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Reducing Waste Line
When you shop

You probably don't go to the store saying, "I think I'll buy some garbage today." But depending on which products you choose, that is at least partly what you're doing. By purchasing stuff that's over-packaged, disposable or of poor quality, your cash can soon end up as trash.

Purchase products that are returnable, reusable or refillable

Returnables rulePurchase reusable and refillable containers to use in your home instead of disposable items. Think about ways to reuse items in your home. Look for ways to reduce the amount of trash you throw in the garbage by making good purchasing decisions and looking for ways to reduce.

Example: Avoid buying single-use items like paper or plastic plates, cups and disposable silverware. You will spend more money buying these types of items and throwing them away than you would if you used reusable tableware.

Benefits: Reusable items eliminate or reduce the number of disposable items thrown away and the costs of disposing of them.

Reusable Cloth Bag
Grocery shoppers use nearly 40 billion bags each year. Most are only used once and recycled or thrown away.
"Paper NOR plastic"
Waste reduction is in the bag

Looking for an easy way to change the way you shop? Reduce the waste you create when you bring home your purchases.

  • First things first — do you even need a bag? Tell the clerk that you'll carry out your handful of items — why bag that magazine or pack of gum?! Toss them into your backpack or purse.
  • A sturdy cloth bag is a nice investment. You can throw it over your shoulder for hands-free carrying, and it won't rip if you catch it on the doorknob or the car door. Cram it full of groceries!
  • 10-cent reuse creditIf you have to use paper or plastic, pick one that you'll use again. Many grocery stores offer a 5- or 10-cent rebate when you "bring back the sack" — it's good for the environment and your pocketbook!

Purchase products with the least amount of packaging

Bagged cereal
Waste reduction
is "in the bag."

Why shop 'til you drop? Buy only what you need and buy products in bulk containers and concentrates with less packaging. Shop in the bulk aisle at the grocery store for things that you seem to be buying often and have long shelf-lives such as detergents, dog food, pasta, cereal, cleaners and paper products. Buying in bulk will decrease waste and the total cost. Be alert – some "bulk packages" are just individually wrapped items that are packaged yet again and sold as a bulk item. You will be getting a lot more packaging than you were counting on.

Shopping SMART is easy
when you concentrate.
Can of concentrate

Example: Next time you go to the store, make a list of what you need. Then look for opportunities to buy in bulk or buy products that have less packaging. Look at a product and think about how much of what you are paying for will end up in the trash.

Benefits: Not only are you saving money, but you won't have to go to the store as often. When you shop smart by buying things in bulk or in concentrate you can reduce the amount of packaging headed to the trash.

Get the most out of what you buy

Nothing lasts forever. The things we buy today will eventually become waste in the future. Here are some questions to ask before you buy to protect your investment and prevent wasting time and money.

  • Is it reliable? Ask the "experts" — people or organizations who have tested or repaired the product you want to buy. Evaluate the repair history of that product.
  • Compare warranties. A longer warranty suggests that the manufacturer feels confident that it will last longer.
  • How long do you need it? Are you purchasing a less reliable product because it's inexpensive and you don't want to invest in something that you'll rarely use? Consider renting or borrowing instead. Why buy – and then store – something you don't really need?
  • What does it really cost? The purchase price is not the same as the cost to use and maintain a product. The longer you own something, the less it costs over time.
  • Can I repair or upgrade it? Buying products that are easy to repair or improve will make your initial investment last longer. For example, you might be able to get some more life out of an older computer by improving one or two components instead of buying a whole new system. A "faster" processor doesn't necessarily need a new mouse or monitor. Upgrading lets you have "state-of-the-art" equipment at lower cost and with less waste.
The Web offers consumers some awesome opportunities to learn about and compare all kinds of goods and services. You can find professional and consumer-generated reviews of products, use tools for side-by-side comparisons, get detailed specifications, and get ideas about where you can get the best price. Best of all, you can do it all from one place! Consumer publications are generally available at your local library, too.

 Better by design:  Creating products with the environment in mind

Reducing waste and pollution isn't just a consumer decision. In fact, the amount of harmful chemicals a product uses and the trash it creates or turns into during its useful life is mostly determined when it's still just an idea inside a designer's brain. Manufacturers are embracing design for the environment (DfE) — designing products and maufacturing methods that reduce environmental impact from the ground up.

Honda Insight

Honda's gas-electric hybrid. Most cars produce tons of pollution over their lifespan, mostly in the form of CO2 and other chemicals that come out the tailpipe. Honda designed this "hybrid" vehicle with an electric motor and a small gasoline engine. The combination creates a car that gets 70+ miles per gallon and churns out significantly less pollution, yet still has similar range and performance to conventional autos.

