The 5 Rs of Reducing Plastic Waste

You’ve probably heard about the three Rs when it comes to reducing waste. For example, here in Tucson our waste management trucks have the three Rs rule “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle” printed on the side of them. If we want to reduce plastic waste, it’s useful to add a few more Rs on the list and keep this mantra in our heads whenever we go.

1. Refuse

Turn down all single-use plastics you are offered. Say no to plastic bags, water bottles, coffee cups, straws, and cutlery. It might feel awkward at first but the more you do it, the easier it gets.

2. Reduce

Stop buying items that are wrapped in plastic. Look for food, cleaning products, and personal hygiene products that have zero packaging or are wrapped in a more sustainable way. In general, consider if you really need the product before purchasing it. Reducing our consumption is one of the best things we can do for our environment.

3. Reuse

Use plastic containers as many times as possible and try to repurpose everything you can. You can also give your plastics a second life by giving them to someone who could use them. However, don’t dump your trash to people if they don’t want it.

4. Rot

Plastic containers can’t be recycled if they are contaminated with food waste. However, food waste does not belong to trash cans or landfills either. Composting is a great way to reduce your waste and its beneficial for your garden as well. You can compost indoors or outdoors, or even sign up for a composting collection program.

5. Recycle

If the previous steps don’t work and you still end up with some plastic, recycle it. Recycling should be an everyday habit but since less than 8% of plastic ends up being recycled, you should not count on the magic of recycling. Only plastic items with number 1 or 2 inside the recycling triangle are consistently recycled, so make sure you are not wishcycling and remember to rinse the containers before recycling them to avoid food contamination.