Go Beyond the 3 Rs: Practice the 5 Rs of Zero Waste

The 5 R's of Zero Waste Living. Ecological lifestyle and sustainable developments. Vector object isolated on white background.
The 5 R’s of Zero Waste Living. Image by Kristina Pershina

Going zero waste is a difficult lifestyle shift. But if you’re determined enough to care more about the world you live in, this lifestyle is a great step towards combating climate change. Zero waste here doesn’t mean completely zero waste thrown. Rather, it means the least possible amount of trash towards landfill. Managing your waste is different in this lifestyle. Instead of the 3Rs (Reduce. Reuse, Recycle), practice the 5 R’s of zero waste.

Refuse

Learning to say NO is the first crucial step to going zero waste. Say no to single use plastics such as paper cups, disposable utensils, plastic straws and other unnecessary items. Back up your NO with a reusable item ready on hand. Bring to-go containers such as lunchboxes, tumblers, and eco-bags.

Say NO also to things to things that might damage the environment. Learn to scrutinize products and services beyond the flashy and greenwashing advertising. Say NO to fast fashion, plastic, cruel productions and other environmentally-dangerous business practices.

Reduce

Downsize everything. Stop buying non-essentials. If possible, go minimalist.

In fact, when you practice zero waste living, you learn to discriminate expenses. As much as possible, avoid non-recyclable or non-compostable packaging. Reduce waste by buying goods with little to no packaging.

Stop spending on trends. You’ll save both the environment and your financial future.

Be more mindful in what you buy and use every day. That is the best way to reduce expenses and unnecessary efforts and instead divert those to the things that matter most in life.

Reuse

Always find a way to keep an item out of the landfill by keeping it in great condition, repairing or upcycling it when it breaks. Don’t throw away any thing if you can still squeeze some use out of it.

Old clothes? Turn them into reusable bags or pet clothes.

Food scraps? Incorporate them into an easy quiche, fried rice mix, or soup stock.

Plastic containers? Use them as containers for your indoor garden.

Be creative with the things you already have. There’s always something valuable out of what you might throw away today.

Rot

For biodegradable waste such as food scraps, let it rot. Separate them from other types of waste. Set up a compost system for your food scraps. Or find a food scrap drop off center (like a farmers market, or community garden) near your house. Better yet, start your own garden and use your compost to enrich your plants.

Recycle

Recycling should be the LAST RESORT. If you can’t refuse, reduce, reuse, or rot it, then and only then should you recycle it. Research on the recycling systems of your area. And work from there.

To properly recycle any plastic, paper, glass or metal that comes into your life, clean them thoroughly before throwing them into the blue bin. This way, you increase the chances of your recyclables being processed because you lessened the risk of contamination from dirt.

Conclusion

The traditional solid waste management system is not enough to solve the waste pollution. The 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) represents the linear economy which rapidly depletes the Earth of its natural resources.  Instead, go zero waste. Practice the 5Rs (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Rot and Recycle). This waste management system promotes the circular economy that pays attention to sustainability and eco-friendly practices.

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