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 reduce and better manage their trash through waste reduction and other waste management practices such as composting, reuse and recycling.
REDUCING WASTE: What You Can Do
Simply put, waste reduction is preventing or not creating waste. Waste reduction can conserve resources, reduce pollution and help cut waste disposal and handling costs because it avoids the costs of recycling and landfilling.
Waste reduction is a basic solution to the garbage glut: less waste means less of a waste problem and less consumption of resources. Because waste reduction actually prevents the generation of waste in the first place, it comes before other management options that deal with trash after it is already generated. After waste reduction, reuse, recycling and composting are the preferred waste management options because they reduce the amount of waste going to landfills and conserve resources.
Putting waste reduction into practice 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. For example, you might need to take out the trash less often. If we don’t reduce 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 trash.
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 over packaged single serving items). Ask yourself the question “Do I really need this?” before making a purchase.
Purchase the most durable products you can afford. You will save money in the long run. Also, provide proper maintenance and repairs to keep products running longer. Higher quality items are usually more repairable, whereas cheaper alternatives often cannot be repaired and must be replaced.
Buy wisely to avoid excessive packaging. Packaging serves many purposes, but its primary purpose is to protect and contain a product. It also can prevent tampering, provide information and preserve hygienic integrity and freshness. Some packaging, however is designed largely to enhance a products attractiveness or prominence on the store shelf. Since packaging materials account for a large volume of the trash we generate, they provide a good opportunity for reducing waste.
- Look for refillable bottles.
- Buy products with minimal or no packaging, or at least packaging that is recyclable locally.
- When choosing between two similar products, select the one with the least packaging and packaging that is recyclable locally.
- Buy concentrates, larger–sized containers or products in bulk. Keep in mind that as the amount of product in a container increases, the packaging waste per serving or use usually decreases. Single serving foods have the most packaging.
- Remember that wrenches, screwdrivers, nails and other hardware are often available in loose bins. At the grocery, consider whether it is necessary to purchase items such as tomatoes, garlic and mushrooms in prepackaged containers when they can be bought without packaging.
- Refill a small plastic bottle or use a thermos instead of buying juice boxes.
- You can reduce the number and toxicity of products you buy for cleaning by using solutions of baking soda, vinegar, salt, and lemon for most cleaning jobs. Information about chemicals is available under the Special Waste heading.
- Have a hand drying towel by the kitchen sink instead of paper towels. Use paper towels only for messy things. Use rags and sponges instead of paper towels for cleaning.
- Use cloth napkins instead of paper.
- Choose if or how many telephone directories you receive, at the National Yellow Pages website
- Buy only the amount you need of paint and chemicals.
- Use cloth diapers instead of disposables. Diaper services make cloth diapers as easy and as economical as disposable diapers. Look in the yellow pages under the heading Diaper Services.
- Reduce unwanted mail (commonly called junkmail) by utilizing the city’s Eliminating Unwanted Mail brochure listed under the Special Waste heading.
- Use both sides of paper. Make double sided photo copies.
- Avoid disposable utensils, dishware and glasses.
- Borrow or rent items that you use infrequently. Find them under the heading Rental Service Stores in the yellow pages.
- Use shaving soap instead of aerosol cream.
REUSING WASTE: What You Can Do
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.
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. For more information about loose fill packaging, read this article by Earth911 available 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.
Keep giving this holiday season by making the right choices by Reducing, Reusing and Recycling solid waste.
- Donate the toys that your kids received last year and now have outgrown to a charitable organization. Look in the yellow pages under the heading “Thrift Stores.” Or for an on-line list click here. Remember that thrift stores are not to be used as a dump for unusable items. When the store must pay to dispose of your garbage, it reduces the funds available for their charitable mission.
- Recycle your natural Christmas tree at one of the metro area collection sites. For more information click here.
- Use colorful papers you already have, such as old maps or Sunday comics, as gift wrap instead of buying gift wrap.
- Save ribbons and bows and large pieces of wrapping paper for use next year.
- Buy the most durable product you can afford. More durable products should last longer, and usually can be repaired for extra life.
- Remove your name from mailing lists of any catalogues you no longer wish to receive. For more information Click here.
- Donate unwanted and old clothing to a charitable organization. Look in the yellow pages under the heading “Thrift Stores.” Or for an on-line list click here. Remember that thrift stores are not to be used as a dump for unusable items. When the store must pay to dispose of your garbage, it reduces the funds available for their charitable mission.
- Select gifts with the least amount of packaging.
- Give environmental gifts like reusable tote bags, lunch bags, travel mugs, house plants, bird feeders, bird houses, homemade foods and handmade items.
- Purchase holiday cards and wrapping paper that is labeled “made from” recycled material and better yet labeled “made from post-consumer” recycled material.
- Purchase holiday cards and wrapping paper that can be recycled.
- Purchase holiday and year-round cards that are remade from old cards. St Jude Ranch for children creates these cards as a fund raiser and learning tool. Contact them to order cards.
- Use one of the recycling drop-off sites if you have more recyclables that will fit in your bin. For complete information about the drop-off sites Click here.
- Properly dispose of your old computer that’s been replaced by a newer model. Disposing varies from recycling materials, to reusing components by a charitable organization. Earth 911 a non-profit corporation has a listing of companies all across the nation. Visit their website, www.earth911.com. For a listing of Omaha area disposal locations click here.
Recycling Collection Tips
Do not include: plastic bags, Styrofoam®, motor oil bottles, syringes, diapers, or glass of any kind.
Remove carts from curb as soon as possible after collection.