The Three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

By Lina Lee

 

When we think about the environment, things often seem out of our control. But there are many ways we can Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle on a daily basis!

The “Three R’s” are in a specific order: reduce, reuse, recycle. “Reduce” is the first step, meaning the best way to manage waste is to first reduce said waste by making better decisions to start with.

With food, we can reduce food waste by not eating much, but that’s unrealistic considering how important and fun eating is! What we can do is to think twice before buying too many bags of polished fruits and too many boxes of cream cheese. Then, once we buy what we want, we can place those items in the fridge strategically so we don’t forget about them. This can be a simple way to start being more conscious about our foods and reducing food waste. Check out this quick video on the life cycle of a strawberry!

Even non-processed foods have waste, such as the scraps from peeling a carrot or the peel of a banana. Instead of throwing out all the peels, crumbs, and spoiled foods or letting them become a science experiment in your dorm room, you can compost and reuse the waste productively. It might be a little hard to start, but fret not! You can get on it with the help of “A Handy Dandy Guide to Composting”. It walks you through setting up the composting bin correctly and lists what kind of things you can compost. Now, what to do with the composted foods? Compost makes great fertilizer! Don’t have a garden in your dorm? No worries – you can contribute to our very own Native Plants Garden! We have one in Queen’s Courtyard, right between Bing Theater and Norris Cinema.

The best way to recycle is to sort your garbage properly to prevent contaminating the recycling process. Recycled garbage is contaminated when non-recyclables, often soiled and greasy things, are put into that bright blue bin. During the recycling process, paper and paper products are watered to break them down into paper fibers. But when the pile of paper has grease, the oil dirties the entire batch of paper fibers and water. Oil then separates from water and mixes with the paper, giving oil spots to new paper, which is then rejected by manufacturers. So all the effort put into placing a recycling program at whatever building it came from, energy for transportation and running the recycling center, and labor of the waste collectors and recyclers becomes wasted. So, there are a couple of things on the “To NOT Do” list when it comes to recycling!

Keep these out of the recycling bin:

  • Greasy pizza boxes
  • Slightly used paper towels, paper plates, paper napkins, or paper cups
  • Any food container that has food on it (so while unsoiled cereal boxes and paper egg cartons are good everywhere, but juice boxes and milk cartons are only taken in certain areas)
  • Shredded paper (paper fibers are too short to be useful; next time, you can rip it a couple times and dump it in the recycling bin! But if they must be shredded, you can look for a local center that will recycle shredded paper here)
  • Brightly colored papers (these too can contaminate a batch with their vibrant colors)
  • Paper coffee cups (they have a layer of plastic over them, so only a few locations in the U.S. take them; so you can carry around a mug, or look into compostable cups! They’re out there!)
  • Plastic bags (take them to grocery stores!)

In short, let’s be more conscious about our consumption habits and reduce where we can, and reuse what we can, and recycle EVERYTHING we can!

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