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Last night I participated in a panel discussion at a cute little theatre in Asbury Park following a showing of the documentary film, “Tapped“. I’ve never been up on a stage under lights so bright that you couldn’t see anyone in the dark audience. Otherwise, I would have thanked the person who shouted out “REFUSE” during the program. Refusing bottled water and explaining why, is not a bad way to help turn back the bottled water invasion.

I have refused any number of things on the grounds of not wanting to be wasteful, but I hadn’t thought of it as an actual strategy that could be added to the existing three Rs until last night. I found this graphic where the three “Rs” had been expanded, so why not add another?
Reduce, Refuse, Recycle
My personal favorite is refusing the bottles of water already on the tables at my favorite restaurant. In stores, I sometimes have to refuse disposable bags numerous times during the check-out process, or they’ll put something in one. On Sunday, we were supposed to individually wrap some goodies for a bake sale at church – are you kidding? Today, of all days, they are selling bottled water at the middle school talent show. Time to say no, again.

This “R” has the potential to save both time and money as well as reducing waste. The challenge is in communicating the REFUSE in a persuasive way without getting people annoyed. I may have to work on that!

Precycling.  A new term I just read on iVillage.com used to describe the concept of choosing goods with less packaging waste.  It falls under the concept of “reducing” in the EPA’s Reduce, Reuse, Recycle slogan, but I like the “pre” part of it.    This reminds us that we are supposed to consider the waste implications before we buy something. 

These days there are so many choices – especially at the grocery store.   You can buy packaged food as single servings or in containers large enough to serve an army.    Last summer, I was lucky enough to meet a wonderful family of four from Venezuala.  Veronica, the mother, stunned me when she mentioned that preparing meals for her family in the US generated four times more garbage than preparing the same meals back home.  I still can’t quite imagine how they do it, and I’m sure she can’t quite imagine why we are so wasteful.   Clearly, we have a long way to go toward reducing waste in this nation, but precycling is certainly a good step we can take as individuals right away.

 At Back2Tap we sell reusable bottles and bags to reduce the use of disposable plastic bottles and bags.

Ever wonder what happens to all the plastic bottles we use?  A surprisingly small percentage of disposable plastic bottles are recycled – only 23%.    The other 77% go to landfills. 

Due to the complexity of reprocessing plastic, bottles collected for recycling are typically “downcycled” – that is, made into something of lesser value.   Instead of being made into new drink containers, most are used for carpet backing, clothing, etc.   The economics of this process are challenging in the best of times.  It is cheaper to use virgin material – oil – than to use recycled plastic

Given our current economic downturn, the economics of recycling plastic have gotten even worse.  Prices for recycled materials have plummeted as demand from China and everywhere has dropped.    According to a recent New York Times article, “Back at Junk Value, Recyclables Are Piling Up” recycled materials are accumulating by the ton and if things don’t change they may be heading for landfills instead of a second life.

Time to reuse, not recycle!

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