The Five R’s of Trash: Don’t Forget ‘Refuse’ and ‘Rot’

We’ve all been told the Three R’s of Waste — Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle — and that they should be practiced in that order. Don’t forget to add two more R’s onto the front and back respectively: Refuse and Rot.

So read in order, it looks like this:


Refuse Where You Can, Then Reduce

As the weight of the first two suggests, the most emphasis on managing consumption (should it must be consumed) and waste should be on first refusing to consume it (do you really need it?) and then reducing that need to consume (do you really need all those whats-its?).

Waste reduction begins with not buying a thing, not with what to do with it once it’s used up. And now that the major purchasers of our recycled stuff are refusing to take them all, it’s better that it doesn’t wind up in our landfills as a last resort (which it does).

If ya don’t buy it, ya don’t trash it. That’s the best refusing and reducing money can’t buy!

Rot Can Stink

It goes without saying that anything organic in nature — cardboard, veggie scraps, newsprint, coffee grounds, hair trimmings, cotton fibers — go to the backyard compost bin, left to rot as nature intends.

If it rots, it’s best to take it straight outside where the flies are.

If you are on a single-stream recycling service like we are, you must pre-rinse recyclable containers so that they are usable in the second line of industry.  Rinse items in a bin of water that can then be poured into the garden as ‘grey water.’ Your pre-rinsed dishes for the dishwasher can be treated in the same way. No more stinky recycle bin.

You’ll be conserving costly treated water as a bonus!

How It Works: Single Stream Recycling (Video)

[Email Readers: Above is a video embed that must be viewed at the blog.]

Reused and Recycled

Should you opt to toss yard waste like grass clippings or leaves or twigs to the curb (!!!), do so in biodegradable see-through cello bags for trash pickers like me to come steal before the truck arrives to haul it to the landfill. My trees and garden thank you for it.

Sending your leaves to my trees? That’s called re-homing. (I know, that’s technically a sixth R, but whatever.)

Got Trash? Not A Lot.

Now, all you have left is clean, un-recyclable waste. Line your kitchen bin for landfill waste with a reused paper grocery sack rather than a plastic bag. Plastic bags are notorious for escaping landfills with the wind and winding up the oceans via rivers and streams. Let’s not do that anymore.

It’s all very preventable, law or no law: refuse plastic grocery bags.

Put stinky trash — bones, cheese, etc. — into a ziploc bag that can be sealed and frozen for quite a while before being put to the curb as landfill waste. They’re not recyclable anyway.

But don’t be silly and buy Ziploc bags for waste: reuse old ones instead.

That tiny paper sack under your kitchen sink will remind you to always think before you toss. Now, isn’t it rewarding to roll the giant can down the driveway to the curb every 4th of July and New Year’s Day rather than every Monday and Thursday?

Pat yourself on the back. You’ve carved out some bonus time off too.

Your waste bin has never smelled so good.

8 thoughts on “The Five R’s of Trash: Don’t Forget ‘Refuse’ and ‘Rot’

  1. You won’t be surprised to hear I focused on your words. From REFUSE to REDUCE takes the change of two letters (F > D, S > C), and then from REDUCE to REUSE takes the dropping of the first of the just-changed letters (D) and the swapping back of the second (C > S). You might call that a different sort of recycling.


  2. I started edging toward ‘refuse’ when I started distinguishing between needs and wants. And isn’t it interesting that ‘refuse’ is both a verb and a noun? If we refuse to be obsessive consumers, we’ll have a lot less refuse to deal with!

    I should have taken the time to see what the volunteers at the Brazoria refuge were up to last weekend. They were working in the garden area as you drive in, and there was a lot of cardboard laying around. It reminded me of you!


    1. Ah yes. Need vs. Want is the best approach! I don’t know if you’ve seen ‘Free Solo’ yet (Oscar nom!), but Honnold inspires me to do even better on the things I consume. Maybe one day, I can have so little that I can also live out of a van. Got a ways to go yet …

      Your BNWR folks were likely sheet-mulching! Wet cardboard makes a fantastic soil covering. Next time, stop and ask. Garden peeps are always happy to share their knowledge, it seems. ;D

      Liked by 1 person

    2. When it comes to the word refuse, the noun is stressed on the first syllable and has its s pronounced like an s. The verb gets its second syllable stressed and its s pronounced like a z. The differences must drive a foreign learner of English crazy.

      Liked by 1 person

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