Waste Reduction Saves the Environment and Money
According to the Global Footprint Network, if all nations lived like United States residents, the resources of five Earths would be needed each year for the natural environment to regenerate. To put it another way, if every person in the world consumed like the average American starting on January 1, the Earth’s resources would be depleted by March 15 annually.
The most effective way to reduce waste is to not create it in the first place. Making a new product requires a lot of materials and energy. Raw materials must be extracted from the Earth, and the product must be fabricated, then transported to wherever it will be sold, and there are environmental impacts along the way. Reduction and reuse are the most effective ways you can save natural resources, protect the environment, and save money. The best waste is no waste.
It also pays to reduce. Businesses and residents can begin saving money immediately by cutting back on their waste production. Here are a couple of examples:
- According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), Pepsi saved $44 million by switching from corrugated to reusable plastic shipping containers for one liter and 20-ounce bottles, conserving 196 million pounds of corrugated material.
- Did you know that bottled water cost 100 times more than taking it from the tap? You can save more than $800 a year by using high-quality Hillsborough County tap water. By investing in a reusable water bottle and making other commitments to waste reduction, the savings are boundless.
Follow these easy steps below to start doing your part today in helping save our planet and your wallet.
Waste Management Hierarchy
- Reduce – minimize the amount of waste produced by not generating it in the first place (most preferred)
- Reuse – reuse, repair, and repurpose items over and over again to avoid disposal
- Recycle/Compost – transform waste into new beneficial products to avoid disposal and environmental extraction
- Energy Recovery – convert non-recyclable waste into usable energy
- Disposal – safely dispose of waste in landfills (least preferred)
What Can You Do to Reduce Waste?
Tips to Reduce Waste:
- Go paperless by having your bills and receipts emailed to you.
- Use digital books, movies, music, and magazines.
- Buy items in bulk and with less packaging.
- Buy items with recycled content to reduce the need for virgin raw materials.
- Eliminate the use of single-use items such as plates, cutlery, straws, and cups.
- Bring a reusable bag with you when you go shopping.
- Bring a reusable water bottle with you whenever you go out.
- Use towels and rags instead of disposable paper products.
- Use rechargeable batteries instead of disposable single-use batteries.
- Borrow, rent, or share items that you use infrequently.
- Eliminate unwanted junk mail by submitting an opt-out request.
- Shop for clothes, appliances, and other items at thrift stores to look good and save money.
- Consider alternative cleaning products, and adopt housecleaning practices that reduce the amount of cleaning products needed for cleaning at home.
Tips to Reuse items:
- Donate gently used items to charity organizations, thrift stores, or schools before you throw them away.
- Drop off gently used bicycles to a Hillsborough County Community Collection Center to be donated for reuse and avoid disposal.
- Use disposable plastic shopping bags as pet waste bags, small trash can bags, or packing materials.
- Turn unsalvageable worn or stained clothes into cleaning rags.
- Choose durable, reusable goods (for example: instead of buying disposable razors, use razors that have replacement blades or electric ones).
- Try fixing or repairing your goods before trashing it and spending money on a new one.
- Patch clothing, shoes, furniture, and household items before throwing them away.
- Only place approved empty and dry recyclable items in recycling bins or carts.
- Keep plastic bags out of household recycling – they are not recyclable curbside.
- Don’t bag your recyclables as all items should be placed in recycling bins unbagged and loose in order to be processed successfully.
- Purchase items that are recyclable.
- Buy items made from recycled material to complete the recycling process.
- Compost your food scraps and yard waste to create a rich soil amendment.
- Encourage your employer to start or expand a workplace recycling program.
Be Part of the Solution:
- Support waste reduction by taking the Reduce Your Use Tampa Bay pledge.
- Share waste reduction information with your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers.
- Learn more about what you can and can’t recycle.
- Contact the Hillsborough County Recycling & Waste Reduction Team for more information on waste reduction tips and recycling best practices.
- Request a free presentation for your business or community group on the topics of solid waste management and recycling.
The Focus on Food Waste
Food waste is a major concern around the world, with the average American throwing away hundreds of pounds of food waste and wasting hundreds of dollars each year.
Food waste makes up one of the largest sectors of Hillsborough County’s waste stream and has multiple negative effects on the environment and human health if not managed correctly. This is not just a local problem – the U.S. EPA has set a national goal of cutting food waste in half by 2030.
Here are some actions you can take to keep nutritious food out of the landfill and in your home, while also saving money.
- Attend a class on nutrition and health through the UF/IFAS Cooperative Extension Office.
- Cook or eat what you already have at home before buying more by making a list each week of what needs to be used up and plan upcoming meals around it.
- Buy only what you need and will use because buying in bulk only saves money if you are able to use the food before it spoils.
- Be informed about food product labeling. Labels are commonly used to inform when the food will retain its desired quality and flavor, but not for food safety.
- Use the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) FoodKeeper App to help you understand food and beverage storage, maximize the freshness and quality of items, and keep items fresh longer than if they were not stored properly.
- Research how to store fruits and vegetables so they stay fresh longer inside or outside your refrigerator, especially abundant seasonal or surplus produce.
- Store bananas, apples, and tomatoes by themselves, but store fruits and vegetables in different bins. Many fruits give off natural gases as they ripen, making other nearby produce spoil faster.
- Once home from the store, take the time to wash, dry, chop, dice, slice, and place your fresh food items in clear storage containers for snacks and easy cooking.
- Freeze food such as bread, sliced fruit, or meat that you know you won’t be able to eat in time.
- Cut your time in the kitchen by preparing and freezing meals in advance.
- Plan an “eat the leftovers” night each week.
- Casseroles, stir-fries, frittatas, soups, and smoothies are great ways to use leftovers or produce that are past their prime.
- Search for websites that provide suggestions for using leftover ingredients and parts of food that you would normally throw away.
- Inedible food scraps and spoiled food can be composted right in your backyard.
- Unopened packaged food can be donated and shared with those in need.
- After a party or gathering, containerize leftover food you already cooked and save for later, or share with your guests to take home.
For More Information & Other Resources
- Hillsborough County’s Recycling Information
- Hillsborough County’s Extension Service Office
- Reduce Your Use Tampa Bay Campaign
- Backyard Composting Workshop
- Environmental Protection Agency’s Tips for Food Waste Reduction at Home
- US Food & Drug Administration Tips to Reduce Food Waste
- Florida Department of Agriculture’s Food Recovery Program