Zero Waste Guide – Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot!

Photo of plastic waste on beach

We all know about the famous “three R’s” – reduce, reuse and recycle. These concepts were put into place to develop a way of encouraging people to become more conscious of the amount of plastic and packaging they were consuming to help cut down on the amount of waste being created. The idea is fantastic, but has it worked? And is cutting down enough? What if we considered zero waste as our goal? The truth is that zero waste is the only way to go if we are going to start making progress in the war on waste. Zero waste has to be the way we live in the present to create a better future.

The Filthy Truth

Globally, we dump a whopping 2.12 billion tonnes of waste each year. This is due to the fact that 99% of what we buy is thrown out after 6 months. This includes all waste from electronic “e-waste” to shipbreaking (the dismantling of old ships), chemical waste from fertilisers and pesticides, to the ever increasing loads of plastic waste.

It’s dumped in the ocean and shipped off to poor and under-developed countries where it can stay out of sight and out of mind. But the consequences are apparent and can no longer be ignored.

A True Cost

The dumping of waste in poor countries affects about 64 million people, contaminating water and soil, polluting the air and causing major health implications. Not to mention that the majority of people working at dumpsites or sorting recycling aren’t even given protective gear when handling toxic waste.

Death by Plastic

If it’s affecting people then obviously it will be affecting animals too. According to a study from Plymouth University, plastic pollution affects at least 700 different species of marine animals and research suggests that 100 million animals could be dying each year from the consumption of plastic.


It’s Time to Step it UP

Clearly the three R’s have not been too successful in curbing the waste crisis, which is why it’s time to step up the fight waste in general – not just for the planet but for the millions of people being affected around the world.

The number one thing we can do to cut back on waste is REFUSE. This R is the most important; it should be the first weapon you whip out when you’re faced with making a decision that could produce waste of some kind. You’re in the grocery shop and the cashier offers you a plastic bag? Whip out your refuse sword and say NO! Your veggie garden needs some help? Well don’t reach for the chemicals rather use the next “R” …

ROT, is the next “R” you need to add to your tool box of “R’s”. Food waste is a massive global issue and one that is not given enough attention, despite being a major contributor to methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. When you throw food out in your regular bin, along with your other waste, it can’t be broken down properly and instead starts to produce methane which is actually 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the planet. That’s why we all need to be taking this “R” seriously and composting our food scraps and leftovers so that we can avoid sending massive amounts of food waste to landfills, where it will sit and belch out methane gas into the atmosphere. Plus you can hit waste in the face by using the beautiful compost you make to fertilise your garden and plant pots – no more harsh chemicals and pesticides!

Let’s Put it all Together

Of course we shouldn’t forget the original three “R’s”: reduce, reuse and recycle, as they play a big role as well. We just need to restructure them a bit to make them more powerful and efficient. An easy way to put it all together is in a pyramid; this will help you to remember their order and know which one to whip out in each situation!


  1.  First you REFUSE.  Whatever situation you’re in, if you can, you want to refuse first.
  2. Next you REDUCE.  If you can’t refuse it all together, try to reduce it first.
  3. Then you REUSE.  If you couldn’t refuse or reduce then the next best thing is to reuse. Punnets, plastic bags, tubs and jars can all be reused and repurposed. PRO TIP: if you’ve got an overflowing collection of jars or bottles check in with your local producers – more often than not they will gladly take them off your hands to bottle their jams, sauces and preserves!
  4. If all else fails RECYCLE.  Recycling really should be seen as a last resort, only once you’ve gone through ALL the other “Rs”. As great as recycling is, it is very resource heavy, requiring a lot of water and energy to clean and process all the waste. It’s also usually shipped off to other countries/regions to be recycled and a lot of the time most of it doesn’t even get recycled. So keep recycling in your back pocket for those instances when there is no other option.  You will find companies who offer Recycling Services in your area in our Green Directory.
  5. Remember to ROT.  Don’t throw those food scraps in your regular bin, rather use this handy little bokashi bin to transform your food leftovers, peels and stems into some nutritious black gold for your plants!
  6. LANDFILL.  This is the ultimate LAST option.  After you’ve gone through ALL the “Rs”, including recycling, you might still be left with waste that just doesn’t have any other solution than to go to the landfill.  It can be really frustrating to still have landfill waste coming from your home, but just know that you’re doing the best you can and hopefully as technology and global awareness grows, landfill waste will decrease and one day will no longer exist. The best we can do is keep going, keep being mindful of what we buy, and keep spreading awareness to those around us.

Boost Your Waste Free Game!

Visit Faithful to Nature for all your zero waste essentials! From reusable shopping bags and straws to compostable and plastic free food wrap, composting bins and plastic free feminine care, Faithful to Nature has your back!

For some more great tips for Greener Home:

Reduce your Waste and SAVE! Your Green Home 101




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