When a consumer declines to buy a product, or a manufacturer opts not to produce, they are practicing source reduction or waste prevention. This, the “reduce” part of the reduce/reuse/recycle “mantra,” refers to any method used by a generator (the consumer or the producer of a product) to reduce the amount of solid waste requiring recycling, composting, incineration, or disposal. In other words, if it doesn’t exist (or you don’t buy it), you don’t have to decide how to keep it out of the waste stream.

Source reduction strategies include

  • buying bulk foods
  • avoiding single use items
  • renting, borrowing or sharing tools that are occasionally needed
  • design products to use fewer raw materials in production, last longer &/or be reusable
  • buy or produce non-toxic products

Oregon’s Waste Reduction Hierarchy

Oregon law emphasizes the critical importance of waste reduction, meaning our combined efforts to prevent waste, reuse materials, compost organic waste, and recycle materials to reduce the disposal of waste.

The Oregon Legislature made its first comprehensive commitment to waste reduction in 1983, when it passed the Opportunity to Recycle Act. The Oregon Recycling Act of 1991 strengthened that commitment. These laws established solid waste management policies and designated jurisdictions responsible for the recovery (diversion) of waste from landfills.

The Acts also recognized that some waste reduction practices produce more environmental benefits than others. They affirmed that, in order to conserve energy and natural resources, we must prioritize reducing waste generation (recovered materials and landfilled materials) over simply diverting material from the landfills. In other words, waste prevention is more important than material recovery. The following hierarchy, set by the Legislature, reflects this priority.

  1. Reduce the amount of solid waste generated
  2. Reuse material for the purpose for which it was intended
  3. Recycle material that cannot be reused
  4. Compost material that cannot be reused or recycled (added in 1991)
  5. Recover energy from solid waste that cannot be reused, recycled, or composted
  6. Dispose by landfilling, or other method approved by the state, any solid waste that cannot be reused, recycled, composed or from which energy cannot be recovered

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle…in that order