A cardboard egg carton filled with seedlings grown in empty egg shells

An effective way to minimize waste is through reuse. Reuse is when you take an item and either use it again for its original purpose or find a creative way to reuse it for another purpose. This is not recycling, which involves changing the item into a new product, usually through a manufacturing process. Reusing items helps save more energy and natural resources than recycling, but both help decrease the amount of useful materials taking up space in Missouri's landfills. Reusing items also saves money and prevents pollution caused by producing and transporting new products.

It makes financial and environmental sense to reuse products. Sometimes it takes a bit of creativity:

  • Reuse single-side printed paper as scratch paper. 
  • Use a washable cup or travel mug and reusable flatware, silverware rather than a disposable plastic cups, plates and utensils. If you do have to use disposables, wash and reuse them!
  • Use a Frisbee or plastic microwave dinner trays as picnic dishes. 
  • Use cloth napkins instead of paper towels.
  • Store leftover food in resealable containers rather than plastic wrap, aluminum foil or Styrofoam. 
  • Reuse empty food containers, such as whipped topping or spreadable butter, for food storage.
  • Use rechargeable batteries.
  • Pack your lunch in a reusable bag or coffee can. 
  • Bring your own cloth shopping bags to the store. If you do have to use the store's plastic bags, reuse them as small trashcan liners. 
  • Reuse shipping boxes to mail items yourself, or to hold hard to wrap gifts so they can be easily wrapped.
  • Pass down clothing or furniture to other members in your family.
  • Buy used clothing, toys and household items from consignment shops and thrift stores. 
  • Borrow or rent items that you use infrequently, such as power tools and outdoor equipment. 
  • Maintain and repair appliances, furniture and toys rather than replace them. 
  • There are organizations that sponsor Fix-it Fairs and re-use shops that will teach you how to reuse that item that just needs a little work to continue on in use from bicycles, computers to furniture.
  • When you decide to replace something that is reusable, donate the old one to a local church, school, community center, thrift store or non-profit organization.
  • Replace large items with high quality, long lasting items. 

For more ideas about ways to reuse waste, visit Green Tips for Every Occasion. To find local contractors, vendors and drop-off locations offering recycling, reuse and disposal services, visit the Missouri Materials Management Directory.