ABC's of Recycling, Tips/Articles,

Letter R and the “R-Word” Checklist

May 22 2023

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Think Resource Not “Waste”

We know that recycling is more than tossing things into the blue bin. In fact, the word recycling is often used interchangeably with other “R” words that help us handle our waste thoughtfully.

But what happens if we change the word “waste” to “resource?” Clothes that are worn or no longer fit are made of fibers that were manufactured and stitched. Veggies that have wilted at the back of the fridge were watered and trucked to a market. Even that box full of stuff you ordered off the internet was created using energy and materials like pulp from trees.

When we change our words, it helps remind us to see the valuable resources around us, and not simply waste.

That’s where those “R” words come in handy!

“What can I do with this resource?”

Paper craft on display in the SCARCE classroom

The long, and growing, list of “r-words” related to recycling makes a perfect checklist to review before you buy or toss an item.

Reduce, Refuse, Repair, Repurpose, Reuse & Re-commerce

  • Refuse is a power word! You have the power the say no to products that have unnecessary packaging, or to the plastic cutlery from your favorite takeout place. Write an email to the company and tell them–“I’d like to buy your product, but there’s so much unnecessary packaging!”
  • Reduce can be as simple as bringing your own bags to the grocery store, and reducing the use of bags the store hands out. Because whether they are paper or plastic, those bags are a resource.
  • Repair can mean embroidering over the rip or stain on your favorite jeans, or sharpening your garden tools or knives rather than buying new ones. Interested in learning “how-to?” Together with a grant from the DuPage Foundation, SCARCE has created a series of classes on repairing household items like bikes, garden tools, and lamps. Watch our website for details.
  • Repurpose is a word for artists and other creative types! Turn a fence into a birdhouse? Turn an old book into a tree? What else can you do with that resource?
  • Reuse is a game everyone can play. Can I reuse this three times before I throw it out? Two times? Even one more time, makes a difference. Bring your water bottle when you travel, to work, or to school, and use re-filling stations for water. Refill your spray bottles. Reuse your glass jars for storing food, drinks, and anything else you want to keep safe.
  • Re-commerce is a great way to keep things out of the waste stream! Selling and buying through thrift stores, re-sale boutiques, and consignment shops is a way to keep things that still have value out of the landfill. Garage sales, social media and online sites like ThredUp and Poshmark are sources for clothing, housewares, books, entertainment and games. (Of course you know SCARCE has a resale shop for books, records and other treasures, right?)

So, before you purchase or toss, think “resource” and remember to check your “R” words. They remind us not to “waste” our resources!

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