The Organic Consumer

Practical Information, Resources, Products and Services for the Cost-Conscious Organic Consumer

Recycling Information

What, Where and How to Recycle!

The waste hierarchy

You should recycle everything you can, right?  Not really. There is a hierarchy to the decision making process for spent items and once you know it, it's pretty easy to follow!

  1. Reduce - the amount of waste and/or the toxicity of the waste produced

  2. Reuse - the used material, get more life out of it

  3. Recycle - send it to be reduce to component parts and reassembled into a new product

  4. Dispose - of the scrap, if nothing else can be done with it.

The first three goals are called the "3 Rs" reduce, reuse and recycle, in order of preference to help the environment.


If you can't reduce it, or reuse it, recycle it. Recycling is the process of collecting, processing, marketing, and ultimately using materials that were once discarded. For example, newspaper can be recycled into insulation, packing material, wrapping paper, and more newspaper. Plastic pop and water bottles are recycled into lumber that is used for making durable park benches.

Background Information

The waste hierarchy has taken many forms over the past decade, but the basic concept has remained the cornerstone of most waste minimisation strategies. The aim of the waste hierarchy is to extract the maximum practical benefits from products and to generate the minimum amount of waste.

Some waste management experts have recently incorporated a 'fourth R': "Re-think", with the implied meaning that the present system may have fundamental flaws, and that a thoroughly effective system of waste management may need an entirely new way of looking at waste. Some "re-think" solutions may be counter-intuitive, such as cutting fabric patterns with slightly more "waste material" left -- the now larger scraps are then used for cutting small parts of the pattern, resulting in a decrease in net waste. This type of solution is by no means limited to the clothing industry. Source reduction involves efforts to reduce hazardous waste and other materials by modifying industrial production. Source reduction methods involve changes in manufacturing technology, raw material inputs, and product formulation. At times, the term "pollution prevention" may refer to source reduction.

Another method of source reduction is to increase incentives for recycling. Many communities in the United States are implementing variable rate pricing for waste disposal (also known as Pay As You Throw - PAYT) which has been effective in reducing the size of the municipal waste stream.

Source reduction is typically measured by efficiencies and cutbacks in waste. Toxics use reduction is a more controversial approach to source reduction that targets and measures reductions in the upstream use of toxic materials. Toxics use reduction emphasizes the more preventive aspects of source reduction but, due to its emphasis on toxic chemical inputs, has been opposed more vigorously by chemical manufacturers. Toxics use reduction programs have been set up by legislation in some states, e.g., Massachusetts, New Jersey and Oregon.

Green Purchasing
As with source reduction and reuse, part of recycling is being a wise consumer. Learn more about Green Purchasing and how looking for recycled content and recyclable products can assist your business.

Composting is Nature's way of recycling. Your business may benefit from composting if it generates organic materials such as food scraps, leaves, and yard trimmings. Composting decomposes and transforms organic material into a beneficial soil-like product called humus. It is estimated that about 50 percent of the total waste stream could be composted! If you are in a lawn care service or food service business, composting can really make "cents" for your bottom line by cutting disposal costs and leaving you with a product that can help your business or community. Learn more about composting by clicking here.



The Organic Consumer

Last modified: 30-Jan-2009

Somewhere between living like a caveman and living like a chemist, there's the organic consumer!
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 Common sense applied to organic living!