recycling bins in color

What’s Better Than Recycling?

recycling bins in color
Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

Many people talk about the importance of recycling. Recycle your plastic, paper, glass and other materials. Only use items you can recycle so as to minimize unnecessary waste.

Recycling costs money, uses quite a bit of energy and can generate harmful emissions through the recycling process though. So what’s better than recycling?

Reducing, reusing and re-purposing.


That’s right. While it’s not a bad idea to recycle as much as possible, reducing your consumption is one of the most effective ways to eliminate waste. Reducing is extremely important, particularly when it comes to buying disposable and single-use items. These items are generally unnecessary. Why get a disposable razor when you can get a reusable one to use over and over again for weeks or months to come? It’s a waste of material and a waste of your hard-earned money. In addition, your disposable razor (along with the tons of other disposables) then must either be recycled or end up in a landfill.

Reducing can be applied to pretty much anything. It can be applied to food, clothes, supplies and more. Simply put…consume less, waste less.


Once you begin to reduce your consumption, the next step is to reuse. Yes, reusing also comes before recycling. Take an item you’ve used once and, instead of throwing it away, use it again.

For example, a glass jar or container can be use multiple times. Just clean it out and use it again. “Old” toothbrushes can be used to scrub away bathroom or kitchen dirt and grim. Furniture should be repaired, refinished, reupholstered and reused rather than tossed in the garbage. If you get a package in the mail, reuse the box to either store items or ship something off yourself. When your toner cartridges on your printer run out, refill them. Water from a bath or shower can even be reused for watering plants indoors and out.

The plastic bags you sometimes get from grocery stores are also items you can use multiple times. Better yet, get yourself a reusable bag that’s designed to be used over and over. Same goes for drink containers. Invest in a reusable water bottle or coffee mug you can use day after day.

Even “food scraps” are another way to reuse food you would have otherwise thrown away. The stems of basil or cilantro, as well as the ends/roots of green onions, can be placed in water and regrown. A pineapple top can actually grow a new pineapple. Seeds from apples, peaches, avocados, lemons and other fruits can all be planted to sprout a new tree. In fact, there are numerous fruits and vegetables you can re-plant and grow yourself.


Now, if you can’t reuse an item for it’s same purpose or a similar purpose, find another way to use it. This is re-purposing. It’s taking an item intended to be used in one way and using it in a different way. Sometimes people can get quite creative with their re-purposing ideas.

Do you have old towels, clothes or bedding you’re no longer planning to use? Instead of throwing these items away, cut them up and use them as rags for cleaning around the house.

Coffee grounds actually work quite well for pest control. You can also use them in the soil to help roses and new seedlings grow (egg shells and tea from tea bags can be used for this purpose too). Got a strong odor in your fridge? Put some coffee grounds in there to absorb it up.

The peels from oranges, lemons and other citrus fruits can be saved and used in DIY cleaning products. In fact, quite a few foods make eco-friendly cleaners.

Interested in starting a garden? Egg cartons can easily be re-purposed into seedling planters. Worried about having uninvited guests in your garden? Try using leftover soap slivers. In many cases, animals and pests won’t like the smell and so will stay away.

Broken plates, dishes and tiles can all be re-purposed to make creative artwork or decorative tables for the yard. Ladders can make great plant holders or even bookshelves. A broken chair can be repaired or re-purposed into something else like a shelf, a stool, a hanging wall piece or even a coat rack. Bottles can be turned into lights or planters.

With so many options available, and countless resources to be found online, reusing and re-purposing is the smart way to go. Besides, if you think about it, it’s no real mystery why reusing and repurposing are better than recycling.

In the end, we recommend doing all of the above: reducing, reusing, re-purposing and recycling. Most people find by doing these they not only lower their overall consumption, they also save more money and generate less trash. Each of which is beneficial to the future of the planet.

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