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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - 3Rs of Waste Management for Environmental Sustainability

The three Rs of waste management can play a significant role in our daily lives. Not only is the slogan, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!,” a catchy mantra, but it is also an important reminder to save natural resources, energy — and even money.



Reduce

With over 380 million tons of single-use plastic produced every year and less than 9 percent of total plastic being recycledi, replacing single-use plastic is a straightforward way to help combat pollution.

That is one of the reasons why Katriana Gaubeca, a senior proposal engineer at Hitachi Energy, switched from single-use plastic water bottles to reusable.

“My 5-year-old came home from school one day explaining to me that plastic was really bad for the Earth and wondering why we were drinking water from water bottles. After listening to him, I didn't know how to justify myself,” Gaubeca says.

That same day, Gaubeca discussed with her husband how they could be more environmentally conscious. The solution: Investing in a home water system to eliminate water bottle use. The following month, the water system was installed, and a year later, the family has not bought any more water bottles.

“We believe that small individual changes are very important, and now we are committed to keep looking for better ways to do things to contribute to a better future for the planet, ourselves and our kids,” Gaubeca says.

For Hitachi America, Ltd. Corporate Sustainability Manager, Fumi Maher, her mission to stop using single-use plastic began at a young age.

“My first environmental project was when I was in elementary school where I studied pollution of a lake nearby my house and found that plastic pollution was one of the big issues that disturbed natural ecosystems there. The lake was famous for birds that accidentally got stuck in or ate plastic pieces that humans left,” Maher says.

Into adulthood, the impact plastic pollution had on even the most remote areas was astounding to Maher, making her want to save plastic use in any way possible, whether that be always using and carrying a reusable water bottle, shopping bags, or ensuring she is recycling all plastics properly.

“Sustainable actions by each individual collectively make a big impact on our planet,” Maher says.

Reuse

Jodi Hopper, a data analyst at GlobalLogic, first began buying gently used secondhand clothing items as a high schooler and has since expanded the practice within her family.

Comparing secondhand buying to that of a treasure hunt, “Someone else’s trash is our treasure,” Hopper says.

In 2018, 13 million tons of clothing and footwear were generated in the U.S., with 13 percent being recycled.ii The fashion industry is also responsible for a high quantity of water and trees used to create products.iii

“I chose to do this because it is eco-friendly and gives new life to something that would ordinarily be destined to end up in a landfill,” Hopper says.

Recycle

In 2018, glass generation accounted for 12.3 million tons of municipal solid waste in the U.S., and 31.3 percent was recycled.iv

When Hitachi Energy executive assistant, Anyés Clark’s community recycling program was to no longer include glass recycling, Clark took matters into her own hands.

Clark and her husband started collecting their glass recyclables separately to bring to the local recycling center weekly. After speaking to neighbors about their glass consumption, Clark expanded the glass pickup route and began gathering the neighborhood’s glass materials for recycling as well.

“It was a great opportunity to get involved on our own terms at a convenient time for us, without any big action committee, to help make a difference in our small community,” Clark says.