Refuse, Reuse, and Recycle to Cut a Tonne

Refuse reuse recycle

If you’re here, it probably means you love our planet or want to learn more about living sustainability. So, no doubt, you’ll have heard of the ‘three R’s’, reduce, reuse, and recycle. As a way of living, it encapsulates a great way to live your life in a sustainable way, but these are not all of equal importance. 

The most important thing we can do is REDUCE the amount of plastic we use. This could be not using single-use water bottles, choosing food items with less packaging when we shop, or buying plastic alternatives such as plastic-free bathroom products. If we reduce what we use, we reduce the demand for products containing plastics.  

The second-best thing we can do is to REUSE the plastic we do have. Whether this is carrier bags, bottles or plastic containers. It could also be wearing our clothes for longer. Synthetic fibres in clothing account for 10% of all plastic usage.  

Finally, when we must buy or use plastic, we should RECYCLE it. The reason this is the 3rd step is because, whilst recycling is preferable to incineration or landfill, plastic cannot be recycled forever (unlike metal). So, recycling delays, rather than avoids, landfill. 

Keeping this catchphrase in mind is a great way to live, but can we do more? We’re currently on track for dangerous 2.5C temperature rises (climate change starts to get out of hand after 1.5), and we need urgent system-wide transformation starting today. This means halving emissions across the globe this decade.

To achieve this, as an individual, we need to cut a tonne from our personal carbon footprints. The great news is, that not only is this achievable, but it’s also possible to have fun, learn lots, and save money doing it! 

We’ve reinvented the three R’s and replaced ‘reduce’, with ‘refuse’. We’ve put together a collection of steps, based on Refuse, Reuse, Recycle, which when taken together, will help you cut a tonne from your carbon footprint. 

Here’s how refusing, reusing, and recycling stuff can help the planet. 

How can refusing to buy something help the environment?

Did you know that bottled water has a carbon footprint 300 times that of tap water,
and globally we buy 1 million every minute, but only half of those get recycled.

This is just one example of how many of us have fallen into the habit of living in a way that we perceive as being ‘more convenient’, but in truth, creates waste, increases how much we spend and comes at a cost far higher and with far-reaching consequences beyond our initial transactions. 

Many people in wealthy countries feel they’ve got too much stuff and that whenever they buy something, whether it’s in the supermarket or high street, it’s covered in plastic. To cut back on the amount of stuff you have, try, before you buy, to see whether you want them or need them. Even better, go for three months buying nothing new and, when you need something, avoid next-day delivery, which is convenient but can encourage impulse buys. 

To reduce the amount of plastic you use, try a better packaging supermarket shop where you don’t pick up any packaging that cannot be recycled. 

Finally, avoid all those single-use plastic water bottles by switching to refills.

Reuse what you buy to support the planet 

Not buying new also saves carbon and can save you money too. 

If you’ve got old clothes and toys, you can take them to the charity shop so that others can reuse them, and buying second-hand will mean you’re extending the life of clothes. There are great apps to help you do this, like eBay, Vinted and DePop. And they are typically much cheaper than buying new too.

Repairing your clothes is also a simple and very cost-effective way to prolong the life of your clothes, which is better for the planet, and saves money too. 

Why is recycling so important?

Recycling a metal drink can takes 95% less energy than making a new one, and if we recycled every can, we could power two million more homes every year.

Recycling saves carbon because it takes less energy to use recycled materials than to start afresh with new resources that need to be dug out of the ground.  

The aim though is to recycle everything you can, from metal to plastic, paper, and glass. 

However, people forget that items like appliances, and those small items, like mobile phones, contain lots of valuable materials too. The first thing is to make them last, for example, by not upgrading your mobile phone to the newest model. Then don’t forget to take old appliances to your local recycling centre and recycle mobile phones too. 

And finally, don’t forget it’s also important to recycle food waste by composting or using local food waste services if available. No food waste is best, but you’re always going to be left with peelings and bits that cannot be eaten, which, if sent to a landfill, release methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. 

Inspired to learn more?

We’ve put together a guide to cutting a tonne from your personal carbon footprint and to explain the practical actions individuals can take to be on track with the global goal of halving emissions by 2030. If you need any help or to engage and educate your workplace in sustainability, get in touch.