What is 5Rs of Zero Waste? Why its Important

Zero Waste

Have you left your trash in your for too long that it has taken up space in your kitchen? The truth is, even if your trash is gone from your house, it does not leave the Earth. An average person produces almost 2kg of waste per day. A family of 4 could produce about 3 tons of waste per year, equivalent to the weight of 3 elephants!!

So, is it possible to live a completely zero waste life? The answer is no. However, with the principle of 5Rs of Zero Waste, Refusing, Reducing, Reusing, Recycling and Rot, you can take one step closer to a zero waste life.

Let us look closely into what is the 5Rs of zero waste, the impacts of waste in our daily lives and how reducing waste using the 5Rs would benefit us and the environment. Before that, let us look at a few easy zero waste tips to follow in our lifestyle.

What is 5Rs of Zero Waste?

42% of U.S. greenhouse (GHG) emissions are produced by the transportation, consumption and disposal of all our waste. GHG emission is one of the reasons for global warming, leading to drastic climate change and rising sea levels in the world. So how does the 5Rs help reduce these environmental risks?

The 5Rs of zero waste is reducing the waste produced by making environmentally ethical choices in our daily life. Living in an urban convenient life, it can be hard to live a zero waste lifestyle. However, using 5Rs of zero waste, Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot, one can easily achieve a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. Below are the 5 easy steps you can follow to join us in helping our planet and fight against climate change.

The 5Rs of Zero Waste

  1. Refuse: Refuse when offered things that are not necessary. Refuse plastic and use reusable tupperware for food or cloth bags when shopping.
  2. Reduce: Simply reduce the amount of product used, bought, and thrown away.
  3. Reuse: Try using old bottles as vases, use silicone wraps for food, plastic containers for next food purchases. Engaging feelings with things or products is also effective when reusing the products.
  4. Recycle: If you are having a hard time engaging feelings with things or does not spark joy, give it a new life! Go to thrift stores, recycle shops or donate your old unwanted items to people who need it. You can as well as get new items to fill up your house.
  5. Rot (Compost) :Finally, give it back to nature. Fruits and vegetable peels could be a good fertilizer for plants at home or pets (worms!) which can decompose our leftovers into new life.

Some 5Rs might differ such as, including repair, repurpose or rethink. Therefore, you can use the different 5Rs depending on your own lifestyles too! Want to know more about how you can live a zero waste life with 5Rs? Here’s a guide to Zero Waste: A Challenge Anyone Can Start Today with 5Rs!

Why is Zero Waste Important ?

pile of trash in open space
Now that you understand the 5Rs of Zero Waste, let us look at why it is important in our lives.

According to the World Bank in 2018, in the next 30 years, the global waste will increase by 70%, up to 3.40 billion tonnes of waste per year. That is equivalent to 400 million elephants or 10,240 Empire State Buildings.

Over 90% of waste is openly dumped in the sea or disposed of in low-income countries. Developed countries pay money to dispose their waste in developing countries, which becomes a part of the country’s income. However, this means the poor and the most vulnerable countries will suffer environmental consequences caused by landfill.

With the 5Rs of Zero Waste principles, we can reduce the environmental impacts created by landfills. To learn more about Landfills and why you should participate in 5Rs of Zero Waste, check this article about What Does Zero Waste to Landfill really mean?

Making Ethical Choices : Refuse and Reduce

say no to plastic is part of 5rs of zero waste
As humans, we are often faced with situations where decision making is essential. Following the 5Rs principle, refuse and reduce, we can say no to unnecessary things and allow the product to reach those who need it most.

Moreover, companies that follow trends, especially in fast fashion, are likely focused on low cost production, using harmful materials for the environment and poor working conditions for workers. This is when the 5Rs are important. Refusing to buy their products or reducing the amount purchased, could discourage the companies from mass production that are environmentally and morally unethical.

Reuse and Recycle to Create Better Habits with 5Rs

Before making purchases, we should take the time to reflect and consider, do we really need the product? Just like Marie Kondo’s Rules of Tidying, ask yourself, does the product spark joy in you?

As mentioned in the 5Rs of Zero Waste, by reusing and recycling things, we can lessen the burden placed upon poorer countries, suffering the consequences of our buy and throw away habits. In addition, it creates a sustainable environment by saving scarce natural resources for future generations too.

However, some might argue that by practicing the 5Rs of zero waste lifestyle, one could take away the incomes of countries making ends meet with the waste disposal. This is not true. According to the Toronto Environmental Alliance states that “recycling, composting and diversion programs create 10 times more jobs than disposal”. This means that more jobs can be created by recycling and composting waste. The 5Rs of Zero Waste lifestyle is good for the environment and provides a better economy for the countries that are in need!

It Matters to Everyone

big group of people success on mountain
“Solid waste management is a universal issue that matters to every single person in the world.” – Immersive story: What a Waste: An Updated Look into the Future of Solid Waste Management

What we throw away will be out of our sight, but that does not mean it disappears into thin air. Understanding the environmental impact of waste and knowing the benefits of the 5Rs of Zero Waste can change the future of our environment and the living standards of people, not just in developing or underdeveloped countries but in first world countries as well.

After all, a win for the environment is a win for mankind and all life on Earth.

While it might seem like a big step to take, especially in the current fast paced world of trends, keeping a 5Rs attitude in our daily life can lead to big impact. If you are interested in making a change, check out our quick and easy hacks to change your lifestyle into incorporating 5Rs of zero waste lifestyle.

Author: Thiri Zaw Yazawa
Challenging myself to start small for bigger changes every day because there is no planet B.