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Precycling: Recycling's Quiet Unsung Cousin

What is precycling and how can it help eliminate waste?, via SustainableBabySteps.com

Let's consider precycling and recycling a Go Green Must Do. It's more than throwing your plastic bottles in a bin. It's as much about what you don't do, as what you do.

With both practices, you can dramatically reduce the amount of trash you bring into your home or throw away. With very little effort we decreased trash in our home by 75%, going from four bags of trash a week to one average size kitchen trash bag. This is especially important for people who pay for trash service by the pound.

There are always naysayers that insist recycling is just as toxic to the environment as producing new materials. And they're right. It requires energy and creates pollution. So it will always be second best to more sustainable options, like precycling.

What is Precycling?

Precycling is the practice of consuming, while keeping waste reduction in mind. In other words, it takes into account the amount of waste a product will produce before purchasing and choosing the product with the smaller impact. Think of it as preventative medicine for the landfills.


Approx. 250,000 plastic water bottles are thrown out every hour.

A few examples:

  • Buying in bulk to reduce packaging
  • Purchasing things with little to no packaging (such as when buying used)
  • Only purchasing that which you are sure your local facility accepts (for instance, our facility will trash any plastics numbered 3-7, so I try to avoid those whenever possible)
  • Choosing quality items that will have a longer life span (rather than something inexpensive yet poorly made and quickly needing replacing)
  • Supporting companies who print on or package with recycled materials
  • Choosing reusable over disposable items
  • Planning ahead by bringing your own bags (for produce, dried bulk goods, check-out, etc), napkins, utensils, coffee mugs, etc.
  • Making your own yogurt or bread, instead of buying packaged options
  • Wrap gifts with other gifts: a book wrapped within a shirt and a belt as a bow.
  • Avoid the purchase of things you don't really need or that do not serve an important purpose in your life. Surround yourself with inspirational and useful items, rather than more "stuff".

Remebering to precycle is the first step in reducing waste, recyclable or not. Keep it in mind when shopping for groceries or gifts. And allow the reduction in waste to make space within your personal life, as well. Because reducing the waste coming and going from our home simplifies our life and reduces the clutter in our own minds as well.

Reduce the complexity of life by eliminating the needless wants of life, and thelabors of life reduce themselves. - Edwin Way Teale

What About Recycling?

Yes, you'll still have some waste to deal with. Head over to Recycling the Right Way for details on proper recycling.

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