The Three R's..Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle To improve the way America handles its solid waste, the EPA launched a program in 1989. The order in the hierarchy of waste management is the following: 1) REDUCE..source reduction of waste is by far the most important 2) REUSE 3) RECYCLE. What is left over after these three methods have been employed should be disposed of in the following order: 1) composting 2) incineration 3) landfilling.
Source reduction is difficult in our area, because many cities use tax revenues to pay for waste disposal. "Pay as you throw" schemes, either charging by volume or by weight, would encourage less waste and promote reuse. While illegal dumping may increase at first, education and enforcement have been shown to contain this problem.
If people were held economically accountable for their waste, our entire economy would benefit. Reusable and recyclable products would be in high demand, as would be products with minimal packaging. This in turn would inspire manufacturers to increase efficiency, promote conservation, and protect the land.
The benefits of recycling include creation of jobs, reduction in the environmental and energy costs of extractive industries, and reduction of materials and energy costs for industries.
Recycling has been hampered by government support and subsidies of such processes as lumbering, mining, and oil and gas exploration. This keeps the cost of virgin materials artificially low. Tax provisions are also provided for energy development and timber. Much higher rates of recycling with much greater economic efficiency have been achieved in the more advanced waste management systems of Western Europe and Japan.
Only by personal changes, tax and municipal changes, and an increase in the value of thrift will we significantly reduce the amount of waste we generate.
"The used metals, glass, wood products, plastics, and chemicals that we dump into landfills once had to be mined or logged or pumped from the earth...to jumble them together into an entropic mess from which they are once again difficult and expensive to extract and then bury them in the ground, degrading still more air, water, and land, is, therefore, highly irrational."