The waste hierarchy refers to the 3 (or 4) Rs of reduce, reuse, recycle, (and recover) which classify waste management strategies according to their desirability. The Rs are meant to be a hierarchy, in order of importance. However in Europe the waste hierarchy has 5 steps: reduce, reuse, recycle, recovery, and disposal. The Rs are categories at the top of our disposal options. They include a variety of initiatives for disposing of discards. Generally, options lowest on the list are least desirable.
Reduce - to buy less and use less. Incorporates common sense ideas like turning off the lights, rain barrels, and taking shorter showers, but also plays a part in composting/grasscycling (transportation energy is reduced), low-flow toilets, and programmable thermostats. Includes the terms Re-think, Precycle, Carpool, Efficient, and Environmental Footprint.
Reuse - elements of the discarded item are used again. Initiatives include hand-me-downs, garage sales, quilting, travel mugs, and composting (nutrients). Includes the terms laundry, repair, regift, and upcycle.
Recycle - discards are separated into materials that may be incorporated into new products. This is different from Reuse in that energy is used to change the physical properties of the material. Initiatives include Composting, Beverage Container Deposits and buying products with a high content of post-consumer material.