3R+ or so many R’s to choose

November 30, 2012


Today, the facts of pollution, limited resources and the climate changes force people around the world to change their behaviour to more environmentally responsible. Different concepts and practices are developed to protect the environment and 3R: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is the most popular one.

Ideas of the 3R were introduced after World War II as a result of shortages in materials and still utilized today with some modifications. For example, the Canadian government has interpreted it as 4R, adding Recover to the 3 basic R’s, which are:

REDUCE:  reduce consumption, minimize the amount of material and energy used for manufacturing
REUSE:  use the product or its parts more than one time without processing it
RECYCLE: take the product and process it in order to turn it back into raw materials for further use

There are 18 more R’s that can be found in various sources of information. Most of them can be interpreted as an extended version of 3R, while others bring new ideas.

For example, considering REDUCE as a mindset that leads to minimization of harm to the environment allows to include in it such R’s as:

RESEARCH:  find the “greenest” option amongst all available
RESPONSIBLE: take an obligation to act to benefit environment
RETHINK: rethink current lifestyle; rethink the way things are done
REDIRECT: redirect your financial resources from consumption to support
REDESIGN: redesign the process to minimize waste
REFUSE: do not accept a product which is not environmentally or socially sustainable
RESIST: to refrain from purchasing unnecessary products
RESPECT: Respect your environment and try to leave the smallest footprint possible
REBUY: close the loop by buying a product, made from recycled content

The same thing can be done with REUSE being presented as a wider category which consists of all actions of second-hand use without processing:

REPURPOSE: use the product for another purpose
REPAIR: fix the product if it is broken; replace components of the product rather than entire product
RETURN: return the product to where it came so it may be reused
RECREATE: give product a new life in art

The extension of RECYCLE to organic products brings new R as ROT in the meaning of composting.

One thing that is really new after 60 years of using 3R concept is the idea that minimizing harm is not enough anymore and the next step is to actively RECOVER resources that were used, that can also include such R’s as RESTORE, REPLENISH and RENEW.

In conclusion, the enthusiasm of adding R’s to the basic model comes from the fact that more and more people recognise the importance of environment protection and try to implement the R concept in their lives.