Understanding the Waste Hierarchy Behind “Reduce Reuse Recycle”

What is waste management

We’ve all heard the mantra of “reduce reuse recycle,” but did you know there’s more to the waste cycle? Understanding reduce reuse recycle is a great place to start, but seeing beyond those three simple categories is a great way to improve your idea of what to recycle and how to recycle it.

Here are the components of the waste cycle to remember when you start recycling:

  1. Prevent/Reduce: Prevention includes measures that keep waste from entering the ecosystem in the first place, while reduction reduces the amount of waste. The prevention stage of the cycle doesn’t require the collection or processing of materials, so it’s one of the easiest and cheapest stages of the recycling process. Usually prevention methods include reducing the amount or resources used in manufacturing, using fewer hazardous materials, and creating and purchasing products that can be used for a long time.
  2. Reuse: Reusing is considered one of the most ideal waste reduction measures since products and materials can continue to be used for their intended purpose, reducing the manufacturing and resource costs associated with new products. All people have to do is keep possessions clean, repaired and refurbished and invest in products that will last.
  3. Recovery: Recovery includes the recovery of materials and energy, and is usually determined by which is will benefit human health and the environment. Usually, recyclers choose to recover materials through means like plastic recycling and composting. These measures are often carried out by recycle centers and waste management companies. Recovering energy is usually viewed as a secondary option and consists of transforming waste into energy, heat, electricity or fuel.
  4. Disposal: Disposal is considered a last resort and consists of dumping or incinerating waste. There’s no chance of energy recovery by the time waste gets to the disposal stage. Usually waste needs to be pre-treated to reduce the harm it can have on the environment. Landfills are the most common solution in the disposal stage.

Now that you have a better understanding of reduce reuse recycle mentality, see what you can do to make your area more sustainable!


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