Recycle, reduce, reuse – which is the most important?

Everyone has heard of the 3Rs – recycle, reduce, reuse. Some people like to add a fourth (refuse) or even fifth (recovery). But I think three is more than enough.

While all three are important they should not be considered equal. So which one is the most important and which one, the least? How should you rank them?

Recycle is where you take waste and turn it into the same thing or something else. For example, PET bottles can be returned to make another PET bottle. Or you can take twenty 1.5 litre PET bottles and turn it into fabric for a suit.

Reduce is where one uses less of something, anything. So when going shopping, bring your own bag to put in all your groceries. Or when eating out bring your own chopsticks instead of using the disposable ones.

Reuse is to use something, your own or someone elses, again. It can be as simple as (re)using a plastic bag, or continue using something, like a car or mobile, because it is still functioning.

So which of these is the most important? Well my order of importance is reduce > reuse > recycle.

My reasoning is this: reduce is preferable to either reuse or recycle because reducing the amount we use will mean reducing the amount to be reused or recycled in the first place. And reuse is preferable to recycle because no additional labour and material is necessary, only our will to reuse it. But to recycle something requires additional labour and sometimes additional material (there is no such thing as a perfect 100% recycling rate) in order to turn the old product into a new one.

3 thoughts on “Recycle, reduce, reuse – which is the most important?”

  1. Nice try, Mr B. If you type ‘reuse’ into Google you get “reuse reduce recycle”. While ‘recycle’ you get a whole bunch of different things first (reccycler, recycle bin, recyclebank, recycle symbol … ). Recycle is an adjective, so that is expected.


  2. Good to see you back Posting W.

    I agree with the logic, but hasn’t the order of the three R’s always been thus?

    In fact if you type ‘Reduce’ into Google, the first auto-suggest recommendation is ‘Reduce, Re-use, Recycle’.


Leave a comment.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s