Waste Prevention

Preventing waste is one of the best ways to fight climate change and other environmental issues. Choosing to purchase durable items with minimal and/or recyclable packaging, items made from recycled or renewable materials, or a better yet CHOOSING NOT TO BUY reduces greenhouse gas emissions and reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills.

Landfills have a finite capacity. We can extend the life of these landfills by reducing the amount of waste we produce to ensure that future generations can meet their waste needs. Broome County owns and operates a landfill that accepts waste generated within the county.

Using an object until it breaks not only keeps it out of the landfill, but also maximizes the fossil fuels burned and the natural resources used to make it.  Choosing NOT to purchase an item saves all of that energy from being spent in the first place.

Reducing waste can require some forward thinking and planning but is not difficult. Follow these steps below for future purchases to help reduce the waste you generate.

1. Do I NEED this item, or do I WANT this item?

  • Need: it is essential to your health and well-being.
  • Want: something you wish you had but can live without.
  • Differentiating between these terms can help you make informed purchases

2. Can I get this second hand?

  • Ask your friends and family if they have what you are looking to purchase.
  • Shot at a local thrift store.
  • Check online for sellers of second-hand items.

3. Where can I purchase this item with the least amount of packaging?

  • Purchase from local stores if possible before ordering online. 
  • Choose the product that is made from recycled materials or packaging that is recyclable.

4. Is it the most durable option?

  • To make the most out of your purchase, consider the product’s lifespan. Will it last more than 1 year? 3 years?

5. Can it be repaired?

  • The best way to extend the lifespan of any item is to make repairs.
  • It is usually cheaper to repair than to buy new once it breaks.

6. Can it be reused?

  • If you do not need this item for long, consider alternative uses for the item. You can look online for repurposing inspiration.
  • Take into account the item’s reusability once you are finished with it. You can donate the item once you are finished for another person to enjoy.

7. Can it be recycled or composted?

  • Think ahead to the end of the object’s life and how it needs to be disposed.
  • If you cannot acquire an item that is durable, try your best to purchase something that is recyclable.

Keep in mind that while it is great to recycle, energy is still used to turn recyclable materials into new products. You can limit that extra energy being spent by reducing and reusing.

When you recycle or throw something away, you are also throwing away the energy used to make it (called embedded energy). All of that energy is lost forever if it is sent to the landfill as plastics do not biodegrade. Much of the embedded energy can be recaptured through recycling where it is converted back into workable materials to create new objects. However, recycling requires energy and fossil fuels to sort, bail, and transform old products into new.

Contact

Kevin Mathers
Environment, Natural Resources Educator
kjm8@cornell.edu
(607) 584-5013

Last updated December 7, 2018