Refuse and Reuse

Overview

Even better than recycling, the number one way to reduce waste is to not create it in the first place.  Not creating waste requires refusing disposable products and reusing and repairing items that you already have.  Let’s put an end to single-use waste. Incorporating durable, reusable items into your daily routine is a great way to curb a throw-away lifestyle, save money, and prevent litter.  

 Bring Your Own!

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Replacing disposable products with reusable ones is one way you can help stop waste before it starts. Although some disposable products like water bottles and paper cups can be placed in your Denver Recycles purple cart, bringing your own cup, bottle and bags is the best choice for saving money, preventing litter in our waterways, and reducing the resources and energy that goes into making disposable products.  

Many of us want to reduce our use of disposable products but simply forget to bring our own cups, bottles and bags with us regularly. 

To make remembering to bring your reusables as easy and possible, try these tips until it becomes a habit:

  • Set a reminder on your phone or use an App that reminds you each day at a set time to “Bring your cup and water bottle!”
  • Place your cup and water bottle by your keys, purse or backpack each night or first thing each morning. 
  • Keep a spare mug at work.
  • Post a reminder note by your door.
  • Write, “Bring Bags” at the top of your grocery list and put your bags with your list.
  • Hang your bags by your door or keep them in your car or bike basket.
  • After making a reservation at a restaurant, immediately set a reminder in your phone for the day of the reservation telling you to bring your own to-go box. 
  • Roll a utensil set up in a cloth napkin and store it in your purse or bag and/or keep a set at work.  

Denver Zero Waste Retailers:

Denver is lucky to have these small businesses focused on helping us find groceries and home and personal care products with little to no waste by providing plastic-free alternatives, returnable packaging, refills in your own containers, and even plastic-free delivery and shipping. 

Don't Trash it, Donate it!

We know extra trash collection is convenient, but many times it isn’t the best solution. Help families in need, save money on moving costs, and keep usable items out of the landfill by donating your unwanted items. 

Give Old Items a New Life

Denver Recycles encourages residents to reuse, sell or donate items in good condition instead of sending these items to the landfill.  This will reduce your trash volume and provide a second life for your belongings.

  • Refurbish furniture. Put a slipcover on a sofa or refinish a table and dresser.
  • Hold a yard sale. Sell your unwanted items and pocket a little extra spending money. Remember the saying, “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.”
  • List large items for sale online. There are multiple websites and apps available for reselling your belongings.  Here are just a few:
  • Donate items to local charities. Nonprofit organizations, such as Goodwill and The Salvation Army, accept most household items.  Some charities will even come to your home and pickup items.
  • Organize a swap meet. Combine your unwanted items with your neighbors for greater results.
  • Search for drop-off options. Check out Denver Recycles’ online Recycling Directory for locations where you can donate and recycle all types of items.

 

Organizations Accepting Donations:

*For a longer list of local organizations accepting donations and recyclable materials, visit the Recycling Directory.

 Zero Waste Grocery Shopping

You care about your community and the planet, and you are an enthusiastic recycler. It sounds like you’re ready to take waste reduction to the next level. Let us introduce you to Zero Waste grocery shopping! With a little planning, you can stop waste before you bring it home. By refusing unnecessary packaging and reusing containers and bags that you already have, you’ll be on your way to Zero Waste.   

 

 

Zero Waste Grocery Shopping Tips:

✔ Make a Grocery List

  • Buying only what you need is the first step to reducing waste.  It may seem obvious, but a grocery list can help you save time and money and cut back on food waste.  Fresh fruits and vegetables often come with no packaging, so plan meals around them to automatically reduce your packaging waste. Include a “Bulk” section on your list and write items that you need and can buy from the bulk bins. Write “Bring Bags” at the top of your list to help you remember your bags. Gather the bags you’ll need based on how many and what kind of items you have on your list.

✔ Purchase Produce Loose

  • Choose fruit and vegetable options that are package free and place them directly in your cart or basket or in your own reusable produce bag.  If you are bagging produce items that are charged by the pound, make sure to use reusable produce bags that have the weight of the bag noted on them. 
  • Skip plastic produce bags even for wet items.  Many stores now sell leafy greens, broccoli and herbs without packaging.  Place those items  directly in your reusable produce bag and put them in the corner of your cart or basket away from the things that you don’t want to get wet.
  • Watch this video on why you don’t need plastic produce bags. 

✔ Head to the Bakery

  • If your grocery store includes a bakery, you may be able to buy a loaf of bread, rolls, or bagels fresh in your own fabric bread bag or wrap. Some bakeries will slice the bread for you too.

