The 5-r`s of zero waste

The 5 r’s of Zero Waste (from Bea Johnson)

If you are just about to start to reduce waste and live a more zero waste lifestyle it can get overwhelming in the beginning.
How to do it, where to start, how to take control over your consumption….
The “5 R´s of Zero Waste” from Bea Johnson (Zero Waste Home) makes it a little easier in the beginning.

It is like a mantra to get started. If you follow the 5 R’s followed in this order you will see how quick your amount of trash will get reduced.
The goal of Zero Waste is: sending less to landfill!
So it is about refusing, reducing, reusing, recycling and rotting what you can 😉

The 5 R’s 

  1. Refuse (what you don’t need)
  2. Reduce (what you need)
  3. Reuse (&Repair) (What you have)
  4. Recycle (what you can’t refuse)
  5. Rot (the rest)

1) Refuse

It all starts with refusing certain things. This will eliminate your trash quickly.
Refuse plastic wrapped fresh produce, learn to say no to freebies, don’t take the disposable coffee cup but sit down and drink from a ceramic mug.
Refuse to buy cheap and unsustainable produced products. These will actually cost you more in the long run because they oftentimes break early and you need to buy them again and again. 

2) Reduce

Reduce your consumption. Do you need the 10th pair of shoes? Do you really wear all your clothes in your closet or could you sell or donate half of it? Do you really need the iced coffee to go in a disposable cup? 
Reduce your consumption of disposables. If you only refuse the single use plastic items, you will reduce your amount of trash instantly.

Think about if you need the expensive face lotions for the morning and one extra for the night or if you can use only natural oils for your skin.
We are often times so controlled by the marketing of big brands that we sometimes don´t even realize what we are buying. It seems like everybody is buying all these things, so we should too. Ask yourself: do you really want this? Do you really need this? Are there alternatives, or do you already have something similar at home?
Free yourself from the trap of over consumerism.

3) Reuse (and Repair)

I would actually split these into two, or three sections but Bea Johnson packed them into one section:

  • Use reusables. There are many reusable items out there: reusable razors, cups, cutlery, cloth napkins, reusable tea strainer, water bottles, etc
  • Reuse things you already have. There is no need to buy new things and throw the old ones out. Zero Waste means that we are reducing what we send to landfill, so really no need to buy all the fancy marketed Zero Waste items if you have similar things already. Pack a pair of reusable cutlery into your bag to avoid single use plastics, use empty glass jars to store food or pack lunch. Reuse your old newspaper to wrap your compost or even to wrap gifts 🙂
  • Repair things you can repair, or others can repair. If something is broken, your favorite shoes, pants, mobile phone, bag, ask around, mostly theres a way to repair them (no worry you don’t need to repair it yourself, there are pros for that), so no need to buy new things straight away. 

4) Recycle

Recycle if you cant refuse the packaging.
Try to buy things in easily recyclable packaging. Check with your municipal recycling facility what is recyclable and how you should treat the trash so theres a bigger chance it get’s actually recycled (wash, collect, etc..). 

Plastic has numbers: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 and your local recycling facility can tell you what they allow in the blue bin/recycling bin. It is totally different from country to country and town to town.

Since glass, paper and cans (aluminium and steel) have a good recycling quote most places (I traveled to a few places where this is not the case for glass and paper yet…), the plastic recycling statistic is not very good. 9% of the worldwide produced plastic got actually recycled.

Even in countries with good recycling management there’s no 100% but mostly around 40% of actually recycled/down-cycled plastics. What goes into the recycling facility won’t necessarily get recycled (mixed plastic packaging, contamination, too small, facilities only take certain kinds of plastic…). 
Recycling is a good way too start, but a bad place to stop! 

5) Rot

Rot the rest. Compost your food scraps. 
Nothing breaks down on landfill because of the lack of oxygen, light, temperature.. Thats why food scraps on landfill won’t compost, they shouldn’t go there.
In a lot of cities you might have a green bin already. These will either go to a compost facility or to an energy facility. That’s different from country to country/town to town.
But I know some cities don’t have a compost bin yet. When visiting Los Angeles I realized they don’t offer compost bins for condos, only for private houses in Torrance where we lived. So I sneaked to the neighbors house to drop off our little bit of compost 😉 
In Playa Del Carmen Mexico there was no compost either, so I buried it in the garden 😉 
In Manhattan, New York City there was no compost bin either but there was a compost drop off possibility once a week. And on the farmers market there has been compost collection/drop off too.
If you have the space for a compost in your garden build one. Or if you don’t have a garden you could think about a worm bin for the kitchen. Maybe theres a communal garden/garden center with a compost that might allow you to bring certain scraps. 

Remember this is a journey. So don’t get overwhelmed or frustrated in the beginning. Every step, (every piece of trash you can refuse) is a step into the right direction. 

Keep smiling and make happy choices.

​Read more:
-> zero waste essentials
​-> Natural make up and beauty routine
-> 4 steps to a successful bulk shopping

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