An A-Z of the 4th R of Reduce-Reuse-Recycle

Posted on August 26, 2008


Yesterday’s post about paper was titled Most important of the three Rs, by which I meant Reduce (and, by happy coincidence – Reading). Leigh added a 4th R: “Replace: if your sources are non sustainable”.

I know that there are sometimes 4 or more Rs but most people refer to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (waste hierarchy, wiki). So, I thought, what is the 4th R?. Like the mythical 5th Beatle there’s a lot. Here’s a round up of an A-Z of 4th Rs: (there’s bound to be more, leave a comment with a link and I’ll add it to the list)

4a Repair

adding one more “R” suggested by Klaus Töpfer, the head of the UN Environment Program: “repair” resources where necessary >>>

4b Refuse

Refuse to accept anything that is a hazard, to the extent you can. >>>

4c Remove

It is not enough to just recycle the junk mail, (though all of these ideas are good ones).

This is where we add the fourth “R,” Remove. You can remove your name and address (along with the names of everyone who lives with you) by joining the National Do Not Mail List. >>>

4e Respect:

Respect might also be added before the three ‘R’s: lets learn again to respect the earth, not pollute it – after all, it’s the only one we’ve got! >>>

There are thousands of companies across the country who practice respect for the world around them. When consumers support these businesses they contribute to a growing green economy that works for all,” said Denise Hamler, Business Network Director at Co-op America. >>>

4f Rot

The fifth R, Rot, refers to composting, a great way to recycle yard and kitchen wastes. Composting is the decomposition of organic material (like plant remains) to make an earthy, dark, crumbly substance that is excellent for enriching garden or houseplant soil. >>>

4g Restore

Repair damaged goods, save them from a landfill. Instead of buying disposable cups for your barbecue this summer buy glasses form a thrift shop, it will save you money. >>>

4h Restore (different meaning)

Return to original or better condition–planting and/or nurturing new growth and species which blesses future generations. By spending time in inner work we come into greater alignment with our true self, our original energy of wholeness and bring forth blessings for everyone. >>>

4i Recover (the original 4th makes a comeback)

Ten years later the 4th R was widely dismissed as a unacceptable means of disposal because it was seen as a quick-fix solution and it’s not “green” to destroy a resource that could otherwise be utilized. Furthermore, when costly cement kilns are built they require an ongoing supply of large volumes of tires to continue operating, and that will likely limit the availability of tires to the recycling industry, which should be supported first.

The scrap tire crisis, however, has lead to the burning of whole or shredded tires to recover energy, which can be used as an alternative or supplement to fossil fuels. David Morgan reports that scrap tires have about 10% more heat value by weight than coal and burns comparatively cleaner. >>>

4j Recycle (ie Buy recycled)

if consumers purchased more products with recycled content, manufacturers will continue to use it in their products and expand the usage to even more products >>>

4k Rethink(or re-envision)

Many items purchased today come with elaborate packaging or are considered one-time or disposable items. By rethinking the way you use these products, you can send a strong message to manufacturers to change their ways >>>

Twenty years after it entered the mainstream of American society, recycling is still a partly filled glass. Whether it appears half-full or half-empty depends on if you are collecting the glass or remanufacturing it. >>>

The “4th R” is about changing your habits and becoming a resourceful decision maker. Rethinking isn’t separate from Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle — it’s the component that encourages you to think differently about the way you purchase, use, and dispose of materials. >>>

4l Replacement

The fourth ‘R’ is replacement of traditional virgin wood fibres with other fibres. Replacement with agricultural cropping residues in paper manufacture, in conjunction with ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ practices, would have a significant impact on ‘saving trees.’ >>>

4m Renew

Whenever possible, think about using items and resources that are renewable. For example:

Choose paper over plastic since paper (which comes from trees) is a renewable source. Plastic is made from petroleum products, which is a finite resource. >>>

4n Remanufacture

The process of retuning a used product to at least Original Equipment Manufacturer performance specification and giving the resultant product a warranty that is at least equal to that of a newly manufactured equivalent >>>

4o Responsibility

The fourth R of responsibility includes the concepts of producer responsibility (for the entire life cycle of a product, including efforts to enhance product longevity, toxics use reductions, energy efficiency, and design for recycling); individual consumer responsibility, (to make informed and responsible choices in consumption and disposal practices); national and international governmental responsibility (to embark on national waste reduction strategies, and to become self-sufficient in waste management); and social/democratic responsibility (the fabric that holds the other three tiers of responsibility dictates that we respect human rights and democratic involvement in all phases of decision making including the right to corporate planning and product design. >>>

4p Recreation

On a recent Friday, teacher Kelly Rosenheim dumped out a can of garbage in front of students to show them all of the plastic, aluminum and paper that could have been recycled. For a week, she said, a group of “recycling ninjas” would patrol waste baskets.

