Have you heard of the six R’s of sustainability? Or, the waste hierarchy? If we picture an upside down triangle, the waste hierarchy assesses waste management methods from most preferable (top), to least preferable (bottom).
There are many different variations, but the most common is: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle, Rot. In this blog, we’re going to run through the six different tiers, what they mean, and how you can apply them in your day-to-day life!
“Prevention is key” — right? Refusing waste is the first step in the waste management hierarchy, and the one that you should alwaysconsider first. Sometimes referred to as “Prevent” or “Rethink” — this step is all about Refusing to create waste in the first place. It’s about saying NO to unnecessary plastic and items that are likely to end up in landfill.
What ‘REFUSE’ Looks Like In Practice:
- Refusing to purchase goods online when you know you can retrieve them in-person.
- Refusing to use single-use plastic bags and produce bags at the supermarket.
- Refusing to use single use straws, cutlery, cups, and containers when you’re out and about.
- Refusing business cards, flyers, and junk mail.
- Refusing produce packaged in plastic, styrofoam, or netting.
Reduce is fairly self-explanatory! In our consumer-driven society, one of the most powerful ways you can help our planet is to reduce your consumption, and reduce your waste wherever possible. It’s about questioning your purchases and thinking: do I really need this? Many products these days are conveniently designed to fit into our busy lifestyles, but unfortunately, these are the very products that are driving our global waste crisis.
What ‘REDUCE’ Looks Like In Practice:
- Reducing your reliance on single-use plastics, takeaway food, and convenience items that contain excessive plastic packaging.
- Reducing the number of cheaply-made fast fashion items that you buy, and instead, opting for second-hand clothing or Slow Fashion.
- Reducing the amount of disposable plastic items in your bathroom (i.e. razors, toothbrushes, shampoo/conditioner bottles, loofahs), and instead, choosing reusable or zero waste options — Reusable Razors, Bamboo Toothbrushes, Shampoo & Conditioner Bars, and Konjac Sponges.
- Reducing unnecessary waste by purchasing bulk quantities of a single item, or heading to a bulk food store to purchase goods with zero packaging. In Adelaide, we love Bare Pantry, The Source Bulk Foods, Whole+Some, and House Of Health Collective.
- Reducing the number of cleaning products that you purchase by creating your own (with lemon, vinegar, bicarb soda, essential oils, and castile soap), or refilling your bottles in-store at Magill, Blackwood, Brighton or Adelaide CBD.
‘Reuse’ is Ecolateral’s reason for being! Our throwaway society convinces us that when we throw things “away” — they disappear off the face of the planet. It’s startling to consider that every piece of plastic you’ve ever laid hands on is still out there somewhere; potentially buried in landfill, or shedding microplastics into our waterways. Ditching single-use items and opting for reusables is an incredibly effective way to reduce your waste and save money in the long-run, too.
What ‘REUSE’ Looks Like In Practice:
- Reusing items when you’re On The Go, including Water Bottles, Coffee Cups, Straws, Cutlery, Lunch Boxes & Food Wrap.
- Reusing Shopping & Produce Bags instead of plastic bags and thin plastic produce bags.
- Reusing Menstrual Cups, Leakproof Underwear and Reusable Pads to cut down on disposables.
- Reusing Cloth Nappies to cut down on disposable nappies.
- Reusing rechargeable batteries instead of single-use batteries.
- Reusing takeaway containers, glass jars and plastic bags for other purposes.
- Reusing gift bags, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons for new gifts.
Nowadays, we tend to throw away items that we don’t know how to repair! Whether it’s our appliances, clothes, furniture, power tools, phones, shoes, or toys — often, we’re forced into a position where we need to replace the item. But, wouldn’t it be nice to extend the life of our possessions to save money and reduce waste? The good news is that Repair Cafes are popping up all over Adelaide! These amazing community-oriented spaces allow you to bring in broken items to be fixed by experts — for free! Adelaide Sustainability Centre has a list of Repair Cafe locations right here in Adelaide. Take a look!
What ‘REPAIR’ Looks Like In Practice:
- Repairing or upcycling old furniture with a fresh coat of paint or varnish, or taking the furniture to an upholsterer.
- Repairing clothes, shoes and accessories by taking them to a tailor, or seeing whether a friend/family member might be able to help.
- Repairing your knives by investing in a knife sharpener.
- Repairing your cracked phone screen by taking it to a mobile phone repair shop.
- Repairing other people’s broken goods by volunteering your time at a Repair Cafe!
Recycling transforms ‘waste’ into a brand new product! We know that recycling isn’t the perfect option, but it’s an important aspect of our closed loop waste system. When performed correctly, recycling helps to reduce our reliance on raw/virgin resources (like fossil fuels for plastic) or natural resources — like land, plants, minerals and water. We’re all aware of what’s accepted in our kerbside recycling bins, but have you ever looked at an item and thought — can this be recycled?
Here at Ecolateral, we’ve partnered with a number of organisations across Adelaide to give new life to your hard-to-recycle items! Our Recycling @ Ecolateral program accepts various hard-to-recycle items, which we’ll outline below. All you need to do is bring your items into one of our four locations — Magill, Blackwood, Brighton or Adelaide CBD — and one of our friendly staff members will sort through your items and separate them into the appropriate recycling bins.
What ‘RECYCLE’ Looks Like In Practice:
- Recycling household items by placing them in your yellow recycling bin (glass, aluminium, cardboard, paper, rigid plastic, cartons, jars). Ensure that they’re clean and loosely placed in your bin (no soft plastic!).
- Recycling your silicone products, dental products, electric toothbrushes, writing instruments, razors and blades, bread tags, plastic lids, makeup packaging, empty deodorants, empty skincare and makeup tubes, pumps and spray nozzles via Recycling @ Ecolateral.
- Recycling your soft, scrunchable plastics via REDCycle (available at most Coles and Woolworths stores across Australia).
- Recycling printer cartridges via Cartridges 4 Planet Ark.
- Recycling your used batteries via B-cycle.
- Recycling e-waste, whitegoods, hazardous waste, hard rubbish and other items via your local council. Check Planet Ark’s Recycling Near You service to see what’s available.
#6: ROT (Composting)
Food scraps and garden organics are too valuable to waste! ‘Rot’ refers to the process of transforming organic materials into nutrient-rich compost, which can be used as a fertiliser for your garden! We know that when organic waste breaks down in landfill, it produces methane — a potent greenhouse gas that is 28x more powerful than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period. Composting our organics reduces the amount of methane released into the atmosphere, and turns a ‘waste’ product into a valuable resource!
What ‘ROT’ Looks Like In Practice:
- Composting your food scraps and garden organics via your council’s kerbside green bin service, which is incredibly easy with our Kitchen Compost Collecting products.
- Composting your food scraps and garden organics at home with our Bokashi & Composting Systems.
- Composting your food scraps by donating them to people in your community via ShareWaste.
The six tiers of the inverted waste management pyramid — Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle, Rot — exist to help us manage waste sustainably! We think it’s an amazing tool to help us minimise our waste and our impact on the planet. As always, disposing items in landfill should be the last resort.
Check out our Go Eco Blog for more tips on how to live sustainably!