Everyday Waste Reduction and Recycling Practices
Surprisingly, sustainability has been a buzzword since the 1970s. However, it’s only been in recent years that the movement has really taken off. Nowadays, you find recycled packaging, straw-less drinks, and reusable containers around every corner. While going green sounds good on paper, it’s not always as simple as one might hope. Sustainable living can take practice.
The first step to living more sustainably is forming better habits around recycling and reducing waste. Consider James Clear’s bestselling book Atomic Habits. In the book, Clear outlines how to form new habits and stick to them in four simple steps: 1) make it obvious, 2) make it attractive, 3) make it easy, and 4) make it satisfying.
Here’s how to use these steps to make eco-friendly practices a part of your everyday life.
- Make it Obvious
As with any good habit, the first step to recycling more and wasting less is knowing exactly what you need to do to make it happen. Before you embark on your recycling journey, spend some time planning and researching so everything is ready for you once you start. Know exactly where you will take your recyclables each week, so you’re never stuck with an overflowing bin.
If you’re involving children, guests, or cleaners in your eco-friendly crusade, make sure everything is obvious for them, too. Always choose clearly marked recycling bins over aesthetically pleasing yet vague containers.
- Make it Attractive
It’s easier to change how you live when it comes with rewards. Ask yourself, “What’s in it for me?” before you officially go green to discover all the perks it may bring. For example, making some extra money from recycling, bragging rights over home-grown veggies, or never having to clean forgotten leftovers out of your fridge again.
You can also literally make it more attractive by increasing visual appeal. According to a 2018 study, recycling being “dirty and untidy” is one of the top three reasons South Africans choose not to recycle. Combatting this is simple: get sealable recycling containers that you can slide under the sink or into the cupboard when you’re not using them.
- Make it Easy
Starting small is the path to long-term success when it comes to building healthy, eco-friendly habits. Instead of aiming for zero waste in week one, consider making micro changes that take minimal extra effort on your part. For example, put some reusable shopping bags in your car, desk drawer, and pantry so they’re always there when you need them.
Most of us prefer not to walk long distances to find a dustbin, and the same applies to recycling bins. Consider placing small recycling buckets in multiple locations around your home or office so they are always accessible. Put a list of things you can and can’t recycle on the wall near the bins so nobody has to question where their waste should go.
- Make it Satisfying
The human brain works on a reward system that makes doing things in exchange for a reward more satisfying than doing them just because. You can activate this system by rewarding yourself every time you make a greener choice that’s kinder to the planet. For example, always having dessert when you eat leftovers for dinner or taking a longer lunch break to rinse your recyclables.
Behavioural scientists have also noted the psychological power of maintaining a streak. You can use this to your advantage when trying to live a greener lifestyle by starting a streak counter that tracks your progress. See how many days you can go without throwing paper in the dustbin (as opposed to the recycling bin) or how long you can resist plastic straws and cutlery at a restaurant.
16 Practical Ways to Start Recycling & Reducing Waste
Now that you know how to build healthy habits around recycling and waste reduction, it’s time to start implementing them in your life. Here are some small changes you can make to start living greener today:
- Repair clothes, shoes, jewellery, and bags instead of replacing them.
- Start a compost heap or Bokashi bin.
- Collect bread tags for wheelchairs.
- Switch to rechargeable batteries.
- Use a cloth produce bag for fruit and veggie shopping.
- Do weekly meal prep to reduce food waste.
- Use reusable beeswax wraps instead of cling film.
- Try reusable hygiene products, e.g., menstrual cups.
- Drop off your e-waste at Makro or Leroi Merlin or one of eWASA’s collection points.
- Switch to bar soap.
- Start saying NO to free samples and promotional items.
- Keep a steel water bottle in your car so you never have to buy bottled water.
- Drop off CFLs, printer cartridges, and portable batteries at Woolworths or Pick n Pay.
- Separate your wet waste into black bags and dry recyclables in clear bags.
- Try thrift shopping.
- Buy furniture made from recycled materials.
Recycling and Waste Reduction for Businesses
Green living isn’t only for the home – you can get involved at work or school by implementing an internal recycling and waste management policy. eWASA is a registered producer responsibility organisation that helps businesses in the electronics, electrical, and paper and packaging industries meet their EPR obligations through complaint sustainability schemes.
Contact us to find out how we can help you build an eco-friendly operation.