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The 5 R's of Waste Management

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As citizens of a society we have a responsibility to manage our waste sustainably. We can do this following the five R's of waste management: reduce, reuse, recycle, recover and residual management.


Reducing waste is the most important thing we can do.

How can we reduce waste?

  • Buy in bulk to reduce packaging
  • Take a reusable shopping bag with you so you don't have to use a paper or plastic bag from the shop
  • Say ‘no’ to a plastic shopping bag when you only have a couple of items
  • Choose products that use less packaging 
  • Buy reusable items rather than disposable ones
  • Put a "no junk mail" sign on your letter box
  • Take your lunch to school in a reusable container.


The next most important thing we can do is reuse waste material.

How can we reuse waste?

  • Give unwanted toys and books to hospitals or schools
  • Put unwanted clothes in used clothing bins
  • Use plastic containers for freezing or storing food items
  • Save wrapping paper and boxes to use again
  • Use old jars for storage
  • Take old magazines to your local doctor's or dentist's surgery
  • Shop at second-hand stores or use online trading websites to buy items that are unwanted by others
  • Take household items to your council’s resource recovery centre
  • Make memo pads out of waste paper
  • Re-use envelopes - purchase reuse labels.  


Recycling involves some form of reprocessing of waste materials to produce another product. For example, recycling plastic bottles to make buckets.

What can be recycled?

  • The main products that can be recycled are paper, cardboard, glass, aluminium, tin and plastic containers.
  • Composting and worm farms are methods of recycling organic waste.

Buy recycled

  • You can buy products that are made from recycled materials. This is called ‘Closing the Loop’.

Recycling in your district


This is the recovery of waste without any pre-processing. For example, waste oils that cannot be refined for reuse in vehicles can be burnt for energy recovery. Recovering the energy from waste oil reduces our dependence on coal and imported oil.

Residual Management

This is the last option when waste cannot be used in any other way. Usually, this means sending rubbish to a landfill. Residual disposal of liquid waste is normally into a sewer or septic tank.

It is very important to manage residual solid and liquid waste properly. Waste not disposed of correctly can cause damage to health and the environment.

Audio Māori keywords: 

Challenges: Write down how you might reduce waste by replacing these items with a reusable product: plastic wrap, paper napkins, disposable nappies, disposable batteries, tea bags.

Our Consumer Society

What is Waste?


Reusable shopping bags is one of many ways to reduce waste. Image: LEARNZ.

There are many ways to reuse waste material. Maybe you could get creative at school! Image: LEARNZ.

The main products that can be recycled are paper, cardboard, glass, aluminium, tin and plastic containers. Image: Christchurch City Council.

Composting and worm farms are methods of recycling organic waste. Image: LEARNZ.