Reduce, reuse, recycle. We have all heard this motto. You can easily begin the process when you shop for food and other items with minimal packaging. This is a guide about precycling tips and tricks.


Article: PreCycling: Saving Money While Reducing Waste


Every week, the average American generates around 23 lbs of waste. A large portion of that comes from the packaging of products we buy. Research suggests that $1 out of every $11 that Americans spend on food goes toward packaging. Here are some staggering facts about packaging:

  • Americans use about 190 pounds of plastic per year each. About 60 pounds of that is packaging that is discarded upon opening.
  • Nearly 30% of all plastics produced are for packaging.
  • Americans empty approximately 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour.
  • More than 50% of all plastics discarded per year are from packaging


Precycling, or buying products with less packaging, saves you money while reducing the amount of waste that ends up in our solid waste stream. The savings can be as great as 50% when you purchase products with less packaging because you’re actually spending more money for the product and less on the packaging. By shopping smart and choosing your products carefully, you can lessen your impact on the environment by reducing waste at the source.

  • Look for products packaged with the least amount of waste.
  • When practical, buy things in bulk.
  • Avoid disposable, single-use items like razors, diapers and lighters
  • Buy concentrates
  • Buy long-lasting products that can be repaired
  • At the checkout or drive through, don’t take a bag if you don’t need one
  • Buy non-hazardous products
  • Avoid aerosol cans
  • Buy fresh vegetables like carrots, onions and peppers loose-not in bags.
  • Avoid “squeezable” sauce and condiment containers. They are often made up of different types of layers of plastic that cannot be recycled.
  • Use sponges instead of paper towels
  • Storing bulk or large amounts of food in reusable airtight containers allows easy access and extends shelf life. Refrigeration and freezing can extend shelf life even further. Small reusable containers can be used to pack food in single servings for kid’s lunches.

Examples of reducing packaging for a child’s lunch:

  • cloth or nylon lunch bag, or lunch box
  • plastic beverage bottle with lid
  • sandwich keeper
  • small container for raisins, nuts, etc.
  • medium container for chips, crackers, potato salad, etc.
  • washable cloth napkin

Tips for Reusing

  • use cloth bags for shopping
  • reuse items such as bags, jars and plastic tubs
  • pack you lunch in reusable food containers
  • use rechargeable batteries
  • repair and maintain items instead of replacing them
  • use refillable, pump-spray bottles
  • buy milk in refillable bottles
  • write on the backsides of paper and envelops before recycling, shred newspaper and use it for mulch in the garden, pass along magazines.
  • donate reusable items to community groups, shelters, schools or nursing homes.


  • Buy readily recyclable products and then participate in local recycling programs. Glass, aluminum, and newspapers are collected in most communities.
  • Buy Recycled: The recycling loop is not closed until we purchase products made from recycled materials.
  • Look for items made from recycled materials or items that come in recycled packaging. If the packaging is made from recycled cardboard, it will be gray on the inside.

Although there are times when greater packaging is necessary, like in the case of health or shelf life reasons, in too many cases it’s excessive. The best way to reduce waste is by shopping smart to reduce it at the source.

Courtesy: Thrifty fun/Ellen Brown

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4 thoughts on “Precycling

  1. Reblogged this on Mama in the Middle and commented:
    This is the first I’ve heard the term “precycling”– we just say reduce! Maybe a new buzzword will help re-energize our motivation to reduce consumption on the front end! This is one area we struggle– all the online shopping! But we’re making strides! One baby step at a time.

    Liked by 1 person

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