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The 5 Rs: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle Australian Initiative

Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose and Recycle are referred to as the 5 Rs. These elements are about caring for the natural environment and understanding the resource management hierarchy. 

Although we cannot completely eliminate waste production, everyone can and should make a contribution in an attempt to reduce it.

So, consider your options before you discard your junk and unwanted waste. That’s because adopting the 5 Rs conserves energy and natural resources, aids in pollution reduction, and reduces the need for landfill.

Related: Items You Cannot Recycle

Australia’s Household Waste Account Statistics

Having said that, learn about the benefits of incorporating the 5 Rs into your daily efforts and how it benefits both us and the environment.

According to Australia’s 2016-17 waste account, households generated over 12.4 million tonnes of waste. A breakdown of the total waste account is provided below.

  • Organic waste accounts for more than half of all household waste, or 6.4 million tonnes. 
  • 3.1 million tonnes or 55% of food waste
  • 2.7 million tonnes or 70% comes from garden waste
  • Plastic waste accumulated over 1.2 million tonnes or 47% of the 12.4 million tonnes
  • Textile waste accumulated 247,000 tonnes

What are the Five Rs and their Environmental Benefits?

Today, every Australian household continues to contribute waste on a daily basis. Following the 5 Rs can significantly reduce plastic and organic waste, and here’s why we should:

  • Conserve natural resources for the sake of our future generation
  • Conserve resources such as energy and land
  • Reduce waste toxicity and health risks
  • Reduces transporting rubbish to landfill sites
  • Reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions
  • Save money on labour costs for procuring raw materials
  • Saves money on waste disposal and treatments

That is why we should reconsider our choices and conduct a waste audit at home. Adopting the five Rs will help us understand how we generate waste and what we can do about it. Here’s how you apply the 5 Rs into your household waste management.


Sustainability is defined as refusing to accept or support products or companies that harm the environment. One of the best examples of refusing is to avoid over-packaged or plastic-wrapped items. It can be difficult to refrain from purchasing plastic items. However, being aware of your purchases can help you change your habits.

So, when you go grocery shopping, begin with the produce section. This will significantly help you in avoiding over-packaged items. Aside from that, it is a healthier choice and a more environmentally conscious option. 

Avoid eating produce that has been wrapped in plastic as well. Use a reusable produce bag instead of the plastic produce bags available at the market when you find package-free produce.


Reduce your consumption of materials and goods. This implies restricting the number of purchases you make in the first place. Reducing our consumption is one of the most effective ways to avoid producing waste in the first place. 

Keep in mind that products are only manufactured when there is a high demand for them. So, when the demand is reduced, it saves a lot of materials and energy used during production.

As a golden rule, if you want to purchase something non-essential, you should wait three days. You can buy it three days later if you’re still thinking about it. Or, more likely, you forgot about it. Then, determine what you and your family need to avoid impulse purchases. 


According to a waste account for 2016-17, Australians used over 5.66 billion single-use plastic products. So, when you make your next purchase, consider how to reuse these plastic materials. Single-use plastics and other disposable packaging are being produced at an increasing rate. 

And it is a known fact that single-use plastics are notorious for wreaking havoc on marine wildlife. That’s why the Australian government initiated a plan to phase out single-use plastics by the end of 2025. New South Wales has already started to introduce fast and swift initiatives to ensure this goal is met.

This will keep plastics out of our landfill and waterways significantly. Therefore, try reusing your waste materials as much as you can. If you search online, you can find an infinite number of ideas available on the internet today. Always think about making the most out of the product you paid for. 

Aside from single-use plastics, re-home some of your household junk and unwanted waste. If you think you can’t reuse them, give them to someone else. By rehoming your rubbish, others that are in need can have it for free or at a lower price. So, go to the local thrift store or share it with your next-door neighbour.


Try to repurpose the items that can’t be refused, reduced or reused. Repurposing is also known as upcycling or do-it-yourself. So, before you throw away your unwanted items, think about repurposing them, such as:

  • Upcycling an old or broken ladder into a bookshelf
  • Tin cans or coffee mugs as pen or pencil holder
  • Discarded printing paper a scrap paper

The possibilities are endless when you’re creative in repurposing your junk and unwanted items. You can easily find numerous and exciting ways to upcycle your household items with today’s availability of ideas online.

Consider repairing them before disposing of them. Repairing your household items is another way to reduce your consumption of materials and natural resources. You can extend the life of your belongings for as long as they are repairable. By putting a value on these broken items, we can significantly reduce the amount of waste transported into our landfill.


Recycling is most likely the most well-known and understood of the five (5) Rs. As a matter of fact, Australia is changing how it manages waste disposal today. In the past, Australia generated 74 million tonnes of waste, of which only 60 percent was recycled.

Today, all levels of government and industry are collaborating in managing our waste. In fact, we now have the Recycling and Waste Reduction Act 2020 regulating exporters of certain types of waste.

Here are the regulated waste materials including:

  • Glass
  • Plastics
  • Processed engineered fuel
  • Tyres
  • Tyre derived fuel
  • Paper and cardboard

The following are things that exporters should do or have:

  • When exporting waste materials, you must have an export license.
  • Each export must be declared to the government and to the Australian Border Force.

On the other hand, ordinary citizens should contact a local rubbish removalist if they believe they cannot manage their recyclable materials. This is due to the possibility of placing an incorrect item in the recycle bin, which will likely compromise the entire recycling stream. This is especially the case if you need to throw away large amounts of waste or large hard junk such as washing machines, refrigerators, old furniture and more.

Sarah Ann

Sarah Ann

Sarah Ann is a Digital Content Writer for Paul's Rubbish Removal. Sarah is a huge advocate for recycling, environmental sustainability, health and well-being and has a genuine love for all sea animals. Keep up with Sarah by following Paul's Rubbish Removal blog!

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