Last edited 15 Nov 2021

Reduce, reuse, recycle



[edit] Introduction

Reduce, reuse and recycle is a motto used by environmentalists to reduce waste, minimise consumption and ensure the best overall approach is adopted for the environment and human health. Such programmes when managed at national and/or local levels can save money, energy and natural resources.

Reduce, reuse and recycle are part of the ‘waste hierarchyguidance tool which ranks waste management options according to what is best for the environment and also considers resource and energy consumption. It aims to extract from products the maximum practical benefits and generate minimal waste. The priorities in the hierarchy are based on sustainability.

Waste hierarchy.jpg
The waste hierarchy pyramid.

The waste management hierarchy features a distinct order of preference – usually represented by a pyramid diagram – which is designed to facilitate reduction and management of waste. The pyramidal structure emphasises options from those that are most favoured to those least favoured.

In the UK, this falls under the Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011, which came into force on 29 March 2011.

The origins of waste hierarchy guidance stretch back to 1975, when the European Union’s Waste Framework Directive introduced the concept into European waste policy. It emphasised waste minimisation, protection of the environment and human health.

[edit] Reduce

In the first instance, reduction gives priority to preventing waste as a basic step. In other words, through judicious purchasing and use behaviours, the amount of waste can be reduced. Reduced waste means less material to process, ie prepare it for reuse, recycling, recovery and disposal.

Reduction/prevention may include;

[edit] Reuse

Reuse and preparing for reuse may involve:

[edit] Recycle

Turning materials that would otherwise be thrown away into new substances or products. The benefits include:

[edit] Other recovery methods

The three steps above, once implemented, can lead to other recovery methods, such as anaerobic digestion, incineration with energy recovery, and finally disposal involving landfill and incineration without energy recovery.

The waste hierarchy as described above applies to most materials. However, the UK government concedes that for some materials, it may be better for the environment if they undergo waste management options that are not in keeping with the waste hierarchy order. These materials include:

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