Date: August 1992 (Revised May 1995)
Source: NDSU Extension Service Agricultural Engineering Specialist
To decrease the amount of material that must be disposed of in sanitary landfills Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Together, the three R's can make a big difference in total waste entering a landfill.
Reduce means to cut down on the amount of material you purchase that will end up in the landfill. Packaging materials are an example of things we can reduce. Buying the largest package you can use in a reasonable time will reduce the amount of packaging material. Keep in mind that it is not wise to buy a large amount of a product just to save on packaging if you will end up throwing away most of what you buy because it spoiled.
Reduce waste by buying materials with a minimum or no packaging material. Bring your own reusable bags or boxes to the grocery store.
Rent an item that will only be used a short time rather than purchase it and then throw it away. One example is to rent clothing that will only be worn once or twice.
Many household appliances are purchased but never used. In one survey, more than 30 percent of the owners of hardtop hair dryers, deep fat fryers, toaster ovens, warming trays and hair setters never used the products. Reduce waste by matching purchases to needs.
Reuse means to keep using a product as long as possible. Sometimes it means giving your waste to someone else who can use it. The ageless tradition of hand-me-down clothes is a good example of reuse. Just because you have outgrown or tired of a garment doesn't mean it needs to go to the landfill. Others might have a good use for your castoffs. If you don't know anyone who can use your old clothing, donate it to a thrift shop in your community.
Sometimes minor repairs can extend the useful life of a product. Old furniture can be repaired and reupholstered to extend its use. Toys can be given to refurbishing charities and be used by other children after your children no longer want them.
When the reduce and reuse options are used up, then it is time to recycle. Most products are recyclable, either by returning organic matter to the soil or sending the product to a recycler for reprocessing. Aluminum cans and glass can be melted down and formed into similar products or new products. Plastics can be reprocessed into other plastic materials.
Recycling is the least desirable of the three R's since it requires more handling and processing energy. Also, not all products are recyclable in all markets. Prices paid for recyclable products vary with the supply and demand. Recyclable products usually need to be separated by type for curbside pickup or hauling to a central pickup point or to a local recycling center. Check with local recyclers for instructions.
If you have further questions, please contact your county office of the NDSU Extension Service.
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