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How to Reduce Waste

Author(s): Pavitar Singh & Emma Kelly, 08/03/2024

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - A Practical Guide To Reducing Waste

Reduce, reuse, recycle or The Three R’s, is a popular strategy and catchy slogan that aims to promote green living by improving waste management processes. The Three R’s has become a popular approach in minimising environmental impact by waste at both a residential and a commercial level.

If we look at the statistics, Ireland's households produced 1.84 million tonnes of rubbish in 2021 alone. What’s more, this number doesn’t show any signs of decreasing. This creates a pressing need for adopting the Three R approach as a practical solution to mitigate the environmental challenges associated with common waste types across the board.

KeyGreen has been at the forefront of waste management for a number of years, actively promoting and implementing this approach as a cornerstone of sustainability initiatives in Ireland. In this article, we’re going to delve into the basics and the nitty-gritty of the reduce, reuse, recycle approach, and how to incorporate this into our daily life.

How To Reduce Waste: Household & Commercial

The first, simplest, and least expensive strategy to address the impact that households and commercial businesses have on the environment is to reduce waste. This can be done in a number of ways.

Making Eco-Friendly Purchases

You can start your waste prevention journey by making sustainable, eco-friendly purchases.

  • Take your time with quick, simple research. You don't have to buy each and every sustainable product on the market. Try to research the company according to the item you want to buy and take this information with you when you go shopping.

  • Try to shop locally. That way, you can lessen the need for long-distance transport and shipping, which in turn can reduce carbon emissions and packaging (every little bit helps). Shopping locally also promotes merchants, farmers, and small businesses in your area, supporting the local economy and fostering a sense of community.

  • A reusable bag is a more environmentally friendly choice than plastic bags, so bring one (or two) every time you shop.

  • Opt for cloth diapers rather than disposable diapers, thereby reducing waste.

Embracing Digital: Reducing Paper Usage

Paper accounts for around 26% of total waste at landfills around the world, and not without reason. Paper usage is deeply ingrained in our daily lives, from residential to commercial levels, contributing to its significant presence in rubbish dumps and tips.

To remedy this huge amount of paper usage, we can start embracing digital alternatives and promoting a shift towards a paperless society. Schools may start utilising online learning platforms and e-books while businesses alike can expand their digital documentation systems. While this is already commonplace in many areas, there’s a lot of room for improvement!

The adoption of digital technologies also offers a plethora of advantages. In the business sector, it can streamline workflows and make documents more easily accessible, searchable, and secure. At schools, technology over paper can enhance the learning experience with a range of different multimedia content.

    Cutting Down Single-Use Plastics: Alternatives That Could Work

    Plastic is a nightmare for the environment. It can take anywhere from 20 to thousands of years for plastic to decompose. During this period, plastic pollution and microplastics pose a severe threat to ecosystems, wildlife, and human health. We can prevent plastic from entering the environment by avoiding single-use plastics.

    These are some of the plastic-based items you might want to avoid and some alternatives:



    Drinking straws

    Glass/metal straws

    Plastic bags

    Reusable cloth bags

    Single-use toiletry bottles

    Refillable toiletry bottles

    Plastic water bottles

    Reusable water bottles

    Plastic cutlery

    Stainless steel cutleries

    Waste Prevention Through Reusing: Giving New Life to Old Items

    The best way to reduce waste is to not produce it in the first place. But if you already have the soon-to-be waste item in your hand, reuse is the next best outcome.

    Reuse refers to using items more than once. Instead of disposing of them after a single use, finding ways to repurpose and extend the lifespan of items contributes to waste reduction and resource conservation. Here are some practical examples of how you can incorporate reuse into your daily life and have a positive impact on waste reduction.

    Get creative with Upcycling

    Upcycling is the process of transforming used goods or items into something that has equal or increased value from the original item. This is different to recycling as it does not incorporate breaking materials down to their basic components. Instead, it involves creatively using existing materials to give them a new purpose or use.

    Some examples of upcycling include:

    • Turning glass jars into painted, artistic candle holders

    • Create a denim bag from an old pair of jeans

    • Refurbishing old furniture with new materials.

