Practice the three Rs before tossing old stuff

By Alisa Reckinger

Guest Columnist


Before you throw something away, ask yourself if there’s an opportunity to reuse or recycle. Picking the green choice will help lower the amount of material going into landfills — 3 million tons will be thrown in Minnesota this year.

Reduce: Less to begin with is part of the solution. Check out our Top 10 Ways to Reduce Waste at Some of the things you can do include:

• Buy in bulk to reduce packaging.

• Use reusable bags and containers when shopping or packing lunches.

• Make use of community resources, like libraries or rental stores, to borrow materials instead of purchasing.

• Bypass a single-use product if a refillable or reusable version is available.

• Check into getting a broken household item repaired before you replace it.

Reuse: Many people throw out items that would be useful to others, leaving our garbage cans full and others wanting or buying new the very things that are being thrown away.

Find a new home for your unwanted items, including clothing or household goods, by hosting a garage sale, using an online resale or donation site or donating to a thrift shop or charitable organization. And remember to check these same outlets when you are looking for new-to-you stuff. Check out our donation and resale opportunities at

Recycle: About 40 percent of what we throw away can be recycled, according to a study released in 2013 by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Find options for recycling items in the Residential Recycling Guide at Common household items, including appliances, electronics, textiles, household items, automotive, lawn and garden, are all in the guide.

Are you using your curbside recycling to its fullest? Make sure you’re recycling as much as you can, including paper, cartons, metal, plastic and glass from the kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, office and other areas throughout your house.

The paper, metal and glass you recycle are manufactured into new paper, cans, bottles and jars. Recycled plastic is manufactured into a variety of items, from toothbrushes to chairs to soda bottles to carpet.

Not recycling costs money. In 2010, 1.2 million tons of recyclable material with an estimated value of $285 million was thrown away. Instead, it cost more than $200 million to dispose of this material in landfills, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Save money and the planet by getting rid of old stuff the green way using the 3 Rs — reduce, reuse, recycle.


About The Solid Waste Management Coordinating Board launched its first education outreach campaign in 2003 to help citizens living in Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey and Washington understand the urgent need to make environmentally responsible purchasing and disposal decisions in their daily lives. The board is proud to sponsor its current campaign,