durable, long-lasting goods;
- seeking products and packaging that are as free of toxics as possible;
- redesigning products to use less raw material in production, have a longer life, or be used again after its original use.
Source reduction actually prevents the generation of waste in the first place, so it is the most preferred method of waste management and goes a long way toward protecting the environment.
Ways to Reuse
Reusing items -- by repairing them, donating them to charity and community groups, or selling them -- also reduces waste. Reusing products, when possible, is even better than recycling because the item does not need to be reprocessed before it can be used again.
Benefits of Recycling
Recycling is one of the best environmental success stories of the late 20th century. Recycling, including composting, diverted 79 million tons of material away from landfills and incinerators in 2005, up from 34 million tons in 1990. By 2002, almost 9,000 curbside collection programs served roughly half of the American population. Curbside programs, along with drop-off and buy-back centers, resulted in a diversion of about 32 percent of the nation's solid waste in 2005.
- More About Recycling
- Recycle on the Go EPA's campaign to put recycling places in public spaces
- Recycling Publications
Buying Recycled Products
There's more to recycling than setting out your recyclables at the curb. In order to make recycling economically feasible, we must buy recycled products and packaging. When we buy recycled products, we create an economic incentive for recyclable materials to be collected, manufactured, and marketed as new products. Buying recycled has both economic and environmental benefits. Purchasing products made from or packaged in recycled materials saves resources for future generations.
- More About Buying Recycled Products
Benefits of Composting
Another form of recycling is composting. Composting is the controlled biological decomposition of organic matter, such as food and yard wastes, into humus, a soil-like material. Composting is nature's way of recycling organic waste into new soil, which can be used in vegetable and flower gardens, landscaping, and many other applications.
Common household items such as paints, cleaners, oils, batteries, and pesticides contain hazardous components. One way to help determine if your household waste has hazardous components is to read the labels on products. Labels that read "danger," "warning," "caution," "toxic," "corrosive," "flammable," or "poison" identify products that might contain hazardous materials. Leftover portions of these products are called household hazardous waste (HHW). These products, if mishandled, can be dangerous to your health and the environment.
Although we cannot completely stop using hazardous products, we can make sure that leftovers are managed properly. The best way to handle HHW is to reduce the amount initially generated by giving leftover products to someone else to use. Although federal laws allow the disposal of HHW in the trash, many communities have collection programs for HHW to reduce the potential harm posed by these chemicals. These programs ensure the safe disposal of HHW in facilities designed to treat or dispose of hazardous waste. More than 3,000 HHW collection programs exist in the United States.
- More About Household Hazardous Waste
- Household Hazardous Waste Publications
Information on recycling and other environmental resources in your community (also available by phone at 1-800-CLEANUP).
- the Environmental Sustainability Information Source
- EPA Environmental Kid's
Club: Garbage & Recycling
- EPA Student Center:
Waste & Recycling
- EPA High School
Environmental Center: Waste & Recycling
- EPA Environmental Education Center (for teachers): Waste & Recycling Curriculum Resources
- For additional links see More About Recycling and More About Source Reduction
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