    Repurpose Common Household Items

    While upcycling means transforming unwanted or unused materials into new products of higher value, repurposing is more focused on finding alternative uses for the existing materials.

    Here are some ideas on how you can repurpose household items:



    Unused shoe boxes

    Storage box for small items

    Old toothbrushes

    Scrubber for cleaning hard-to-reach places

    Wooden pallet

    Wine rack

    Empty toilet paper rolls

    Cable organisers

    Plastic milk jugs

    Planters for seedlings (cut first)

    Plastic grocery bags

    Trash can liners

    Old clothing

    Cleaning rags

    Unused shower curtains

    Table coverings

    Recycling Made Easy: Understanding Recyclable Materials

    There are many myths and misconceptions surrounding recycling. Some say it’s expensive, it’s ineffective, or it doesn't make a significant impact. However, these misconceptions often stem from a lack of understanding of the recycling process and its benefits. Let's address these myths and provide some much-needed clarity.

    Myth #1: Recycling does not offer any positive impact.

    There are still many people who believe recycling does not have any positive impact on the environment. This is simply not true. Recycling can reduce carbon emissions from manufacturing and reduce waste material that would otherwise end up in waterways.

    Myth #2: Recycling is expensive.

    Recycling is claimed to be expensive due to the collection and breakdown process. However, this is also not entirely true. Recycling waste usually costs less than producing new items, resulting in lower prices for some products.

    Myth #3: Only cans and bottles can be recycled.

    Some say glass recycling and battery recycling are still not possible, even to date. Unfortunately, that’s another myth. Recycling capabilities have expanded significantly, and many types of materials can be recycled. In fact, glass can be recycled almost infinitely by using a designated glass bin or by taking it to a local recycling centre/bank.

    From Waste to Resource: What Materials Can Be Recycled

    The products listed below are only a few examples of recyclable materials, and the list continues to grow as technology advances and recycling programs evolve:





    • Paperboard packaging

    • Egg cartons

    • Shredded paper

    • Paper cups

    • Milk and juice cartons.

    • Broken food jars

    • Wine and beer bottles

    • Broken glass containers

    • Glass cookware.

    • Plastic packaging

    • Plastic cutlery

    • Plastic lids and caps

    • Plastic wrap.

    • Aluminium foil

    • Aluminium trays

    • Beverage cans.

    The Benefits of Recycling

    Recycling is not just a means to save money by conserving resources; it also offers profound benefits both environmentally and socially.

    Environmentally, recycling reduces the need for extracting and processing raw materials for new products, which often involves industrial processes. As a result, recycling improves air quality, reduces water pollution, conserves soils, protects wildlife, and mitigates climate change in the process. Not to forget it also reduces the growing strain on landfills.

    Socially, recycling can foster a sense of social responsibility and contribute to the growth of widespread ethical consumerism where people look for products and services that are aligned with sustainable and environmentally friendly practices. The recycling and waste recovery industry also provides opportunities for job training and skill development, supporting the local economy.

    Tips for Efficient Recycling: Best Practices for Households and Businesses

    Households and businesses alike can start recycling more efficiently by adopting these tips and best practices:

    1. Educate and inform yourself and the people around you about what can and cannot be recycled. Make posters and lists.

    2. Create separate recycling bins with clear labels to make it convenient for everyone to practice recycling appropriately. Colour coding works well!

    3. Reduce single-use items in your home or office and encourage the adoption of reusable alternatives, such as water bottles.

    4. Collaborate with waste management companies or local recycling facilities to ensure that your residential or business waste is recycled properly.

    Taking Action Together

    The Three R’s —reduce, reuse, recycle— is not just a tagline you might see in ads, offices, or on product packaging; it’s a call to action that provides a foundation for a sustainable future.

    Every individual's commitment to responsible waste management plays a crucial role in preserving our environment. Simple habits, like separating recyclables and reducing single-use items, can make a significant difference if we’re all on board.

    Get in touch with KeyGreen today to discuss our range of waste management services. We can’t wait to hear from you.

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