Make the 3 Rs of trash work for you

Johnny Morgan, Overstreet, Karen  |  10/1/2009 8:09:26 PM

News Release Distributed 10/01/09

Trash is everyone’s problem. We all create it. Every time we empty a plastic milk jug or read a newspaper, we create eventual trash. Of course things wear out, spoil or are no longer useful.

We’ll always have some materials that have to end up in the garbage, but have you looked at your trash recently? There’s a lot of good stuff in there!

Dr. Karen Overstreet, an LSU AgCenter family, child and consumer science specialist, said the key is to buy materials that can be reused or recycled.

Simply substituting one material for another will not solve the problem. It doesn’t help to replace plastic with paper if it will all end up in the landfill. Every material has properties that make it appropriate for specific uses.

“Landfill space is not the only reason we should be concerned about trash,” Overstreet said. “Manufacturing new products requires energy and natural resources. The fewer new products we have to make, the more resources we conserve and the less potential there is for additional environmental damage.”

Overstreet said the three ways to decrease pressure on landfills and to conserve energy are to reduce, reuse and recycle.

She said source reduction is the first step in reducing the amount of trash we create. Trying to figure out how to eliminate some of the potential trash can even become a family game. Some of the same ideas that will reduce your trash will also save you money.

“Use a canvas tote or reusable bag when shopping,” she said. “Buy product concentrates and avoid extra packaging. Fabric softeners, cleaning products and juices are a few of the products sold in concentrated form.”

Buying refillable product containers and buying multipurpose products will also reduce packaging.

“Instead of using wrapping paper, wrap gifts in the comic section, or select an appropriate section, such as sports for a sports fan, food pages for someone who likes to cook. Use old maps for someone who likes to travel,” she said.

Second, she said, there is no perfect solution to environmental problems.

“Sometimes solving one problem creates another. What we strive for is balance that will have the least-harmful effect overall,” she explained.

Reuse may take a little more time, but it will also save some money. Use cloth instead of paper napkins. Use plastic grocery bags to line small garbage cans. Use rechargeable batteries.

Overstreet said in addition to reducing use and reusing whenever you can, the final strategy for reducing trash is by recycling.

“Since many products can’t be reused in their original form, recycling remains a viable option,” she said. “There are few materials that can’t be recycled, but sometimes the cost or effort doesn’t make it practical.”

She said you should stop bagging your grass clippings. Follow recommended mowing practices, then leave the clippings on the lawn to return nutrients to the soil.

For more information on how you and your family can reduce reuse and recycle, contact your local LSU AgCenter Extension Service office, or visit the Web site at lsuagcenter.com.

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Johnny Morgan

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