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News World Recycling Day: 5 “R” to reduce your waste

World Recycling Day: 5 “R” to reduce your waste

World Recycling Day, celebrated on May 17, reminds us of the importance of reducing environmental damage and taking care of our planet. In particular, five actions can guide you to this purpose. They are called 5 ecological R’s: Reject, Reduce, Reuse and Reintegrate.

Reject what you don’t need – Say NO to unnecessary items

The first step in the 5R’s is to REJECT everything you don’t need. The idea is to say no to all those items with a short lifespan that will eventually end up in the trash. For example:

  • Avoid single-use plastics: Bring reusable cloth bags or reuse the ones you have at home, and decline plastic straws when you order a drink.
  • Refuse freebies and advertising: Items like pens, bracelets, and key chains often end up as waste. Refuse to accept them even when it’s hard.
  • Reject paper waste: Request digital invoices and receipts. Avoid paper catalogues and unnecessary mail by switching to online versions.

To prevent potential waste from entering your home, reject it first.

Reduce what you need and can’t refuse – Buy consciously

The next step is to REDUCE what you need. Of course, it all starts with being clear about what is essential and what is not. Here is how:
Declutter and Donate: Sell or donate items you no longer need.

  • Make conscious purchases: Ask yourself if the item is necessary before buying. Opt for multifunctional products, prefer renting or borrowing and avoid accumulating excess.
  • Adopt a minimalist lifestyle: Don’t be seduced by extreme consumerism and simplify your life by reducing the number of items you own.

When you spend, what you are really spending is time of life, that is gone.

José Mujica

Reuse what you consume and can’t refuse or reduce – Repair and invest in reusables

The third pillar is to REUSE. We have become a throwaway society, always wanting to swap the old for the new. This isn’t a coincidence: many things are designed to be short-lived and replacing them often seems the only option. This is called planned obsolescence and you can avoid it in different ways:

  • Repair and transform broken objects: Give old items a second chance by repairing them or finding new creative uses.
  • Choose reusable products: Prefer reusable alternatives to single-use items. For example: cloth napkins and towels instead of paper ones, classic razors and coffee machines instead of disposable razors and coffee capsules, reusable beeswax wrappers instead of aluminium foil and plastic film, stainless steel bottles instead of plastic bottles, and borosilicate, bamboo, or stainless steel straws instead of plastic ones.

Recycle what you can’t refuse, reduce or reuse – Carefully manage your waste

The fourth R is to recycle everything that has not been able to pass through the previous filters. For a long time, recycling was considered one of the most eco-friendly answers to the global waste problem. Nowadays we know that, even if essential, recycling should be the last resort after all the other steps are used. Also, be sure to manage properly your waste and recycling correctly. Here are some reminders:

  • Organic waste: Includes food scraps and food-stained paper towels. Avoid animal excrement, diapers, and hygiene products.
  • General waste: Includes non-recyclable household waste. Avoid recyclable items and electronic devices.
  • Paper and cardboard: Includes newspapers, cardboard, and paper packaging. Avoid greasy, waxed, or adhesive-covered paper.
  • Glass: Includes glass bottles and jars. Avoid ceramics, window glass, and light bulbs.
  • Plastic and metal: Includes plastic bottles, cans, and brick containers. Avoid non-packaging plastic items and electronic devices.

The full guide, developed by FOVASA, is available in Spanish here.

Reintegrate all the rest – Compost and support circular economy initiatives

Finally, REINTEGRATE. Food scraps are hard to avoid, but they can be very valuable if managed properly. Here is what you can do:

  • Compost: Composting means to use organic matter to produce fertilizer. Not all municipalities collect organic waste yet, but you can still compost at home: feed your garden or compost a box of wooden slats with coffee grounds, fruit peels or eggshells.
  • Support circular economy initiatives: the research is making huge progress in finding sustainable ways to reintegrate organic waste. Symsites is the perfect example. We are using Industrial-Urban Symbiosis to transform waste from companies and municipalities into valuable energy and by-products, to benefit the environment and the community.

The five ecological R’s can help you reduce environmental damage and preserve the planet. If you are interested in learning more, follow Symsites effort and discover what people, cities and companies can do to reduce waste. And always remember: the best waste is the one that is not produced.