Is it reasonable to use the 3 Rs (Refuse, Rot and Refill) when you recycle?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Although different people can have different attitudes towards this issue, I would say that it is reasonable to do this as much as possible, but it is not reasonable to expect people to be able to do these things exclusively.  In other words, it is practically impossible to live in such a way that all of the garbage you produce can be accounted for through these three “R’s.”

To understand why this is so, let us first look at the three R’s.  The first is “refuse.”  The idea here is to refuse to buy things that will end up in the trash.  The second is “rot.”  This means to compost things that can biodegrade.  Finally, there is “refill.”  This means that you save your containers and fill them back up rather than buying new ones.  Ideally, anything else you buy can be recycled.

This is a very noble idea to aspire to.  However, it is not reasonable for most people.  Let us think of some examples.  I eat a lot of baby carrots.  At my grocery store, they are not available in bulk but must be bought in plastic bags.  I have to throw the plastic bags away.  My kids like to eat tortilla chips.  These come in sort of brittle plastic bags that cannot be used for other things.  The bags get thrown away.

It would be possible, I suppose, to refuse to buy things like these, but it is not reasonable to expect that most people will do so.  We must try to reduce trash as much as possible, but we cannot really expect everyone to get to zero trash.

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