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As a nation, we are starting to realize that we can’t solve the solid waste dilemma just by finding new places to put trash. Across the country, many individuals, communities, and businesses have found creative ways to better manage their trash through reuse and other waste management practices, such as composting, recycling and waste reduction.
Use it again.
Simply put, reuse is the continuing use of an item for its original purpose or for a new use.
Reuse means to use a durable product instead of a disposable item. Reuse also means to adapt a waste item for a new use. Reuse can help reduce waste disposal and handling costs because it avoids the costs of recycling, municipal composting, or landfilling. It also conserves resources and reduces pollution. It is a preferred waste management option since it actually prevents the generation of waste in the first place. In addition, the practice doesn’t result in simply moving waste from one place to another.
Choosing to reuse is likely to require some change in our daily routines. Changing habits does not mean a return to a more difficult life-style. In fact, just the opposite may happen like taking out the garbage less often. Reuse can be as simple as reaching for a sponge or rag instead of a paper towel.
If we don’t reuse waste, the economic and social costs of waste disposal will continue to increase, and communities—large and small, urban and suburban—will face increasingly harder decisions about managing their waste.
Everyone has a role
We all need to evaluate our daily waste-producing activities to determine which ones are essential (such as buying medicines and food wrapped in packaging for our safety and health), and which are not (such as purchasing overpackaged single serving items). Use this list to get you started reusing.
- Loose fill packing peanuts are taken back for reuse by most mailing and shipping stores. Look in the yellow pages under the heading Packaging Service or search the Loose Fill Packaging Council's database of locations by clicking here.
- Save egg cartons, clean foam meat trays, etc. for school or church art supplies. Be sure to check with the art teacher or principal first, and ask them when it is convenient for you to bring your materials to the school.
- Use the Sunday comics or the sports or finance page as appropriate for wrapping paper. Then recycle it!
- Cut the top off of a soda bottle (1 or 2 liter) and use it to hold celery or carrots in the refrigerator. Use the top you cut off as a funnel.
- Plastic jugs that once held milk or bleach can be cut into scoops (keep the lid on) with a handy gripping handle for dog food, bird seed or other dry material.
- Old plastic shower curtains can be saved and used for a durable paint drop cloth, or kept in the car for emergency repairs.
- Use old, worn out clothing for rags.
- Some hair care stores now sell products in refillable bottles.
- Reuse large manila envelopes by opening them carefully.
- Give usable but unneeded building materials and paint to neighbors, community groups, theatres, or schools.
- Rechargeable batteries are reused over and over again before they must be discarded. Ni-Cad batteries are potentially hazardous. The Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation can tell you where to safely dispose of them if you click here.
- Sell or donate usable second hand goods. To sell items, look up Consignment Service in the yellow pages or donate items by looking up Thrift Stores. Remember that thrift stores are charity organizations—they don’t want your junk. Another option—you can hold a garage sale for yourself. Of course there is also Ebay, Craigslist and Freecycle.
- Purchase canvas or string shopping bags and use them instead of paper or plastic bags at the grocery store and other places you shop.
- Turn file folders inside out and use them again.
- Make scratch pads from used paper.
- Use remanufactured laser printer toner cartridges (and some small photo copiers and plain paper fax machines) as well as ink jet cartridges. Look in the yellow pages under the heading Computers-Supplies & Parts.
- Take a coffee mug to work with you and to meetings instead of using a disposable cup.
- Purchase and use a reusable coffee filter.