In the quest for the elimination of waste, the first line of assault is prevention and reduction.
So, where to begin?
Reduce the Amount of Packaging
Packaging serves many purposes. Its primary purpose is to protect and contain a product. It also can prevent tampering, provide information, and preserve hygienic integrity and freshness.
Some packaging, however, is designed largely to enhance a product’s attractiveness or prominence on the store shelf. Since packaging materials account for a large volume of the trash we generate, they provide a good opportunity for reducing waste. In addition, keep in mind that as the amount of product in a container increases, the packaging waste per serving or use usually decreases.
When choosing between two similar products, select the one with the least unnecessary packaging.
- Remember that wrenches, screwdrivers, nails, and other hardware are often available in loose bins. At the grocery, consider whether it is necessary to purchase items such as tomatoes, garlic, and mushrooms in prepackaged containers when they can be bought unpackaged.
- When appropriate, use products you already have on hand to do household chores. Using these products can save on the packaging associated with additional products.
- Recognize and support store managers when they stock products with no packaging or reduced packaging. Let clerks know when it’s not necessary to double wrap a purchase.
- Consider large or economy-sized items for household products that are used frequently, such as laundry soap, shampoo, baking soda, pet foods, and cat litter. These sizes usually have less packaging per unit of product. For food items, choose the largest size that can be used before spoiling.
- Consider whether concentrated products are appropriate for your needs. They often require less packaging and less energy to transport to the store, saving money as well as natural resources.
- Whenever possible, select grocery, hardware, and household items that are available in bulk. Bulk merchandise also may be shared with friends or neighbors.
- It is important to choose food services that are appropriate to your needs. One alternative to single food services is to choose the next largest serving and store any leftovers in a reusable container.
In addition to reducing the amount of materials in the solid waste stream, reducing waste toxicity is another important component of source reduction. Some jobs around the home may require the use of products containing hazardous components. Nevertheless, toxicity reduction can be achieved by following some simple guidelines.
Take actions that use nonhazardous or less hazardous components to accomplish the task at hand. Instead of using pesticides, for example, plant marigolds in your garden to ward off certain pests. In some cases, you may be using less toxic chemicals to do a job, and in others, you may use some physical method, such as sandpaper, scouring pads, or just a little more elbow grease, to achieve the same results.
Learn about alternatives to household items containing hazardous substances. In some cases, products that you have around the house can be used to do the same job as products with hazardous components.
If you do need to use products with hazardous components, use only the amounts needed. Leftover materials can be shared with neighbors or donated to a business, charity, or government agency, or, in the case of used motor oil, recycled. Never put leftover products with hazardous components in food or beverage containers.
For products containing hazardous components, read and follow all directions on product labels. Make sure the containers are always labeled properly and stored safely away from children and pets. When you are finished with containers that are partially full, safely store until Tox-Away Day. This is always the first Saturday after Labor Day.