✔ Buy in Bulk

  • Many stores have bulk bins where you can scoop what you need into your own small bag or jar.
  • Check the bulk section for staples likes grains, nuts, flour, sugar, and snack items.
  • If your bag or container does not already have its weight labeled (often called the tare weight), be sure to weigh it and write the weight on it before filling it at the bulk bins. The customer service desk can often help with this if you are not sure what to do.
  • Each item in the bulk bins will include a product code which the cashier will need when you check out.  Use a washable marker to write the code on your bag or container, or simply take a photo of the product code to reference when you are at the cash register.

✔ Shop with Reuse & Recycling in Mind

  • When buying packaged items, prioritize those that come in refillable containers (for example, milk that comes in a returnable glass bottle), and that come in easy to recycle materials like glass, metal cans, and paperboard.
  • Avoid plastic packaging whenever possible.

✔ Be Ready at Check-Out

  • Place your reusable grocery bags on the conveyor belt first, so the cashier can see that you have your own bags.
  • Group loose items of produce (apples, tomatoes, etc.) together to make it easier for the cashier to weigh them.
  • Have your photos of bulk item codes open and be ready to tell the cashier the codes in case they have questions. 

Congratulations! You just practiced Zero Waste grocery shopping and reduced your waste. 

 

To make remembering to bring your bags as easy as possible, try these tips until they become habits:

  • Write “Bring Bags” at the top of your grocery list and put your bags with your list.
  • Post a reminder note by your door.
  • Hang your bags by your door or keep them in your car or bike basket.
  • Store or clip an extra bag in your purse or backpack.    
  • Keep a spare bag at work. 

Junk Mail Reduction

Direct mail advertising, commonly referred to as junk mail, is delivered to our mailboxes in frustrating amounts in the form of store mailers, coupon packs, credit card offers and charity solicitations.  All this mail comes at a cost to the environment.  To produce a year’s worth of junk mail, 100 million trees are needed. And 44% of all that junk mail never even gets opened.

Recycling your junk mail is an option but if we want to reduce our consumption of resources, then stopping junk mail before it starts is even better.   

Five Steps to Reducing Junk Mail:

To reduce junk mail, you need to limit access to your name and address so that it can’t be traded, rented, or sold to companies who send you unwanted mail. Follow these steps:

Step 1: Prevent junk mail before it starts.

When ordering items through the mail, or subscribing to a publication, include a note that instructs the organization or company to not lend, sell or trade your name to other mailing lists. 

Step 2: Remove your name from mailing lists.

Contact these direct marketing firms to request removal from their mailing lists:

  • The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) is the single largest provider of direct mail lists.  There is a $2 fee for online requests which can be made at http://www.dmachoice.org.
  • Valpak Coupons sends coupon packs in a blue envelope. Be sure to have the envelope on hand so you can fill in your info exactly as seen on the label. Remove your address from their mailing list at https://www.valpak.com/coupons/show/mailinglistsuppression

Step 3: Stop credit card offers.

Opt out of receiving pre-approved credit card offers at http://www.optoutprescreen.com/.  It’s a centralized website run by the four major credit bureaus in the United States: Equifax, Experian, Innovis, and TransUnion. Please note they will ask for your social security number however, you have the option not to provide it.

For credit cards that you already have, call the company directly and ask them to place you on their “in-house” list that is not sold or traded to other companies. 

Step 4: Discontinue unwanted catalogs and phone books.

  • Call the toll-free number listed on most catalogs and ask them to remove your name from their mailing list.
  • Or, register with the non-profit Catalog Choice, and they will assist you with discontinuing unwanted catalogs for free. Visit Catalog Choice.org at http://www.catalogchoice.org
  • Go to https://www.dexpages.com/index.php?RelId=6.8.1.4.6 to stop the automatic delivery of phone books.

Business listings should not be construed as an endorsement by the City and County of Denver

Step 5: Communicate your mail preferences with charitable organizations.

Most non-profits don’t use national databases, so you will still be on their mailing list even if you opt out with the DMA.  Any time you make a charitable contribution, or if you have a membership with a charitable organization, be sure to ask them to send you only one donation request per year, or none. Click here for sample note from the American Institute of Philanthropy.  

Other junk mail reduction tips:

  • It can take several weeks up to 90 days for opt-outs to take effect.  So please be patient as you wait to see the impact of your actions and less junk mail in your mailbox.  
  • Every variation of your name can turn up on a mailing list.  So, when opting out of lists, be sure to include all those variations of your name that might come to your address.