The 4Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, & Rot

Individuals and businesses should look for opportunities to reduce the waste that they generate before they practice any other option. After all attempts to reduce or eliminate the generation of waste have been exhausted, the next preferred option is to look for opportunities to reuse items. If all waste reduction and reuse options are exhausted, individuals and businesses should try to recycle or compost (rot) waste items.

Reduce

Actions taken before waste is generated to either reduce or completely prevent the generation of waste.

Waste reduction (or prevention) is the preferred approach to waste management because waste that never gets created doesn't have any associated waste management costs.

An example of waste reduction is reducing unnecessary packaging from manufactured products and produce. If this excess packaging were never produced in the first place, no one would have to be concerned with the cost and effort of collecting the excess packaging, separating it for recycling, breaking it down, transporting it to manufacturers, and then integrating the recycled materials back into the manufacturing process.

Waste reduction also helps conserve resources for future generations and contributes to a cleaner environment.

Reuse

Using an object or material again, either for its original purpose or for a similar purpose, without significantly altering the physical form of the object or material.

Reuse is not recycling, because recycling alters the physical form of an object or material. Reuse is generally preferred to recycling because reuse generally consumes less energy and resources than recycling. Waste is defined as material for which no use or reuse is intended. Thus, reuse prevents objects and materials from becoming waste.

Recycle

Using waste as material to manufacture a new product. Recycling involves altering the physical form of an object or material and making a new object from the altered material.

Recycling is not waste prevention because only waste can be recycled. One must generate waste in order to recycle the waste. Therefore, if you are recycling, you have already generated waste. Although recycling is a very good thing, ideally it would be better to not generate any waste.

Rot (Composting)

The biological decomposition of organic materials such as leaves, grass clippings, brush, and food waste into a soil amendment.

Composting is a form of recycling.

"How Do You Practice the 4Rs" Contest

The following winners shared their creative solutions to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle & Rot and Won $100.00, a ThinkGreenFromHome.com Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb Recycling Kit, Reusable Tote Bags, and a Food Scrap Recycling Pail.  Winning Entries Appeared in the Castro Valley Forum.

Week 1:  How do you Reduce at home or work?

Congratulations to Joy Davis, CVSan Resident, who appeared on Page 6 of the Castro Valley Forum on September 9, 2009.

In her winning entry, she writes, "As many others do, I keep my cloth shopping bags in the trunk of my car, so that I'm never without them.  Unlike most people, I also carry an assortment of reusable (think Tupperware) food containers.  When I go out to eat, instead of putting leftovers in Styrofoam or other disposable containers, I pull out my own food containers and cloth bag and pack it myself.  These containers seal better; there's no leaking, no dripping, no food getting dried out.  And best of all, it reduces waste in several ways: no wasted food, and no Styrofoam container and plastic bag going to the landfill.  Friends, family and strangers all notice and comment.  Some think it's pretty weird, some think it's clever, some think I've gone too far and are embarrassed to be seen with me.  Others think it's something they should do, too.  I encourage everyone to try it!" 

 

Week 2:  How do you Reuse at home or work?

Congratulations to Evelyn di Salvo, CVSan Resident, who appeared on Page 2 of the Castro Valley Forum on September 30, 2009.

In her winning entry, she writes, "Let’s face it; everything comes in a package. With the right mindset, one can transform that Fed Ex box you got at work into a new care package out to one of your clients, that soda you just had to have at lunch becomes your new water-bottle for the gym tonight, and the back of all those horribly annoying junk faxes (advertising some fabulous Hawaiian vacation) are now your new notepad. It is easy enough to go shopping and blissfully load a shopping cart full of items unaware of the content packaging. But cloth shopping bags are actually the new purse, glass bottles are really the new vase, and empty egg cartons may just be the planter for your new herb garden. At the end of the day it really is not hard to see how reuse has helped your bottom line and helped the environment in the process too."

 

Week 3: How do you Recycle at home or work?

Congratulations to Julie Gard, CVSan Resident, who appeared on Page 14 of the Castro Valley Forum on October 14, 2009.

In her winning entry, she writes, "We are avid recyclers at our home but didn’t realize until recently that you could recycle all kinds of clear plastic along with plastic bags. For an easy solution, I decided to hang a bag near my recycling bin to drop plastic into throughout the week and have been amazed at how much I need to dispose of during any given day. I never much enjoyed just tossing it into the garbage and am so pleased to be "doing my part" to keep more plastic out of landfill. Each week we have filled at least one plastic bag and simply placed it into our blue recycling cart. It seems like a small thing, but every time I find a piece - a wrapper from a juice box straw, a piece of glad wrap for heating dinner leftovers, a cellophane wrapper from a purchase - I smile as I toss it into the waiting bag, instead of into the trash!"

 

Week 4:  How do you Rot at home or work?

Congratulations to Janet Soon, CVSan Resident, who appeared on Page 3 of the Castro Valley Forum on October 28, 2009.

In her winning entry, she writes, "My contribution to recycling starts with preparing a meal. All biodegradable matter (fruits, vegetables, coffee grinds and filters goes in my food scrape recycling pail and when it is full I take it to my compost bin in the yard.  I mix it up with steer manure and continue this all year long. In the springtime I have nice compost for my vegetable garden. I take the grease from cooking and put in a bowl.  I add my used paper towels to absorb the grease and from there it goes in my curbside green container.  When all the eggs have been used I clean and dry the eggshells then crumbly them into little pieces and scatter them around my plants and vegetables as a slug deterrent, thus I have eliminated the use of a chemical to get rid of the slugs. All my milk, ice cream and juice cartons and paper plates are placed in the green recycle container."