What is Waste Prevention?
Waste Prevention is activity that p`revents waste from being generated in the first place. Any time that you make a choice in favor of a product with less packaging or find a way to reuse, rather than dispose of, or recycle, a product or package that would otherwise have been waste, you have engaged in waste prevention.
Waste prevention differs from recycling in that waste that is prevented does not require any kind of collection or processing by government or the private sector. Recycling requires waste to be collected and brought to a facility to be separated, compacted and then shipped to manufacturer who can make it into something new. None of this is required with waste that is prevented.
What are the Benefits of Waste Prevention?
Waste prevention is the most preferred waste management option according to the Waste Management Hierarchy adopted by the U.S. Government, N.Y.S. Government and Schenectady County. The hierarchy ranks the desirability of waste management methods from most favorable to least desirable as follows:
1. Waste Prevention and Reuse
2. Recycling and Composting
Waste Prevention ranks at the top because it eliminates all the societal and environmental costs associated with waste disposal, as well as the costs associated with manufacturing unneeded packaging or products. Waste prevention saves landfill space, natural resources, energy, and money, while it reduces pollution of all types.
Did I Say Waste Prevention Saves Money?
Yes, it is an undisputed fact that waste prevention saves money. Where the financial benefits of recycling are often disputed, the financial benefits of waste prevention are not. When you prevent waste you do not have to pay for the disposal of the waste that you prevented. If you produce less waste either your waste collection fees will go down or your hauler will make more money because money is being saved.
If you buy a product with less packaging the manufacturer had to pay less for that packaging. You should get it at a better price. Most importantly, if you buy something that can be used over and over, you save money in not needing to keep buying the disposable item again and again.
How Can I Prevent Waste
1. Buy items that have less packaging . This might mean that the walls of the container are thinner. (The bottle industry has saved thousands of dollars by learning ways to make bottles the same size with less material.) Did you know that the soda bottle that you buy your soda in costs more to make than the soda itself? Some packaging is necessary but much is not. The mouth wash bottle that has a paper layer on top of a plastic sheet layer all covering the glass bottle is a prime example of excessive packaging.
2. Buy in bulk . Sometimes you can eliminate packaging all together by bringing your own packaging to the store. At local health food stores you can put bulk spices, cereals and grains in your own containers, saving waste and money. Fresh fruit and vegetables as well as some cookies, candy and other products from local supermarkets can be packaged in clean used plastic bags from home. Most area supermarkets will give you two or three cents back for every one of your own bags that you use.
Use Durable Rather than Disposable
1. Use reusable items such as handkerchiefs instead facial tissues and durable plates, cups, mugs, silverware, towels, and napkins instead of disposable ones to save money and prevent waste. Use sponges rather than paper towels. Use cloth diapers instead of disposable ones. Use your grocery bags over and over or substitute canvas bags. Can you think of other durable products that you could use to replace disposable ones?
2. Use rechargeable batteries . Rechargeable alkaline batteries have the same power as disposable ones but can be reused up to 25 times. Many applications allow for using nickel cadmium rechargeable batteries. These batteries can be used almost an unlimited number of times. It is well worth the investment in the charges and the more expensive batteries, both for your pocketbook and the environment.
3. Buy florescent light bulbs rather than incandescent ones. Even though they cost more initially, you will save money in the long run by reducing your energy bill and needing to purchase fewer bulbs.
Back Yard Composting
Yard waste and even your food waste can be composted in your back yard. If you do not have a back yard try verma-composting with worms inside your apartment. Unlike institutional composting that requires government or a waste hauler to pick up your waste and take it the composting center, or a trip in your car to get it there, back yard composting saves the costs of those trips and the centralized processing. An added benefit is that you get to keep an excellent soil additive rather than giving it away. Contact Cornell
Cooperative Extension of Schenectady County at 372-1622 to find out how to do backyard or verma-composting.