By Karyn Kaplan,
Recycling Manager,
University of Oregon

Sometimes the answers to our biggest problems are right in front of us. Though recycling was introduced as an opportunity for us to divert our trash from the landfill and save resources, it is still only one step from the garbage can. Since 1990, the amount of waste generated per person in Lane County has gone from 4#'s/person/day to over 7#'s/person/day. Yes, we are recycling. We are recycling about as much as we have increased our garbage, leaving us at a break even point. In actuality, we have managed to keep garbage at the same rate, while recycling what we have increased in our consumption habits. It's time to think before we buy and reduce the amount of overall waste we produce in the first place. This practice is called Precycling and it takes a lot less energy then recycling. All it involves is making choices before you buy. It moves us back from the recycling bin eliminate waste before it is produced. By Precycling, you have the opportunity to reduce waste by not buying something that will generate heaps of garbage. Precycling is a choice we make when we shop and here's how:

1. BUY THINGS YOU NEED AND WILL USE: remember that your money is a precious resource. Buying things that you will use will save you money and keep needless items from cluttering up your life. Additionally, it will save you money for other things that you will value and enjoy. Ask yourself, "Do I really need this?" You might surprise yourself!
2. SELECT PRODUCTS CAREFULLY: when choosing products, consider the environmental impact of that purchase. Is it safe for the environment and your loved ones? Does it have special storage and disposal needs? Is there a non-toxic alternative product available? Is the product/packaging made of recycled/recyclable materials (does this product support the recycling process?)
3. BUY LOCALLY, THINK GLOBALLY: buying locally, reduces the waste generated through transportation. This includes air and water pollution, energy and impacts on our heavily taxed transportation system. Buying locally supports the community where we live, reduces the impact of our purchases on the quality of life and ultimately the global community. We are fortunate to live in Eugene, where we have a plethora of locally grown food and product options. By purchasing food at the weekly farmer's market downtown, you support local farmers while enjoying pesticide free food that is fresh and not heavily packaged!

4. CONSIDER PRODUCTS THAT HAVE REDUCED OR ZERO PACKAGING: just think, packaging makes up over 35% of our waste stream. Just by making a choice before you buy you can reduce the amount of unrecyclable packaging going to the landfill. Additionally, you reduce the impact the amount of materials you have to deal with once you get home, including preparing appropriate materials for recycling! Purchase products which have reduced packaging. When an item is packaged choose products that have packaging that is made of recycled and recyclable materials. BUY IN BULK and reuse bags. This saves you money and reduces waste!
5. AVOID PLASTIC!!!! Though many times you will find the recycle symbol on plastic items and packaging, the truth is that less then 1% of all plastic is recycled and all plastic that is recycled gets recycled into something that can't be recycled again. Try to avoid purchasing plastics, it's a choice you can make. When you can, bring reusable shopping bags to the store. Canvas bags last a long time and endure the weight of groceries much better then paper or plastic. Don't take a bag when you have single items. Many stores give you money back for this effort. Plus, ask yourself, how many bags do I need?

6. AVOID DISPOSABLES: Don't buy products manufactured for automatic disposal. Do buy items that are designed for re-use or things that can be repaired. Choose products you can use to reduce your need for disposables. Using a refillable mug eliminates the need for disposable cups and often gets you a discount on your beverage!
7. REUSE THINGS OR DONATE THEM: When items are no longer useful to you, consider donating them to charity. You save landfill space, get a tax credit and help someone else out! One person's junk is another person's treasure.
8. COMPOST: Feed your garden and it will feed you. Composting is easy! Contact the City of Eugene Compost Hotline for more information: 682-7320.
9. TAKE THE TIME TO GIVE FEEDBACK: Take a minute to talk to a store manager about a product or packaging preference. Patronize businesses that offer low impact products and packaging. There are many choices in Eugene. Write manufacturers with feedback on improving their product's impact on the waste stream and environment. Contact your legislators to encourage legislation that supports these practices.

10. TEACH YOU CHILDREN: Children are consumers of the present and the future. By teaching children to precycle, you help them take responsibility for their impact, reduce the strain on your budget and make them better citizens of the planet.
Remember that you make a difference and an impact from every consumption choice you make. By Precycling you help lighten the load on the landfill and allow yourself more time to spend enjoying life. After all, it makes less of a mess for all of us to deal with.

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