How To Minimize Waste

Modern society is full of waste. Here are the stunning facts:

  • The average American office worker uses about 500 disposable cups every year.
  • Every year, Americans use approximately 1 billion shopping bags, creating 300,000 tons of landfill waste.
  • Only 2.5% of all waste food was composted in 2008 – the rest went to landfill or incinerators.
  • Making a ton of paper from recycled paper saves up to 17 trees and uses 50 percent less water than does creating paper from virgin pulp.
  • Producing one pound of recycled rubber requires only 29 percent as much energy as producing one pound of new rubber.

These are sobering facts, and they remind us that we consume vast amounts of resources. It makes a lot of sense to try and reduce this consumption. With a bit of thought and by practicing the three R’s – reduce, reuse, recycle – you could drastically reduce the amount of waste you throw away each year.

Help minimize your waste, please.

Where do you start?

OK, if you’re serious about this, put on some rubber gloves and go through your trash and see what the situation really is. What’s being thrown away? Are any products reusable? Could you reduce the amount of disposable products you use? Or buy similar products, that use less packaging?

Now you’ve got the unpleasant part over with, it’s time to get down to reducing your waste. It can be done – Waste reduction trials in the UK have shown that people who committed to recycling and waste reduction recycled 4.5% more and reduced the amount of rubbish they sent to landfill by 2.5 times compared to other people. How do you do it?

Reduce: buy and use less! Buy only what you need and use all of what you buy. Consider how something is packaged and reduce waste by selecting products that are not wasteful in their packaging. Buy in bulk as buying in larger volumes reduces the unit cost of a product. Avoid disposable items that you can only use a few times and then have to throw away.

Reuse: if something still works, why throw it away? If you do use disposable plastic cups, plates, knives and forks, wash and reuse them. And if something does break, try and repair it first rather than send it to landfill.

Recycle: most forms of packaging can be recycled at municipal collection points. And old clothes and footwear can be recycled into rags.

And it’s not just at home – you probably spend around eight hours in an office, so look out here as well. The average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year and the EPA estimates that paper and paperboard account for almost 40 per cent of our garbage. Use both sides of a sheet of paper for printing, copying, and writing and don’t print out emails unless necessary. Print addresses directly onto envelopes or even better, use electronic mail shots. Shut your computer down when you leave for the day and unplug printers, scanners, and other peripherals when not in use. As in the home, buy office supplies in bulk and refurbish office equipment if possible. -MARK LEE

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