The 5 Rs I Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot – Kempii

What are the 5 Rs of zero waste?

There’s a lot of zero waste guidance out there, and sometimes it can seem a bit overwhelming – but it doesn’t need to be!

You may have heard of the 5 Rs of zero waste – refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot – and these are a great way to help you along the environmentally friendly path.

They started life as the 3 Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) but were expanded by the famous Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home to lay the foundation for the way she approaches waste-free living.


The 5 Rs Refuse Reduce Reuse Recycle Rot


Incorporating the 5 Rs into your life is simple and effective. Just remember, the closer to the top of the list your action is, the more positive the impact. So, here’s how to implement the 5 Rs of zero waste.

#1: Refuse

Just say no. We heard it at school, and you’re hearing it again now. You as a consumer have power, and that power is in your refusal. Do you need that new item? Do you have to buy a replacement? Is that free bottle of water going to improve your life in any way?

Start refusing. This can be as small an action as saying no to the plastic supermarkets love to smother their food in and using a reusable produce bag instead. It could be politely turning down a colleague’s offer of coffee because it comes in a disposable cup. It might be refusing the temptation of those conference goodie bags - which, let's face it, end up languishing in the back of a cupboard. 

The 5 Rs Reusable Produce Bags

Above: Refuse plastic in the vegetable aisle! Take a reusable produce bag instead. 

#2: Reduce

Sometimes you can’t realistically not buy or use something, but you can take steps to reduce your consumption. Could you find alternatives, such as shampoo bars or cotton pads for frequently purchased items?

If you’re a sucker for a new outfit, how about focusing on buying fewer clothes? Or if you often find yourself in Pret at lunch, set yourself a challenge of reducing lunch waste by making your own every day for a month – once you get used it, you won’t go back!

The 5 Rs - reusable lunch container

Above: Bring your own healthy lunch or pick up takeaway in a reusable container

#3: Reuse (and repair)

Of the 5 Rs, this is the "R" you’re probably most familiar with. From safety razors to kitchen sponges, there’s a wealth of reusable and eco friendly products out there. They’re cost-effective, usually more pleasant to use, and so much better for the planet.

Zero waste experts talk about the ‘big six’, which is a good place to start – water bottles, straws, coffee cups, shopping bags, produce bags and cling film alternatives like beeswax wrap.

The 5 Rs Beeswax Wrap

Above: Ditch cling film and try reusable food wrap 

Similarly, don’t rush to the shop each time something stops working. Join the repair revolution; learn to sew, repair bikes, even rewire electrics.

#4: Recycle

Recycling isn't the solution to our waste issues, so it comes in lower than the other Rs.  Still, with most local councils running a comprehensive recycling service, there’s no excuse not to recycle as much as you can. If items like batteries, electrics, and textiles aren’t picked up from the pavement, make the (often tiny!) effort to bring them to an alternative recycling spot.

#5: Rot

As keen gardeners, we love this addition to the original 3 Rs – refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle wouldn’t be complete without rot! It acknowledges the ever-present worry of food waste; composting this gives you nutrients for your garden and reduces the greenhouse gas produced by food in landfill.

If you’ve got a garden you can get a bigger compost converter but even those of us with flats can compost with the ingenious Bokashi bins or a powered indoor composter.

The 5rs Bokashi Composting 

Above: No garden? No problem! You can compost indoors with a bokashi bin

Do you use the 5 Rs to reduce your waste? Which has the most impact? Share in the comments below and inspire others! 

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