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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Teddy Bears at a Local Yard Sale Did you know Americans dispose of 208 million tons of municipal solid waste every year? That means that every day each person throws away an average of 4.3 pounds of garbage or trash! Where on earth does all of this garbage go? The answer is landfills.

Fortunately there are ways to help keep landfills from getting too full and one of the easiest was is to learn to practice the 3Rs ... REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE.

Reduce
Waste prevention, or "source reduction," means consuming and throwing away less. It includes:
  • purchasing durable, long-lasting goods
  • seeking products and packaging that are as free of toxics as possible
  • redesigning products to use less raw material in production, have a longer life, or be used again after its original use.

Source reduction actually prevents the generation of waste in the first place, so it is the most preferred method of waste management and goes a long way toward protecting the environment.

Reuse
Reusing items -- by repairing them, donating them to charity and community groups, or selling them -- also reduces waste. Reusing products, when possible, is even better than recycling because the item does not need to be reprocessed before it can be used again.

Ways to Reuse

  • Use durable coffee mugs
  • Use cloth napkins or towels
  • Refill bottles
  • Donate old magazines or surplus equipment
  • Reuse boxes
  • Turn empty jars into containers for leftover food
  • Purchase refillable pens and pencils
  • Participate in a paint collection and reuse program.
Recycle
Recycling turns materials that would otherwise become waste into valuable resources. In addition, it generates a host of environmental, financial, and social benefits. Materials like glass, metal, plastics, and paper are collected, separated and sent to facilities that can process them into new materials or products.

Recycling is one of the best environmental success stories of the late 20th century. Recycling, including composting, diverted 79 million tons of material away from landfills and incinerators in 2005, up from 34 million tons in 1990. By 2002, almost 9,000 curbside collection programs served roughly half of the American population. Curbside programs, along with drop-off and buy-back centers, resulted in a diversion of about 32 percent of the nation's solid waste in 2005.

Benefits of Recycling
  • Conserves resources for our children's future
  • Prevents emissions of many greenhouse gases and water pollutants
  • Saves energy
  • Supplies valuable raw materials to industry
  • Creates jobs
  • Stimulates the development of greener technologies
  • Reduces the need for new landfills and incinerators
Buying Recycled Products
There's more to recycling than setting out your recyclables at the curb. In order to make recycling economically feasible, we must buy recycled products and packaging. When we buy recycled products, we create an economic incentive for recyclable materials to be collected, manufactured, and marketed as new products. Buying recycled has both economic and environmental benefits. Purchasing products made from or packaged in recycled materials saves resources for future generations.

Material provided by United States Environmental Protection Agency.

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