Five Rs of #PlasticPollution: #Reduce #Reuse #Recycle not enough PLUS tips for living #plastic free

The five R’s of plastic pollution: Why Reduce, Reuse and Recycle isn’t enough, and tips for living plastic free

Most of us grew up being taught the 3 R’s- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. When it came to going green and protecting the environment, the 3 R’s was where it all began. Fast forward to 2018 and the progression of pollution and human-caused climate change is far more devastating than we could have predicted. We are in a climate crisis, and 3 R’s just isn’t enough.

Earth Day Network recommends the 5 R’s of recycling when it comes to plastic pollution: Reduce, Refuse, Reuse, Recycle, Remove. Let me break it down for you.


Recycling plastic as the only solution isn’t viable- we need to reduce our plastic consumption. We have grown too accustomed to the belief that it's okay to use plastic since we plan to recycle it. Finding ways to reduce our daily use of plastic is the first step to committing to end plastic pollution. As consumers we take full responsibility for the products we chose to purchase, and how they are packaged. Reducing the amount of plastic we use will reduce the amount of plastic that enters the environment. Ask yourself: Do I really need this plastic straw? Do I need to purchase these cosmetics and cleaners packaged in plastic? Can I purchase products that are package free or come in packaging that is refillable? Can I use a mason jar for my bulk food items?

Over the years my goal has been to reduce my plastic consumption. In 2016 I took the Better Bag Challenge and committed to refusing plastic shopping bags and using only reusable shopping bags. I’ve also tried to find other ways to keep reducing my plastic consumption. I have successfully cut out plastic wrap, plastic straws, plastic bags, bottled water, zip lock bags, cling wrap and many other plastic items from my daily life. I’m not the only one- in 2012 Lindsay Miles participated in a month long plastic free challenge and never looked back. Click here to read her story!

Interested in reducing your plastic consumption? Check out these great products:

LUSH Cosmetics shampoo bars- package free shampoo!

Food Huggers replace cling wrap- they keep fruits and veggies fresh without plastic!

Terra20 stainless steel straws- easy to clean and long-lasting alternative to plastic straws!

Swell water bottles- ditch bottled water and opt for one of these instead, they are stylish and keep your water cold all day!

EETEE Food Wraps- wrap food or use to cover bowls instead of cling wrap!

Terra20 ecobar offers non-toxic home and body products that are refillable- includes household cleaners, laundry detergents and bath and body products!

Want more tips on living a plastic free life? Watch this video!


Refuse goes one step further than reduce. Refusing plastic is a conscious act that we can do when out and about in the world. I do this all the time at the grocery store. I refuse to put my fruit and vegetables in those small clear plastic bags- instead I leave them loose. There have been times when the person ringing in my sale at the check out counter has tried to put them in a plastic bag, and I always tell them “I don’t use plastic.” They can still weigh a bunch of apples on the scale without putting them in the bag. Other ways you can refuse plastic in your everyday life are:

Asking not to have a straw in your drink at a restaurant or bar.

Shop for bulk food items instead of purchasing pre-packaged items.

Refusing plastic plates, cups and cutlery with your take-out orders and using your utensils from home.

Select products without plastic packaging; like produce that isn’t wrapped.

Since plastic bags are the number one source of plastic pollution, refusing any and all plastic bags when shopping does a world of good for the environment.


Plastic pollution is an epidemic because we live in a throw away society. Many of the items that we purchase have such a brief lifecycle. Sometimes we upgrade something only because we want the newest, shiniest version. We use many plastic items that are produced with the intention of being single use products. If we can reuse items, or get multiple uses out of single item, then we can effectively reduce the amount of plastic we put out into the environment. How can we reuse more?

Purchase glass, wood, stainless steel and ceramic items- like storage containers, dishware and kitchen accessories- to replace plastic options.

Reuse mesh or canvas grocery bags for shopping.

Donate gently used items like clothes, toys and furniture instead of throwing them away.

Use washable cloth diapers.

Reuse gift bags and tissue paper.

Use reusable coffee cups and water bottles.

Many takeout containers from restaurants can be reused as Tupperware- like Boston Pizza takeout containers.

Use jars for bulk food items.

If you do use plastic then get creative! We can find interesting ways to reuse one-time-use plastic items. For ideas check out this article that shows 23 creative ways to reuse old plastic bottles!


No matter what steps you take, recycling is so important. The more we recycle, the less ‘trash’ goes into the garbage can. In a world where plastic is at the top of the packaging food chain, there are going to be instances where we are forced to use plastic, so recycling them properly is important. Following the recycling rules in your community is key. I’m lucky that I live in a community that was a great recycling program- many items are recycled and organic waste is composted. Knowing what can or can’t be recycled is as easy as contacting your city for a chart, list or other resource. City of Pembroke has an easy chart with illustrated and listed items of what can and can’t be recycled. Most cities require recyclable containers to be washed out first but try to use as little water as possible when doing so. When it comes to plastic, Earth Day Network has this easy diagram to help you along the way.

Want to learn more about recyclable plastics? Check out this video Knowing Your Plastics!


The last piece of the pollution puzzle is removing plastic from the environment. Going to a park? Hiking a trail? Going camping? Visiting the beach or shoreline? Why not do trash collection in the places we love the most. When I hike my favourite trails I always do trash collection. It’s my way of saying thank you to Mother Nature for providing me with such a beautiful and peaceful place to lose myself in. I bring a bag for trash and a bag for recyclables and take it home to sort in my own bins. Picking up litter in the community is a great way to give back. Just grab a pair of gardening gloves, a trash bag and go explore! Join local organizations that are focused on trash collection and attend their events- it’s a great way to meet new, likeminded friends who care about the environment.

Now that we have adjusted our way of looking at recycling and embraced the 5 R’s, our Earth Day goal to End Plastic Pollution is looking easier to achieve. Will you join me? Which of these tips will you try? What is attainable? What seems impossible? Let me know in the comments section!

Source: Earth Day Network
#EarthDay #EndPlasticPollution

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