How to Reduce Your Trash: Reduce, ReUse, Recycle

One of the ways we can make a positive impact on the environment is by reducing the amount of trash we create.

Lowering your trash output is a simple thing to do. It just takes a little planning and foresight. It also helps to remember the saying, “Reduce, reuse, recycle” which pretty much sums up the principles of conservation.

How do I reduce my trash?

Reducing your garbage doesn’t mean smashing everything in a trash compacter. Instead, this refers to reducing the trash you bring into the home. One of the best places to start is at the supermarket.

Practically everything you buy at the grocery store comes in some sort of package. Some of it is boxed, some of it in plastic bags. Other items are packed in plastic jugs or glass jars. One way you can reduce packaging is to buy fresh produce instead of canned. Buying loose or “bulk” is another way to reduce trash. Bulk refers to items that are loosely stored in large bins; you buy just the amount you need and scoop the product in a small plastic bag. When you do have to buy a packaged item, buying the largest possible quantity also saves on packaging.

If you must buy something packaged, take a moment to examine if the container is recyclable. Most communities only recycle certain kinds of plastics. When given the choice between a recyclable container or not, go with the one that can be recycled. Buying concentrated or multipurpose products also helps to lower your trash output.

Now that we’ve looked how to reduce packaging, let’s look at other ways we can reduce our trash.

One big change you could make is by taking a good look at the things you throw out. Thrift stores will take old furniture, clothing, household items, toys, and accessories. Your community also may have a center for collecting salvaged building materials such as old sinks, carpet, carpet pads, lumber, screen doors, cabinets, plumbing fixtures, paint and more. Certain charities will even take old cars, eye glasses, computers, and cell phones.

You can also reduce waste is by keeping disposable goods to a minimum. Trying using plastic dishes, cutlery, tumblers and storage containers instead of buying disposable products. Use real cloth napkins, dish clothes and vinyl tablecloths instead of paper towels or napkins. Save the disposable diapers for the the day care, and use cloth in the evenings and weekends. (Check into a diaper service if you don’t want to deal with the extra laundry) I also use rechargeable batteries, real razors, metal garbage cans instead of plastic bags, and lunch boxes instead of paper sacks.

How can I ReUse it?

In our house, the rule is that everything must find a second use before being thrown out or recycled. Keeping that idea in mind, take a look at the ways that you can reuse some of your trash:

Plastic vegetable bags can be brought back to the store and used again
Bread bags can hold homemade pastry items, they also work well for coating chicken pieces with flour
Glass and plastic jars are great for mixing paint or storing odds & ends
Junk mail can be turned into scratch paper
Shredded bills work great for packing material
Deli containers can be used for carrying home cooked meals to shut-ins
Wax lined juice cartons can be made into bird feeders
Use wax paper cereal liners for sandwich wrappers or leftovers
Fruit & vegetable scraps, leaves & yard waste can be composted
Old clothes can be turned into rags
Old towels can be sewn into bath mitts or pot holders
Turn old broom sticks into tree stakes
Yard wood and branches can be cut into firewood
Cut wire clothes hangers into 8″ pieces to use for hose stakes.
Broken dishes can be made into a mosaic stepping stone.
Even vacuum cleaner bags can be emptied and reused a second time

Tell me about recycling

You’ve reduced and reused, and now it’s time to toss it. However, before throwing it in the garbage can, let’s see if the item be recycled instead.

Recycling is an important way of reducing waste. Recycling conserves natural resources. It reuses what has already been used once before, instead of cutting more trees or extracting more raw material out of the ground. Recycling reduces air and water pollution, uses less energy, and keeps material out of the landfill.

Most communities will take glass, metal, aluminum, some plastics, mixed paper, motor oil, cardboard, and newspaper. You will have to check with your local Public Services department to see if your town offers curbside pickup or if it needs to be brought to a recycling center. For items that are hazardous, such as electronic parts, batteries, lead paint, and yard chemicals, your town should have a “Hazardous Waste” site where these can be dropped off for recycling. Most grocery stores have recycling bins for plastic grocery bags. Dry cleaners will recycle wire hangers and clear plastic dry cleaning bags.

If your trash is organic, such as grass clippings, leaves, vegetable scraps or prunings from the yard, consider composting it instead. Composting is nature’s perfect fertilizer for your yard and is easy to make. If you aren’t interesting in composting, check with your public works department. They may know of a composting facility that accepts yard waste and clean lumber for a small fee.

Reducing your trash output will take a little effort at first, as you get in the habit of “Reduce, ReUse, and Recycle”. But, through reducing our trash, we also reduce the effects of pollution and help keep our planet just a little greener.

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