In the beginning there were three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. The original concept of the Three Rs was intended to reduce the amount of waste being sent to landfills. It was soon apparent, however, that there were many other Rs which could be undertaken to reduce the amount of waste and pollution we each produce.
repair an item rather than buy a new one and discard the old;
refuse at the source unnecessary packaging, etc;
rethink design and use of products to reduce potential waste;
rescue discarded items from the trash bin, many continue to be useful to others.
recover excess raw materials for other uses or recover energy inherent in the waste to generate heat or electricity;
restrict a product or by-product from the general waste stream;
remove a particular waste from the product process or remove the product itself; and
repeat a successful R action whenever possible.
In addition to the Multi-Rs, there is a preliminary action which we can take prior to the
need for recycling. This action is to Precycle. Precycling focuses on the Rs of reducing, refusing, repairing and reusing before there is any thought of assigning an item to the recycling bin. By undertaking precycling, we reduce the need to recycle since we are finding multiple re-uses for the products or packaging before they eventually enter the recycling stream. For example, by buying products in bulk, we can reuse the storage container many times, especially if it is glass. A glass jar for storing food can be reused repeatedly; its useful lifetime only ending when the jar is broken.
Some basic steps to precycling:
Buy food products in glass containers the first time. When empty, wash them out and
reuse the container for bulk purchases of the same or other food products.
Buy in bulk whenever possible. Not only does this reduce the number of trips to the store, bulk purchases usually reduce the amount of packaging. If possible reuse the original packaging.
Buying in bulk can initially be expensive if you are buying many items in bulk simultaneously. One way to reduce the immediate impact of the cost of many large bulk purchases is to stagger the purchases. For example, buy 25 kg of flour one month and 10 kg of rice the next.
Take reusable bags with you to the store when you shop not just the grocery or
farmer's market. Many stores give a discount for not using a new bag. These can be canvas or other reusable bags, but paper and plastic bags can work just as well. A plastic grocery bag can fit easily in a purse, pocket or pack and be handy for the unplanned purchase or when you have forgotten to bring other bags.
Carry your own mug or thermos with you to the coffee shop or to meetings, conferences, appointments, etc. This reduces the need to use a paper, plastic or foam cup. Again, some coffee shops give a discount when you bring your own mug or thermos. Check out which ones do and give them your business. Be sure to tell them why!
Repair broken or torn items. Many items can continue to be serviceable after repair. Don't worry about appearance of a repaired cup or other item. Save the story on how it was broken/torn and repaired. This can enhance your personal attachment to the item because you have put time and care into it.
Use durable goods. Cloth towels, napkins, handkerchiefs and diapers that can be washed are generally much superior in strength and absorbency. When the item has become to worn for its prime use, consider delegating it to your cleaning kit or emergency kit, car, backpack,athletic bag, briefcase, etc.
Find a new use an item which has served its original need. We gave an old washtub that had been removed from the laundry room by the previous owner to our neighbour who
turned it into a planter for her garden. Old toilets can be given a similar retirement.
Plan your purchases rather than buying on impulse. Think first before making a purchase: Do I really need the item? Can I save by purchasing it in bulk? Can I borrow or rent one?
Support the recycling industry by purchasing goods that contain recycled material.
Promote swapping and give-away meets. Everyone has some good but unneeded items that are too good to throw away. Some communities have annual or semi-annual clean-out days when usable but unwanted items can be left at curbside and collected by those desiring them. If you community has no such days, organize them.
Give to charity or not-for-profit organizations. Many items are collected by charities or service organizations for distribution to the needy or for resale. Items such as office
equipment and furniture can be donated to organizations to help them in their work.
Sometimes a tax receipt is available.
Clean up an old item. Sometimes a little cleaning, and minor repair, can bring back an item to its former function or appeal. Refinishing furniture can often return a piece to new beauty.
Make a list of your precycling successes. It can serve as a reminder of your commitment to living gently and can be swapped with friends for their list of successes.
Be creative! Come up with additional ways. Write us and share them.