Loyola University Chicago

School of Environmental Sustainability

Why reduce, reuse, and recycle?

  • Reduce: 230 Million Tons of Municipal Garbage Created in the US
  • Reuse: One Ceramic Coffee Mug Saves Enough Energy to Produce 500 Paper Cups
  • Recycle: 79 Million Tons of Materials Diverted from Landfills and Incinerators


Waste reduction means cutting down on the amount of waste, or cutting the toxicity of waste BEFORE it is generated. Each year approximately 230 million tons of municipal solid waste (garbage) is generated in the United States and this equates to an average of 4.6 pounds of garbage each day per person (Source: EPA). Therefore, the number one consumer behavioral change necessary to save natural resources, save money, and lessen landfill disposal is to REDUCE. Here are some ways you can reduce your consumption:

  • Set your printer to "double-sided." By printing front-to-back, you'll significantly reduce the amount of paper you're using
  • Change page margins to .5". By trimming the margins, you'll increase the amount of information that will fit on one page, reducing the likelihood of printing extra pages.
  • Save information and documents electronically rather than printing out a hard copy.
  • Use e-mail, voice-mail and bulletin boards to circulate messages and information.
  • Use non-disposable napkins, water bottles, and travel mugs.

Reuse is accomplished when a product is used more than once for any one purpose. Here are some ways to REUSE:

  • Purchase supplies that contain 20–30% or more post-consumer content
  • Purchase refillable pens and pencils
  • Reuse office furniture and supplies, such as envelopes and file folders
  • Donate, repair or sell items to reduce waste


Instead of tossing your waste in a garbage can, consider whether it can be put in a recycling container. In 2005, recycling diverted 79 million tons of material away from landfills and incinerators (EPA, https://www.epa.gov/recycle). Although significant amounts of resources are recycled yearly, our present-day consumer culture for bottled water and other disposable conveniences such as plastic grocery bags and disposable coffee cups result in unnecessary waste of valuable resources. According to the American Chemistry Council, almost 75.7 percent of plastic bottles purchased in the United States are lost to landfill deposition and only 24.3 percent are recycled. However, the percentage of plastics bottles recycled in 2005 resulted in 2.1 billion pounds of petroleum-based resources captured and reused to make other consumer goods (americanchemistry.com). For every ton of plastic bottles recycled, almost 3.8 barrels of oil are saved (americanchemistry.com).

Recycling plastics and other materials such as paper, and aluminum, create new products such as:

  • Aluminum cans, car bumpers, nails
  • Newspapers, cereal boxes, paper towels, copy paper, egg cartons
  • Insulation, packing material, wrapping paper
  • Carpeting, motor oil, trash bags
  • Fleece jackets, carpeting, detergent bottles, lumber for outdoor decking
  • Glass containers

When actions are taken to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, many things are accomplished:

  • Keeps goods and materials out of landfills
  • Advances green technology and source reduction processing
  • Results in less hazardous waste
  • Reduces the need for new landfills and incinerators
  • Generates new business and employment opportunities
  • Reduces the strain on valuable resources (forests, water, fuel) and safeguards wildlife habitats