In order to manage our waste, we need to understand the hierarchy of waste management. We can summarize these as the 5Rs of Waste Management.
- Refuse – In order to eliminate waste, the first thing we should do is to refuse using single-use plastics and materials. This means that instead of using plastic or paper cups, we should be patronizing the use of ceramic cups or thermal containers. Bringing our bamboo or steel straws, ceramic/plastic chopsticks and stainless utensils is also part of refusing single-use materials. By choosing to refuse, we have the power to tell companies what we want. If people will continue to refuse buying single-use items then companies will start producing alternatives. Refusing also means that we filter our wants and stop buying items that will be used once.
- Reduction (Reduce) – Next objective is to reduce single use materials by choosing to buy items that are placed in reusable containers. Reduction also speaks of reducing the quantity of disposable materials we are buying and using.
- Reuse – Third in the hierarchy is reusing containers and other items that can be used for the same purpose again. This way, we lessen waste while we lessen our expenses.
- Recycle – similar with the 3rd R, recycling promotes the reuse of materials but for other purposes. Unlike reusing, there are economic and environmental costs associated with waste collection and recycling. For this reason, recycling should only be considered for waste which cannot be reduced or reused.
- Recover – Last in the hierarchy is recovery. Materials and energy can be recovered from items that cannot be refused, reduced, reused or recycled. An example of this is the recovery of metals from electrical and electronic equipment. Another example is composting. For some companies and households, their recovery measures include the treatment and reuse of waste water, which is then used in cleaning and watering plants.