Revisiting the 5 R’s

By Melanie Stewart


There is an ongoing discussion in Omaha over what to do with yard waste.  For most of the past year, it has been taken to the landfill to eventually provide power by burning methane.  Before that, it was composted and sold as Oma-Gro.  Yard waste was combined with trash in the landfill as a temporary answer to a shortage of CDL-licensed drivers.

Two new proposals to manage trash and yard waste are being considered, and while neither one includes composting, both involve limiting the amount of trash and yard waste collected.

One of the proposals includes every household in Omaha getting two 96 gallon carts with lids, one for trash and one for recycling. Automation would improve the efficiency of pick-up; the trucks could be powered by compressed natural gas, it might result in more recycling, and this should cut down on litter, all of which are positive.

But what about households that discard more than 96 gallons of trash each week? That’s a lot of trash, but easy to achieve when yard waste is included.

Melanie Stewart sustainability manager
Melanie Stewart sustainability manager

Until now, very little attention has been paid to reducing the amount of materials we discard.  Each of us has probably at one time or another complained about “putting a bandage” on a problem instead of dealing with the big picture.

Could this be one of those cases?  Could we be the solution?

In LiveGreen’s article on the 5R’s, we read that long before we get to recycling, landfilling, or even composting, we can “refuse, reduce, and reuse.”  After that, we can recycle, rot (compost), and then send the rest to the landfill.

In order to reduce the amount of trash leaving our homes we generally have to reduce the amount of materials coming in.  This can be done a variety of ways; by taking reusable bags to the grocery store, buying fresh local produce instead of prepackaged items, buying only what we need, and using a water filter instead of bottled water.  Don’t get me wrong, we’ll still create some waste, but it’s amazing how little effort it takes to produce a little less.  With a little more effort it’s impressive what we can do…and having free compost for the yard is great!  Generally speaking, these choices are healthier, benefit the members of our households, and more of our money stays here, strengthening our local economy.


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