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5 Easy Steps to Manage Your Waste

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: whether you know this phrase from a catchy tune or a cute poster, this message is practically ingrained into our heads. A better way to tackle waste is with the 5 R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot.


Refusing involves saying no to things you don’t need or that are designed to sit in a landfill outright. It’s especially helpful with unnecessary freebies or single use items.

  • Do I need this?

  • Is there a more sustainable option?


Reducing differs from refusing because it recognizes that there are some things you can’t outright refuse. Reducing focuses on decreasing the amount of things that you’re purchasing or bringing into your life. It’s important to make deliberate, informed choices throughout the day. Here are some quick questions you can ask yourself on the spot when buying something.

  • Do I have something that serves this same purpose?

  • Can I cut down on my usage of this?

  • Can this be reused, and if not, recycled?

  • Is there a more sustainable option?


Learning to reuse or re-purpose is essential when trying to reduce our carbon footprint, and even better, it’s often cheaper overall! Instead of tossing things out, why don’t you try these alternatives instead.

  • Old clothes? Don’t throw them in the trash! If they’re in good condition, you could try selling them or joining a clothing swap. There’s also many different places you can donate your clothes instead, including some right here on campus. And if all else fails, they can be cut up and used as rags to clean.

  • Bags after groceries? Bring them back next time you go shopping, that way you’ll cut down on plastic waste, and you won’t have to pay the extra money at the register. If they’re truly single use, get one last use out of them as small trash can liners or dog poop bags.


Often times recycling is used as an excuse for plastic consumption. Due to lack of infrastructure and value of recycled materials, however, items put in the recycling bin often end up in the landfill. It’s still worth rinsing your recyclables and sorting them from trash, but recycling should be the last option on the table.

  • Is this recyclable in my area? Just because you see the recycling symbol doesn’t mean it’s recyclable, it actually only indicates the type of material. Check your local recycling guidelines and consider printing them out for future use.

  • Have I cleaned it? Dirty recyclables can cause recyclables to be redirected to the landfill.


Rot refers to composting and is a great way to bring new life to your food waste and other compostable items. You can find drop offs on campus at UCLA, at farmer’s markets, and at stores like Whole Foods.

  • Is this compostable? It’s important to keep non compostable items out of the compost as they will not break down.

  • Do I have the ability to create a compost at my home? There are backyard composts, vermi composts, and temporary freezer composts.

  • Is this at home or commercially compostable? Some items labeled compostable must be broken down in specialized factories and will not decompose at home.

This post was written by Christine Gu, a member of the Zero Waste Campaign, and edited by Emily Davis, co-chair of the Zero Waste Campaign.



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