The 3Rs explained (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle)

By Sophia Rice, 1st March 2023

In this article, Travelife for Accommodation explains what the 3Rs are and the importance of using them when it comes to managing waste.

The 3Rs of waste management is an initiative that was developed in the early 2000s as a method that helps all of us to reduce the amount of waste we send to landfill or incineration, and to reduce the amount of items being produced unnecessarily. The 3Rs stand for Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. These three small words are pivotal to managing waste and helping to combat climate change.

Reduce means to make smaller/less in amount.

Reuse means to use something again, either for its original purpose or repurposed for a different task.

Recycle means to convert waste into material that can be used to remake the item, or to make something else.

You may have noticed that when referring to the 3Rs, we always say them in the same order: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. This is because this is the order that is most effective in helping us to reduce waste and greenhouse gas emissions.

How it works

Firstly, we should try to reduce how much waste we produce and therefore the amount of unnecessary items we purchase. If something still needs to be purchased, then we should next try to reuse it for something else at the end of its life. If we cannot reuse it, then we must recycle it as a last resort. Even though recycling should be considered last, it is an important part of the process. In addition to conserving the world’s natural resources, it is estimated that over 700 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions is avoided every year from recycling!

Any waste that cannot be recycled is either taken to the incinerator where it gets burnt in an enclosed chamber or, if it cannot go to the incinerator, the waste is taken to landfill sites where it is then left to rot. This produces a lot of methane which is one of the more potent greenhouse gases. Also, as there is so much waste being produced, there is simply not enough space at these landfill sites, which then leads to illegally burning the waste or dumping it in the oceans, with little to no control.

Some plastic waste used to be transported overseas to countries that had recycling initiatives in place, which were designed to help them profit from the plastic waste produced by other countries. However, this is now coming to a halt because there is simply too much waste being sent to these destinations for it to be manageable.

This is why it is vital that we try to minimise the amount of waste being sent to landfill sites by having proper waste management procedures in place. Whilst it may seem daunting, waste management can be completed through small tasks at home and at work.

Our top tips for at-home waste management

Check your local government website to find out what to recycle and when recycling is collected in your area.

Separate your waste into different bins so you can follow the recycling rules in your area.

Make sure your waste is clean before recycling it.

Use a compost bin for your food waste or follow your local food waste initiative.

Have reusable drink bottles and cups.

Reuse glass jars for storage.

Take reusable bags with you when shopping.

Managing waste at your business

As a business, you could get your company involved in all of the above as well as Global Recycling Day which takes place each year on 18th March. With the aim to help recognise and celebrate the importance of recycling, it is a great opportunity to get everyone involved and become more aware of the climate issues we are facing. It also helps to reduce the amount of waste we collectively produce so we can all help to combat climate change.

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