You have them go through a rigorous physical program at a time in their lives when it’s really important to develop self-confidence, so they have a direction and sense of themselves before they go off to high school, she said. We’re trying to give them power to make good choices. >>>

4q Read

The 3-R’s of recycling are part of the answer: Recycle, Reuse, and Reduce. There is also a key 4th “R” in the solution- READ! Reading can help young people learn about environmental issues we all face, as well as ways to improve. >>>

4r Restock (meaning find a new supplier I think)

I’m also going to go one step further and discover the 4th R: Restock!

o, the next time you go to buy paper, ask for the one with the highest post-consumer content. Staples and Office Depot are typically disappointing in this regard, as they rarely carry brands with more than 20% post consumer paper. >>>

4s Recharge

Take for instance, when you take a sip of a soft drink- it is the moment of truth, a second of satisfaction, an instant of happiness and a bubble of hope. Hence Coca-Cola in India just doesn’t quench thirst; it recharges one’s soul, for a moment, one drop at a time.” Prasoon further added “We at Coca-Cola are not saying that we cause miracles. What is very Coca-Cola and real about it is that we don’t claim to transform lives but simply envelop one moment with joy. And on hindsight – isn’t life an ensemble of small moments that we cherish and hold dear?

On the Recharge front i.e. (the 4th R) at both the plant level and the community level, the company has installed over 300 rainwater harvesting structures spread across 17 states, including locations at schools and farms. Plan is to have 320 rainwater harvesting systems operational in India this year. >>>

4t Residual management

This is the final treatment and/or disposal of a waste that cannot be used in any other way. Within Canterbury residual management is normally disposal with a landfill. >>>

The estimated composition of New Zealand’s landfill waste is:

  • organic waste 39%
  • paper 19 %
  • construction and demolition 17%
  • potentially hazardous 8%
  • plastic 7%
  • glass 2%

4u Rainwater (yes)

Industrial demand for water is one of the fastest growing sectors in the Asian economies especially that of China and India. Though still a relatively smaller component of the total water consumption as compared to agricultural demand, industrial demand for water already is reaching ceilings. Supply has become a begin constraint for industrial location and growth even for the software sector and the traditional non-water intensive industries.In addition to reduce, reuse and recycle the 4th R – rainwater harvesting has also to be included. >>>

4w Resell

EcoChique – a network dedicated to teaching people how to achieve high style using the “3-R’s”: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – AND they have added a 4th “R” – Resell. These two expert shoppers came together to show fashion and design lovers of the world a few saavy eco-nomical and eco-friendly tricks, and to market their high fashion and one-of-a-kind eco-wares. >>>

4x Reinvent (OK, so they’re using the usual three as a metaphor for productivity then adding one)

We often think of those with regard to natural resources. Those words apply to your mindset for being effective with career resources like time and ideas as well. Let’s run through Sarah’s week for examples of how being mindful of the 4Rs can apply to you…..In probably the most impactful action Sarah took she reinvented how meetings were held in her department. Meetings that were aimless, so long people were fixated on the clock, and bore little fruit were reinvented to those that had an agenda, were brief and engaging, and led to many successful initiatives. People resisted at first but rose to the occasion when they realized they could offer input that would be heard and acted on if possible. Meetings became a time of stimulation and were anticipated as places of opportunity.

As you move through your week see if there are ways for your to reduce, reuse, recycle, and reinvent portions of your roles & responsibilities… you’ll be lighter and more effective when you look at things through the 4Rs of using resources. >>>

4y Return

Return to owner! >>>

4z Rejuvenate

…rejuvenate. It’s not enough to repeat the three Rs religiously, let’s get active in helping our environment >>>


And here’s some other things I found:

Some schools are describing Recycling as the “4th R” in the traditional Rs. >>>

This article argues that the 3Rs are good model for business strategy

The strategy of reducing doesn’t just apply to the office products you use or how much space you occupy; you need to also look at how to reduce what you offer without taking away from your value proposition. That means never reducing your price, but instead looking at ways to chop up what you do, so that clients can still buy from you while leaving your value proposition untouched.

An S word I like:

Symbiosis is defined as ‘the coming together of dissimilar organisms in a mutually beneficial relationship’. This world-leading industrial symbiosis initiative therefore aims to develop links between different industries to help improve the way they use their resources and minimise the waste they produce. >>>