Guest Blog: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle by Issy Carlill
Guest Blog: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
by Issy Carlill from @ZigZag Eventing
We’ve all heard and seen the term ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ but not many of us know what it actually means. Those of us who are passionate about sustainability all appreciate how important recycling is, but it can be easy to forget about the two steps that come before that - reduce and reuse. Did you know that recycling is actually the last step we should be taking? We should really be aiming to reduce consumption first, then reuse, and then recycle. So, here’s a quick guide to the three R’s and why it’s so important to incorporate all of them into our daily lives!
The average UK household produces 26,411 tonnes of waste in a year, and only 45% of that is recycled. That means 14,515 tonnes of waste goes to landfill every single year, and that’s just from one household!
The main purpose of the ‘reduce’ part of the saying is to try and cut down the total number of waste we produce as individuals and as households. This can be done in so many ways, from cutting down on food waste to limiting the number of unnecessary purchases we make. 4.5 million tonnes of food is wasted by UK households each year, a statistic that I find quite shocking! We can reduce unnecessary waste like this simply by only buying what we need and using up all the fresh produce in our fridge. Being a bit stricter about only buying what you will need and use is a great way to reduce the food waste we produce.
We can also reduce our total consumption by curbing the amount of unnecessary purchases we make. How many times have you bought an item you just don’t need? And then it sits in your cupboard unused or unworn? I know I’m guilty! Now before I purchase anything I ask myself, do I really need this? I usually find if I leave it for 24 hours I forget about it or move on - clearly not something I needed then! It’s quite a simple way to cut down purchases that you just don’t need and won’t use.
Reduce is the first step of the motto and is what we should all be aiming for before we get to the ‘reuse’ and ‘recycle’ steps. Even small steps, such as being realistic in your food shop, means you’re achieving it!
Reusing an item is the step you take when you’re not able to reduce your consumption. This could be purchasing something you genuinely need, or reusing old bits and pieces that don’t have a purpose in their current form anymore.
I have two horses who are total rug rippers and it drives me mad! Not only is it expensive to keep replacing torn rugs, but it also feels so wasteful throwing them away. I do my best to repair them with the sewing machine or by sending them away to be fixed, but sometimes this just isn’t possible. If I’m not able to fix the rug I’ll salvage all the bits that are useful for future repairs such as the surcingles, buckles, and the outer lining of the rug for patching up other rugs. It’s one way to make the most use out of them instead of just throwing them away.
There are also so many other ways you can reuse items to avoid them going to waste. Feed bags can be used to bag up manure for gardening, bailing twine can be reused to tie up or fix literally anything, and I’ve even seen people fix the broken plastic on wheelbarrows and poop scoops with a drill and some zip ties!
Once you put your mind to it, it’s quite amazing what you can reuse with a little bit of ingenuity and perseverance. Before I throw away or recycle anything I always think about whether I can find another purpose for it first. If you’re still stuck then the Zero Waste Equestrians group on Facebook is a fantastic place to ask for tips about reusing any horse-related items.
Recycling is the last step in the saying, and is the option we should turn to if we can’t reduce our consumption or reuse an item. Nearly 9 out of 10 UK households recycle, which just goes to show that so many of us really care about where our waste ends up.
However, recycling can sometimes be a bit of a minefield. It’s hard to know which materials can be recycled and which can’t, especially when plastics alone differ so much in terms of what can and can’t be recycled. Local councils also have different recycling facilities, which means what can be recycled in one location can’t be in another.
I have found the app Horizon to be an absolute lifechanger when it comes to recycling. You simply register your postcode and the app uses data from your local council to tell you which items can and can’t be recycled in your area. I just scan the barcode, select which material it is, and the app tells me whether it’s recyclable or has to go to landfill instead.
It’s a great way to reduce your waste by maximising what you recycle, and I now also make a point to avoid buying packaging that I know I can’t recycle in my area. Plus you get to track your progress and see how much waste you generate compared to other app users, it’s a great way to motivate you to do more!
So, whilst recycling should be the last step you take in the ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ motto it is just as important as the first two. Every little bit really does count and any waste that can avoid going to landfill and be repurposed instead is a good thing!
*Horizon is available on the app store for all iPhones, and is being released on android soon.
I hope this has been a quick and helpful guide into the ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ motto and has given you the motivation to implement all three into your lifestyle. Just remember that every step you take to reduce your consumption and limit the waste you create is an important one. If all of us take these small but important steps to reduce, reuse, and recycle, then we can all make a big difference to our planet!
About the Author
Issy is a 23 year old student in her final year studying Sustainable Development and Social Anthropology at Edinburgh University. She owns two horses called Dillon and Ben who she competes at BE100. She is incredibly passionate about all things sustainability and shares her top tips and advice over on her instagram, @ZigZagEventing.