A waste management sustainability plan should address the 3 R’s of the waste stream – reduce, reuse and recycle. Communities and individuals can use a variety of methods to reduce the amount of waste going into the waste stream and reduce the cost of waste removal, and alleviate the burden on landfills.

EDUCATION – Educate local residents and business owners to recognize the value of waste prevention – not creating waste in the first place – and promote waste prevention.  Discourage the use of disposable products and encourage a reduction in the amount of material used and/or the toxicity of the material used to create a product or its packaging.  Encourage the purchase of repairable, refillable, durable products that result in a longer useful life

REDUCE – Many practices can help municipalities reduce the amount of waste requiring disposal. Reducing the amount you buy is the most significant of all the options to manage waste. The key is to only purchase goods that we need and in the right amount. – Encourage material Reuse Centers, thrift shops and local resale events and programs that provide a mechanism to pass on still useful, discarded products in their original form to those who can use them.  Maintain appropriate zoning to enable these centers to remain in areas conveniently accessible by city residents. (Local action) Examples of reuse:

    Donation, exchange or surplusing can enable reuse of some types of materials that otherwise would go to waste. Municipalities and other government agencies might send surplus items to other public offices or institutions for reuse, might advertise surplus and reusable items through a commercial materials exchange, or might operate or participate in a government surplus warehouse where public agencies can select items for reuse or usable items can be sold to the public.

    REUSE – Find uses for things you discard. Promote Reuse Centers, where items like building materials can be recycled back into the community rather than sent to landfills. When you go to the grocery store, try to remember to bring reusable bags. Many stores give you credits for bringing your own bags. While the amount seems small, over the course of a year it can add up. Consult your phone directory to see if your community has a reuse center.

    Communities can operate or support materials reuse programs that employ accessible drop-off sites, telephone hotlines or web sites to facilitate donations and/or exchanges of furniture, appliances, office equipment, art supplies, and other still-usable items. Local governments can sponsor or facilitate community-wide garage sales or yard sales. These sales are a popular form of waste prevention and reuse that also promote community spirit and engage citizens in waste reduction.

    At Home–Wash and reuse your plastic food bags. Buy reusable plastic storage containers to store leftover food, and to store foods that you buy in bulk. Consult material exchanges to purchase used items or to find new homes for items that you no longer need. If you remodel your home, consider using reused building materials, and send demolition materials that you create for reuse. Bring a reusable coffee mug or commuter mug with you when you buy coffee drinks.

    In Business–Purchase “recycled” ink and toner cartridges for your printers and photocopiers.  Have the tires on your cars retreaded when the tread is worn, but the tire is otherwise reusable.

    RECYCLE – Provide convenient opportunities for recycling. Set up your office, business, household, etc. to make recycling easy. Keep recycling waste containers or baskets in strategic locations along with ordinary waste baskets. It is easier to toss recyclables in a separate container than it is to rummage through the trash later to separate everything.

    Examples of recycling:

    • Encourage recycling-on-the-go at public events
    • At Home–Placing all your paper, cardboard, boxboard such as empty cereal boxes and empty toilet paper tubes, into the recycle bin, and then purchasing paper products made from post-consumer recycled paper. Note that if you “recycle” paper, plastic, or anything, but you do not buy products made from postconsumer recycled material, then you are not completing the “cycle.”
    • In Business–Old tires can be ground up and used to make a wide variety of things, including rubber mats, door mats, pet food bowls, and playground cover. The canvas covered mats in marital arts dojos are commonly stuffed with ground up tires. Used motor oil can be reprocessed into new motor oil, and motor oil made from this “rerefined” oil is widely available.
    • Start municipal composting programs in public parks, schools, and at home. Approximately two-thirds of our household waste can be composted. If compost is not an option, vermiposting (composting with worms) is popular in apartment settings. Additionally, many urban areas are now experiencing an increased interest in urban gardening. Look around your communities and neighborhoods to find local gardens that may accept your food scrapes for compost.
    • Provide disposal opportunities for difficult items. – For items difficult to recycle – batteries, electronic waste (computers, CDs, DVDs, cell phones, etc.), and bulk items such as large appliances and furniture – provide disposal opportunities such as semi-annual recycling events, and provide information on local businesses that accept such items for disposal.  The list of electronics covered through product stewardship should be expanded. (Local Actions)

    Demonstrate recycling practices. Develop and publicize recycling activities in municipal operations. Provide recycling opportunities at public events and educate the public on recycling benefits. Include environmentally preferred purchasing practices in municipal purchasing guidelines; these practices should favor products that promote reduction and reuse (vs. single-use), reduce consumption of raw materials, and present less risk to human and ecological health.  Where reuse is impractical, encourage one-time use of biodegradable materials. (Local Action)

    • Remove organic wastes. – Remove organics from the disposal stream so that they can be beneficially used for healthy soils, bioenergy production, and new products. Provide convenient opportunities for converting organic yard, food and agricultural waste to a useful product such as compost or animal feed, rather than including organic waste in the disposal stream.  These opportunities may include yard-waste collection with municipal composting, neighborhood and individual on-site composting, worm bins, etc.. (Local Action)
    • Establish Environmentally Preferred PURCHASING (EPP) standards. – Establish purchasing standards for municipal buildings, furnishings and equipment. Select items to purchase based on their use of recycled materials and potential for reuse/recycling and deconstruction after use is complete. Support product purchasing that focuses on reuse and recycling. Ensure that these approaches are supported in the local regulatory process. (Local Actions)
    • Provide for the proper use, storage and disposal of household hazardous waste. – Household wastes such as pesticides, oil-based paint, toxic cleaning products, fluorescent light bulbs, antifreeze, hobby chemicals, thinners and solvents, automotive products, aerosols, glues, and adhesives pose a hazard to humans, water supplies and natural systems.  Educate the community regarding the short and long-term risks associated with the improper use, storage and disposal of hazardous materials. (Local Action)