Once we have purchased a product, we use it until we no longer want or need it.

Enter in “disposal doom,” the moment you find yourself faced with the common threefold option: Do I give this away to someone who can use it, recycle it, or toss it in the trash?

While recycling is effective, it can be limiting, and defaulting to the garbage as a form of disposal has big hidden costs. Reusing things by giving them away has benefit, but takes a commitment of time, and sometimes transport, to make effective.

Waste prevention means not creating waste in the first place. This choice gives you the biggest bang for your buck, and it is a simple concept.

If you create less waste, you consume fewer resources and do not have to spend as much time or money deciding on disposal options. Households and businesses can often save a significant amount of money through waste prevention.

Waste prevention also means reusing things you already own, instead of buying new ones. Here are five waste-prevention strategies to get you started:

Choose durables, they pay off

Have you noticed how many disposable products there are in the marketplace today? Consider the following: razors, coffee cups, plastic bags, cleaning products (such as wipes), and plates, cutlery, and straws.

These products are designed to add convenience to our lives, but is the added convenience worth negative, long-term cost? Reduce waste, conserve resources and save money by choosing cloth shopping bags and washable, durable dishes and cups.

Additional information about the benefits of durable and disposable goods are available on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website: www.epa.gov/recycle/reducing-and-reusing-basics.

Pay attention to packaging

Packaging makes up as much as one-third of the non-industrial solid waste stream. This places a burden on landfill facilities and wastes natural resources.

Reduce the amount of packaging you “buy” to prevent waste and conserve resources by selecting products with less packaging.

Smart packing might look like buying things in containers you know can be recycled or bringing mesh produce bags, rather than using the plastic ones commonly found in the grocery store.

Get the most out of what you buy

All of the things that we buy today will eventually become waste. We can get more out of the things we purchase by choosing products wisely. When buying a new product, ask yourself the following questions:

n How reliable is the product?

n How long will I need it?

n How does the warranty compare with that of similar products?

n What does it really cost (considering operation and maintenance)?

n Can the product be repaired or upgraded?

Rent or borrow instead of buying

Consider renting or borrowing, instead of buying, items that you will use only infrequently. Such items include trailers, camping equipment, lawn care equipment, tables and chairs, ladders, power tools and tree-trimming equipment.

For example, Washington State Parks has a new gear rental program available for those using the parks for recreation. You can now rent the gear you need and get it delivered when and where you need it, rather than having to invest in all new gear that you may only use a few times per season.

For more information, visit parks.state.wa.us/1176/Gear-rental.

Reduce junk mail

A significant portion of the more than 80 billion pieces of advertising mail delivered every year consists of unwanted mail, or “junk” mail. Recycling junk mail is a good start, but reducing the amount you receive saves landfill space and conserves natural resources.

Here is how you can reduce junk mail:

n Sign up for the Catalog Choice junk mail opt-out service at www.catalogchoice.org.

n Contact companies and organizations directly who are sending you mail. Use their customer service telephone number (often toll-free), or make your request via e-mail or from the company’s website.

n Don’t let your name become a commodity. Every time you enter a contest, make a purchase or donation, join a retailer’s preferred shopper club, or order a product by mail, your name and address can be placed on a mailing list and sold. To prevent this from happening, write, “Please do not rent or sell my name” next to your name when you can.

n Get off lists for credit offers. The major consumer credit bureaus offer an efficient removal service external link to have your name taken off mailing lists used for credit offers. You can sign up by visiiting www.optoutprescreen.com or call the toll-free 24-hour number: 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688).

n Improve your karma. With the smartphone app PaperKarma you take a photo of the unwanted mailing with your phone, then this paid service tries to do the unsubscribing work for you.

— Callie Martin is a Waste Reduction Recycling Education Specialist with Skagit County Public Works — Solid Waste Division. She can be reached at 360-416-1575 or calliem@co.skagit.wa.us.

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