Sustainable textiles

Sustainable fabric. Recognizing that the manufacturing of a product usually produces far more waste and pollution than the product itself will ever create, DesignTex totally rethought the process. Their William McDonough fabric collection starts with sustainably grown natural wool and ramie fibers. The fabric is colored with dyes selected for their low environmental impacts: non-carcinogenic, non-toxic and no heavy metals. No pollutants are created during the fabric manufacturing process. This fabric is currently being used for office furniture.

Wind-up flashlight

Human-powered portables. Battery-powered devices are very convenient, but batteries wear down, can be expensive to buy and a create garbage when they wear out. But Freeplay designed a portable flashlight and radio that run on elbow grease. Wind them up and and they're ready to use! Look ma, no cord!

Easy disassembly

Design for disassembly. To reduce waste, Dell Computer's modular computer chassis is designed for easy disassembly, using connectors like snap-together hooks and latches in place of screws or glue. This design also allows for simple replacement of memory or storage devices during upgrades. For easier recycling at end-of-life, Dell now uses fewer types of plastics, and marks them with internationally recognized codes for easy identification. The company also avoids using coatings or composite materials that are difficult to recycle.

Choose the least hazardous cleaning products

Got elbow grease?With so many choices of products to clean your house, it can be difficult to choose the best one. So, instead of buying many different types of cleaners, use one general-purpose cleaner.

Read the labels of cleaners and look for the signal words — caution, warning, danger, poison — which indicate the level of hazard. Use the least hazardous product to do the job. ("Caution" is least hazardous and "danger" is most hazardous. Extremely toxic products must also include the word "poison.")

Read the labelNot every cleaning chore needs a harsh chemical, deodorant or a disinfectant. You may be able to use some home remedies, such as vinegar and water to cut grease and baking soda to scrub stains. They are less toxic — and cheaper, too.

Read the instructions on how to use cleaning products and be sure to use the correct amount. Remember, you won't get twice the results by using twice as much.

Apply the tape-measure before the paint.

Measure firstWhen buying paint for your home, pull out the tape measure before you reach for your pocketbook. The math is really simple:

  • Calculate the area to be painted
    Height x Width = Total square feet
  • One gallon of paint covers about 400 square feet.

Read labels and choose the least hazardous paint. Ask for help in picking products with low volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Perhaps you can select water-based paint, stains, finishes and paint stripper.

To prevent paint from drying out, cover the paint can with plastic wrap, replace the lid securely and store the paint upside down. Use stored paint for touch-up jobs or smaller projects. Blend similar colors for larger jobs or use as a primer when the finish is not critical.

Benefits: By buying only what you need, you will have less paint to store or dispose of and you'll save money up front by buying less paint in the first place.

More handling tips for latex paint
  • Reduce waste by storing latex paint in areas that do not freeze.
  • Prevent paint from drying out by covering the paint can with plastic wrap before replacing the lid and storing the paint upside down.
  • Don't put liquid paint in the trash or pour it down the drain.
  • Leave paint in its original container so it's easily identified.
  • Small amounts of waste latex paint can be air-dried and thrown away with your trash.
  • Store some paint for touch-ups, or do an extra coat to use up leftovers.

Rent or borrow instead of buying

Rent or borrow
Heavy-duty or "professional grade" equipment can make your chores easier. Renting the right tool keeps it affordable. Why buy something you will need to store but rarely use?
(frame bottom)

By renting equipment you can avoid having to purchase items that you may only use a few times. Some of the most commonly rented items are trailers, lawn care equipment, tables and chairs, ladders, power tools, tents and tree trimming equiDurable dishespment. You could also borrow items from friends or family to avoid purchasing.

Example: Rent or borrow items for your family or neighborhood get-together. Churches and schools are great resources for tables and chairs, and tents can be rented from most party rental centers. Renting reusable dishware from banquet halls for events and gatherings can prevent waste from disposable cups, plates, and silverware.

Benefits: Renting items saves you money and time, plus it can reduce the amount of trash created by these events. Often the rental center will drop off and pick up the items for you.

Why buy if you can get it for free?!

Twin Cities Free Market
The Free Market is a listing service for Twin Cities residents who want to get or give free reusable goods for the home, garage and garden. It is part of an effort to reduce the amount of reusable goods being thrown away.
What's available?
Children's Items
Home Decor
Home Renovation
Lawn & Garden
Musical Instruments
Pet Equipment
Recreation & Exercise

Eureka Recycling

The free service features an interactive, online catalog that allows users to search the listings for available goods or post an item as "wanted." Recent listings include items like a computer desk, an electric organ, a working microwave oven, and over 10,000 mailing envelopes.

If you make a match, you'll probably have to make your own arrangements to pick the free items up. The Free Market doesn't store or transport any items.

The Free Market is operated by Eureka Recycling and is open to residents of the seven-county Twin Cities metropolitan area—Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott and Washington counties.

Waste Reduction Tip: Extend the life of your rechargeable devicesRechargeable tool

  Things you should do:
  Things not to do:

Recycle Ni-Cd batteries

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Contact us! Minnesota Pollution Control Agency