"Reduce Reuse Recycle" Waste Hierarchy

The "Reduce Reuse Recycle" Waste Hierarchy comprises the three elements, “Reduce”, “Reuse” and “Recycle” (also known as the Three ‘R’s).

“Reduce” means to reduce consumption and the amount of waste generated. This includes buying and consuming less, as such also throwing away less. “Reuse” is simply the act of using an item again and again in its original form. Reusing items eliminates the need to reprocess materials (whether it is for disposal, or for recycling). “Recycle” means to give old or used things a new lease of life, by making new things out of the old materials.

The "Reduce Reuse Recycle" hierarchy was developed in order to minimize waste as well as conserve natural resources and extract the most out of already produced goods. The Three ‘R’s, "Reduce Reuse Recycle", are aligned into a hierarchy to illustrate the most effective plan of action for waste management practices.

Reducing consumption and waste production is the first and most effective step toward producing less waste (consuming less automatically produces less waste). However, there are times when consumption is necessary. In these cases, reuse as much as possible before recycling any remaining materials.


It cannot be over-emphasized, that of the three components – reduce reuse recycle – “reducing” (consumption and waste production) is the most effective way to conserve resources and produce less waste. Hence, do think twice whether you really need to get that new bag, shoe or cell phone.

You may think that you are just ONE consumer, and ask what difference you make. You definitely make a difference!

By purchasing much more than we actually need, each and every one of us accumulatively feed the culture of consumerism, and in turn fuel the driving force for manufacturers to produce more and more, in other words, use more resources and create more waste.

Fortunately, even in today’s climate of consumerism, there are simple ways to reduce consumption and as such reduce waste. At the grocery store avoid packaging. Purchase items that will have a longer life span and then take care of those items to get the most of them. Avoid disposable items where possible and purchase cleaning products in concentrated forms to get the most out of the packaging that may be unavoidable.

Check out more tips on reducing!!


Next in line in the “Reduce Reuse Recycle" hierarchy is “reusing”. Reusing products, where possible, is even better than recycling because the item does not need to be reprocessed before it can be used again.

There are many ways of reusing things. When purchasing products, look for the ones that have reusable packaging such as glass jars. Other common sense methods of reusing include wearing and passing on clothing, purchasing used items such as books and household items and reinventing items that no longer serve their original purpose.

Check out more tips on reusing!


And the last component in the “Reduce Reuse Recycle" hierarchy is “recycling”. Many items around us can be recycled, and in many places, there are already systems in place for these items to be recycled. The “why”s and “how”s of recycling will be discussed in greater detail in the rest of this website – after all, this website is on recycling facts!

Nevertheless, as you may realize after reading the factors for recycling to be sustainable, recycling only benefits the planet as long as there is a demand for recycled materials. Recycling campaigns, although well intended, lead consumers to believe that as long as they send their stuff for recycling, the world will be a greener place.

But in reality, recycling should only be the last resort. Reducing and reusing should come first! Moreover, recycling old items into material for new products depends largely on the market for these eco-friendly products. When recyclables go out to the curb, their journey has just begun!

So, always think Reduce Reuse Recycle!

Return from this page on The "Reduce Reuse Recycle" Waste Hierarchy to page on What is Recycling?

Return from this page on The "Reduce Reuse Recycle" Waste Hierarchy to All Recycling Facts Homepage

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