These days, environmental sustainability is on everyone’s minds. We are finding better ways to protect animals, resources, and climate each day. Recycling is the first of the 3 R’s. We sort our trash and send it to places where it can be recycled for renewed purposes. However, while it has become a daily routine for most people, we can still do more. Goals to move toward a more circular economy — one that tries to reintroduce as many resources used in production back into the market — have become mainstream. Additionally, conscious consumption has become a trend where consumers are encouraged to think if they need the product before actually buying it. When combined, these ideas lay the foundation for the 3 Rs of sustainability: reduce, reuse, recycle (RRR). They attempt to promote a more sustainable economy. All three Rs are just as important because the environmental impact of mankind cannot be curbed with one single strategy.
Reduction of anything that might quickly go to the landfill primarily depends on the end user. When you think about it, the best way to conserve energy and resources is not to use them in the first place. Adjusting our consumption habits so there is no unnecessary demand is one method. Waste is not only produced by households — it is also produced by retailers who have to do something with their unsold stock. For example, glass, metal and energy used to make a jar of mayonnaise will go to waste if no one buys it. Although reduction is a major trend in waste management and a step toward a more sustainable economy, we unfortunately still see an incredible amount of unused or obsolete consumer items in the landfill.
Reusing is the next step for a product to become more eco-friendly. The simplest examples are computers, washing machines, and medical equipment. The idea behind reusing is to extend the product life cycle beyond first use, or what is expected. It can range from giving away clothes you do not need to fixing things like computers, home appliances, and medical equipment and reselling or donating. Reusing technology is a growing trend in the refurbished electronics market, projected to grow from 10 billion US dollars in 2021 to 15.8 billion by 2028. People are becoming aware that old electronics can serve them just as well as new. Reusing saves precious resources like water and electricity. Still, some products can’t be reused, which is where recycling comes into play.
Recycling is practiced by many and saves valuable resources. The United states Environmental Protection Agency says that since 1960 about 32% of Americans have started recycling their waste. In addition, The European Union says that around 42% of people recycle in any given municipality. These numbers are impressive, but they also point to the waste that could have been prevented. How many products could have been reused? How many did people buy but actually did not need? These numbers suggest that we still live in a somewhat linear economy that consumes and throws out much of what it does not need into the landfill.
These R’s can lead us to better understand what we can do as consumers to improve our impact on the environment. Anyone can be more eco-friendly by reducing, reusing and recycling. Companies can also innovate and make their business more sustainable by introducing more eco-friendly products and strategies. Consumers can search for these products and promote those sustainable strategies over the more wasteful. And through the ideas behind the 3 Rs of sustainability, we can continue reaching for a bigger and better circular economy.