Precycling Helps Shoppers Save

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Resolving to be a better recycler is a great New Year’s resolution. But there’s an preemptive step you can take way before recycling. In fact, this step will reduce the amount of recycling you have to worry about. It’s called precycling. By precycling, you can reduce your spending and your impact on the planet.

What Is Precycling?

Precycling is the practice of avoiding waste before it’s created. It requires thinking through the waste created by products you buy — before you make a purchase. Is a product made from recycled materials? Is the product recyclable? How much packaging is there? Is the packaging recyclable? And do you really need this product at all? Do you have something you could reuse or repurpose instead?

Considering these questions before you make a purchase will put you on the way to effective precycling.

Rather than thinking of precycling as “buying less,” think of it as “buying smart.” For decades, manufacturers have distracted people from considering the waste they create by emphasizing the benefits of “disposable” products. As we gain a greater understanding of the environmental impact of what we buy, it isn’t necessary to stop shopping, but we must shop smarter.

waste reduction chart, from source reduction to reuse to recycling to disposal

You can help reduce waste at its source by refusing to purchase disposable items and items that can’t be recycled as well as products with excess or unrecyclable packaging. Image credit: Frederick County, Maryland

Easy Ways to Precycle

Examples of simple precycling steps include bringing your own reusable bags to the grocery store to avoid disposable paper or plastic bags and buying fewer disposable products. Consider buying reusable razors rather than disposable, and cloth towels and napkins instead of paper that will be used once and tossed out.

When making larger purchases, such as an appliance or car, precycling is important, too. Will you be able to recycle the product when its useful life is finished? Was it manufactured with minimal impact on the environment and does the maker agree to recover the materials when the product is no longer usable? Look for producer responsibility information when buying to understand whether the manufacturer will responsibly dispose of the product at the end of its useful life.

Your Purchase Choices Influence Manufacturers

Precycling is a precursor to the circular economy, in which materials flow through many lifetimes as recycled products. Expressing your precycling choices also sets standards that companies must meet to get your spending money.

By combining watchful precycling efforts and recycling the reduced waste that is produced, the two forces dramatically reduce the amount of waste your household will produce.

 

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Taylor Ratcliffe

Taylor Ratcliffe is Earth911's customer support and database manager. He is a graduate of the University of Washington.

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