Recycling and reuse information

Tips for reducing consumption

The products we buy every day come from the earth, and they return to the earth in one form or another. Our homes, cars, toys, electronics, clothing, jewelry and millions of other consumer items, including their packaging, come to us from production chains that stretch around the world. Along this chain we withdraw raw materials, generate waste and consume energy in amounts too large for most of us to imagine. Massive volumes of natural resources are extracted to fuel the population’s consumption habits, and this sometimes harms the ecosystems from which they come.

Reducing consumption is even more important than reusing and recycling, because it eliminates waste  before it is even created.  It involves "precycling" -- or thinking about how much waste a product will create BEFORE you buy it.  

Choose products with minimal packaging

Packaging makes up about 1/3 of the average household's garbage and accounts for approximately 13% of the price you pay for food.

  • canvas bagAvoid buying goods that are over-packaged (excess bags, boxes and wrappers).
  • Buy foods in large sizes or bulk instead of single serving.  You can always place food into smaller, durable containers at home. Bring your own bags when you shop, or carry out small purchases without a bag. 
  • Fresh produce is a winner with little or no packaging, and can be composted.
  • Reduce waste during the holiday season by giving experience-related gifts like certificates to movies, plays, restaurants and sporting events. Charitable donations also make great gifts. See more waste-free ideas.

Tips for buying recyclable packaging

  • Paper bags, cardboard boxes, aluminum and tin cans, and glass bottles are all recyclable. Choose them when you shop.
  • Avoid buying plastic items or packaging that you know are not recyclable in your area (foil juice pouches, for example).
  • Remember: The more elaborate the packaging, the less likely it's recyclable. 
  • Avoid packaging made with two or more different materials, such as juice containers made of a paper laminated with plastic or foil. These mixed-material packages are not recyclable.

Speak up!

  • Let store managers know your view on products with excessive packaging. Remember, your business is important to them.
  • Encourage stores to sell unpackaged merchandise. Let them know you won't buy products with unnecessary packaging.
  • Contact manufacturers and let then know your preference for less packaging. If you choose one product over another on the basis of packaging, write to the manufacturer and let them know why you bought a competitor's product.

Buy durable products 

  • Whenever possible, buy refillable or reusable containers (razors, cigarette lighters, sponges, rechargeable batteries, thermos bottles). Avoid containers that can only be thrown away
  • Purchase high-quality, durable items rather than disposable items. The cost may be higher initially, but in the long run you can save money. Get the longest warranty with the best repair service possible.
  • Regular maintenance and repair lengthens the life of products such as tools, appliances and shoes. Repair services can be found in the Yellow Pages, usually near the listings for the sales of the items.
  • Follow the manufacturer's maintenance instructions. These may include directions for cleaning, operating and routine adjustments.

Borrow or rent items you use infrequently

  • You’d be amazed what you can rent these days.  Items listed for rent in the Yellow Pages include appliances, audio-visual equipment, office furniture, party items, baby furniture, and medical equipment.   
  • Using rental shops saves you the burden of buying, storing and maintaining goods and equipment .
  • Renting or borrowing an item will help you decide if you need or want one of your own. It will also give you time to find the model that best suited to your needs.
  • Share rental costs with neighbors for items such as power washers, chippers or other equipment.

Avoid impulse buying

  • Impulse buys are often unnecessary and contribute to household waste.
  • Use your budget to record your income and identify what you really need. Use a shopping list to stay on track.
  • Read consumer magazines and contact consumer organizations before making major purchases.

Waste reduction tips for the home or office

  • Remove your name from junk mail lists.
  • Print double sided.
  • Use a ceramic or travel mug at work rather than a disposable cup.
  • Buy a set of inexpensive silverware, plates, bowls and cups for staff so each person has a set.  Quit buying disposables.
  • Don't toss items that can be reused or repaired. Fabric scraps, books, sporting goods, toys and clothing are always needed by nonprofit groups.
  • Compost your food and yard waste.
  • Share newspapers, magazines and books with friends
  • Buy products made from recycled content whenever possible.
  • Make your meetings "green" by reducing paper waste, providing reusable cups, and using a white board instead of distributing agendas. See more green meeting tips from the EPA.

Waste reduction tips for the holidays

Consider doing something a little different -- give the gift of experience instead of stuff. Check out other great waste-free holiday ideas.

Contact us

Call the Solid Waste Hotline at (360) 867-2491 or e-mail


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