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The three Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) of waste management

15 September 2020

The rate and ease of waste recovery can be made much simpler if you consider the “three Rs” principle. The three Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) help reduce the amount of waste produced and ultimately cuts down the quantity of waste that ends up in landfill.

The three Rs is a way of classifying the waste management process into three key ways of reducing waste materials. Every material or object we make and use consumes resources and must eventually go somewhere, once we’re finished with it. Certainly, reducing the need for new materials and objects (by reusing and recycling) goes a long way towards lessening waste.

We can apply the three Rs to construction waste by:

  • Reducing the amount of new materials needed
  • Reusing materials from other building jobs
  • Recycling as much as possible

Consider the three Rs as a “waste hierarchy” — an order of priority that can be given to actions to reduce the amount of waste produced. Underpinning these actions is awareness and creativity, which can help companies to put the three Rs into action. Here's what you can do:

  • Give careful consideration to the waste that you produce. Salvage whatever goods and materials you can in order to reuse them. Commonly recycled materials include plastic, glass, metal and concrete. 
  • Think outside the box to find new ways of reusing items or materials.
  • Come up with clever ways of reducing materials, such as open frame ceilings and cabinets without doors. Don’t use 10 nails when five will do the job!
  • Source second-hand and recovered building materials for your own projects such as reclaimed bricks and recycled materials.
  • If you find yourself with left over materials that you can’t use yourself, pass or sell the waste materials on to others.
  • Plan ahead. Know which waste materials need to be set apart. 

To create a sustainable future and protect the environment from destruction we need to act now. The ability to stop producing waste would be the ultimate goal, but we need to be realistic. The three Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle) help us to minimise and repurpose our waste to keep as much material as possible out of landfill.

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