The 3 Rs of Waste Management – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

6 April 2022By ellie Reuseabox

The 3 Rs of Waste Management – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

There is a global waste crisis. According to Waste Aid a third of the world’s population has no access to waste infrastructure. The UK produces more than 100 million tonnes of waste every year, far more than we can process. Less than 10% of plastic is recycled and a large amount is incinerated or ends up in landfill. But what happens to the waste we can’t process or bury? It gets shipped abroad. According to Greenpeace, the UK dumps the equivalent of 3 and a half Olympic swimming pools of rubbish every single day in countries that have no hope of being able to process it. A recent investigation by Bloomberg found that soft plastic supposedly recycled by Tesco supermarket was actually shipped across Europe where some of it ended up being incinerated or landfilled, causing further CO2 emissions.

Small Changes Can Revolutionise Your Waste Stream

It’s easy to feel powerless in the face of such disturbing facts. But the good news is, even small changes can have a huge impact. Businesses should focus on how to improve circularity within their operations. An easy place to start is within your waste management system. By focusing on the 3 Rs of waste management, you can dramatically reduce or even eliminate a large proportion of the waste you generate in line with Circular Economy principles. It’s good news for the environment, and it also makes good business sense.


The Circular Economy & Waste Management

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is the driving force behind the circular economy. A circular economy is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products in use for longer and regenerating natural systems. If we can transition to more circular practices, we can achieve sustainable growth that doesn’t negatively impact the planet.

The Waste Hierarchy teaches us that recycling alone is not enough. We need to re-design the way products are made to reduce the amount of waste that gets produced and reuse as much as possible. The best thing we can do to reduce waste is to ‘prevent’ waste from being created in the first place. However, where prevention is not possible we must try to reduce and reuse as much as possible before moving down to the less desirable parts of the waste hierarchy that have a higher environmental impact.

At Reuseabox we’re on a mission to prove that cardboard boxes are not single use items and recycling them is not enough! Instead, we help companies to Reuse Cardboard Boxes, thereby reducing their environmental impact.


waste hierarchy


Our 3 Rs of waste management will enable you to follow the circular economy principles while considering the waste hierarchy.

1. Reduce

The first of our ‘Rs’ refers to ‘Reduce’. The government is putting pressure on businesses to eliminate certain types of single use plastic. Consumers also want businesses to take responsibility for the waste they are producing.

The Plastic Packaging Tax came into force on the 1st of April 2022. It aims to reduce the amount of single use plastic that ends up in the waste stream and increase our use of recycled plastic. The government has also banned the use of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds. On the 3rd of July 2021 the EU banned numerous single-use plastic products. These are items that have reusable alternatives. The list of items banned includes plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, stirrers, balloon sticks and some polystyrene products. There are also obligations regarding other plastic products to reduce, improve labelling requirements and extend producer responsibility schemes.

To reduce your waste, think carefully about your supply chain. Can you order raw materials in returnable packaging? Can you reduce the amount of packaging you are using? If you include a flyer with each package, swap this for an electronic version by creating a monthly e-newsletter. Reducing waste is also important in the office environment. Opt for refillable cleaning products. Supply employees with reusable water bottles and install refillable water stations to discourage single use water bottles. To help you reduce your reliance on single use plastic you can apply to become a Plastic Free Champion through Surfers Against Sewage.

Small changes can have a large impact so don’t be afraid to create a waste audit and just pick a few items to address. You can then make a plan to work on reducing more complicated items later on.


2. Reuse

‘Reuse’ has recently been coined ‘the new recycling’. It is always better to keep products in use rather than allow them to enter the recycling or waste streams. Start small by thinking about ways you can reuse resources internally. In the office, ensure you supply employees with reusable crockery, plates and mugs that can be washed and reused. In the warehouse think about how you could reuse your own waste. For example, if you produce large plastic bulk bags, you may be able to reuse them internally for storage or waste bags. If an item is reusable try to get the maximum use out of it before disposing of it.

Check out these organisations that are helping others to reuse on an industrial scale…


Surplus To Purpose

Surplus to Purpose is an environmental charity that aims to prevent food waste by feeding “bellies not bins”. They divert hundreds of tonnes of surplus food away from the waste stream and redistribute it to anyone who wants to see less food going to waste.


Reuseabox helps companies large and small to reuse cardboard boxes. By keeping cardboard in use for longer we can reduce the global demand for new board and protect our planet. If you use cardboard boxes to ship your products, consider switching to Used Cardboard Boxes. If your company produces large volumes of used cardboard boxes, you can also apply to Become A Supplier.


reuse cardboard boxes

3. Recycle

It is possible to design out and reduce a large proportion of the waste you produce. You can then focus on reusing your waste internally, or through an organisation such as Reuseabox. However, most businesses will still produce some waste that cannot be reused. This is where recycling comes in. Cardboard, paper and hard plastics are relatively easy to get collected and recycled through most waste companies. We recommend selecting a local recycling company to keep your carbon footprint to a minimum.

There are also specialist recycling companies such as Terracycle who can recycle those hard to recycle plastic items. This includes items such as PPE, lateral flow testing kits, office supplies, shipping materials and non-recyclable food packaging. You can order a box online and have it emptied on a regular basis.



We are experiencing a global waste crisis and there is increasing pressure from the government and consumers for businesses to take responsibility for the waste they produce. By focusing on the 3 Rs of waste management you can take a more circular approach to your waste systems. While the focus should be on preventing or reducing waste wherever possible, there are organisations and businesses that can help you to reuse and recycle. This will enable you to prevent any of your waste ending up in landfill or escaping into the environment. Find out more about Cardboard Box Reuse or check out our range of new surplus and used Cardboard Boxes.


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