Reusing vs. Recycling: Learn to maximize your efforts to help the environment

Recycling the containers, packaging, and some products we buy can go a long way to help protect the environment. Particularly with plastics, recycling can help keep pollutants out of our waterways and environment. On the other hand, there is a strong argument for why choosing reusable items or items that don’t require packaging at all is more effective than recycling whenever possible. Let’s take a quick look at reusing vs. recycling and how easy it is to do both.


Becca Kuntz, with I Love a Clean San Diego (ILACSD), advocates for reusing whenever possible.


The ILACSD mission:

“A zero waste, litter-free, and environmentally engaged San Diego region.”

Kuntz told NBC San Diego that small changes in our daily routines can go a long way.


“There’s so many steps you can take to reduce your waste output before (recycling),” said Kuntz. “It sounds like a lot of work because it’s things I’ve done over the years but really it’s just small little behavioral changes.”

According to Kuntz, the market for large amounts of recycled items isn’t good and some people aren’t recycling as much as they should. Besides, there are some simple ways to avoid the need to recycle in the first place. We can all use our power as consumers to encourage the market for reusable products and those that eliminate packaging altogether.



Some examples that ILACSD suggested:


  • Reusable water bottles and drawstring bags
  • Reusable jars for pantry items like rice, grains, or pasta
  • Buy in bulk and reuse storage containers
  • Safety razors instead of disposable razors
  • Bars of shampoo or conditioner, rather than in plastic containers
  • Reusable makeup wipes
  • Homemade household products like sunscreen, toothpaste, and cleaning supplies
  • Toothpaste tablets with no container
  • Reusable kitchen utensils instead of throwaway single-use items
  • Reuse, donate or repurpose packaging peanuts
  • Reusable metal, glass, or bamboo straws


You can find many other suggestions on their beautiful website.


To take it to the next level, you can aim for “Zero Waste.”


“Zero Waste is the process of eliminating reusable or repairable materials from ending up in the landfill. Zero Waste encourages manufacturers, municipalities, and consumers to evaluate current consumption patterns and minimize single-use items,” states the ILACSD website.


“In order to divert materials from the landfill, we must share the responsibility of producing and consuming sustainable products while limiting our use of disposable items.”


Through reducing consumption, reusing items, repairing, repurposing, upcycling, or donating items, we can find limitless creative ways to work for a cleaner, healthier environment. We can also save lots of money and help out our community in the process.


The last resort, but still a critical one is, you guessed it – recycling.


“Recycling is the last step in the zero waste hierarchy because all the steps above should be considered before recycling is an option. Recycling saves natural resources, reduces the amount of waste in landfills, saves energy, prevents pollution and creates jobs.”


So while it’s always important to recycle, you can maximize your efforts to protect the environment by learning some simple ways to reuse items every day. It doesn’t have to be hard but takes some time to learn and practice new habits on a daily basis. Once you start, you just might feel a real sense of accomplishment and purpose. Doing your small part to leave a better environment for future generations also just feels really good!


Featured image: Featured image: Upcycled shoes via Pixabay


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Matthew Silvan

Progressive liberal from the American south. Working to educate and inform on issues like preserving the environment, equality for minorities and women, and improving the quality of life for mankind and our ecosystem. Following the facts in the face of a movement to follow only the money.

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