The 3 Rs are the general rules we need to follow to reduce our impacts on the environment.
Reducing our resource and energy consumption is essential to mitigate further climate change and biodiversity loss. Reducing by design and improving product quality will be key for companies to reduce their impacts. For individuals, only purchasing necessities is by far the most effective way to reduce our dependence on the natural world. However, that doesn’t mean we have to stop buying products completely.
Reuse is key to lower production and waste, while making sure individuals can still enjoy a certain item. As such, it’s crucial for necessities to be reusable so that we can decrease our impacts on the environment. Companies have an important role to play to encourage the reuse of their products, as they have the reach to set up effective reuse programs. Reuse can be extended to include second-hand purchases on items that weren’t specifically designed to last multiple uses. As a rule of thumb, it’s typically safe to assume that reusable items are cheaper for individuals and their wallets in the long run.
Recycling is without a doubt the most integrated R in our societies, but we’re not particularly good at it. Efficient recycling systems can help mitigate further resource extraction and energy consumption, but they can’t phase out the whole production stage like the first 2 Rs can. In addition, recycling has plenty of challenges to overcome before it can take a more meaningful role at the global scale, such as triage, material blends, efficiency, increasing material demand, recycling education, limited recycling cycles, and uncollected waste.
We can’t reach a 100% circular economy. However, using the 3 Rs simultaneously, we can get as close as possible. On top of reducing waste, this will help us avoid unnecessary resource extraction and energy consumption.