Reduce, Reuse, Recycle & Compost

How to Prevent Waste

RecycleSign_08_06.jpgEveryone has heard the old adage of "reduce, reuse, recycle".
Have you ever stopped to think about why they are listed in this order? "Why aren't they in alphabetical order?" "Isn't recycling everywhere? It should really be first." These three opportunities are listed in order of priority -- certainly it is better for us to minimize our impact on our environment by simply using less from the start, but of course we all have to use products and natural resources every day. The key is that  we can do it more sustainably.

When an item outgrows its usefulness to us, we can find a way to reuse it. There are some great tips online for reusing almost anything (look at the Reuse section below to find out how to reuse your shower curtain), and remember, you can always donate your items somewhere.

Finally, when something is at the end of its life cycle and cannot be reused, it is time to recycle or compost it.


Naturally, the easiest way to have less waste is to not create it in the first place. Of course this isn't always possible. We have to print documents, buy packaged foods and carry groceries home from the store. By following the simple tips below, you'll be surprised at how much less waste we can generate as a community.

For more information on waste reduction strategies, visit Prince George's County's Source Reduction webpage.

  • Buy in bulk to reduce packaging
  • Take reusable bags to carry your purchases home
  • Buy and use rechargeable batteries when possible
  • Take your coffee mug instead of using disposable cups. If you make your coffee at home, purchase a reusable filter.
  • Contact companies and tell them to stop wasting paper sending you unwanted junk mail.
  • Ask yourself if you really need to print that email or web page. If you do, print double-sided and in gray scale; you'll save ink, paper, and money!
You might just want to start by looking in your trash and recycle bin each week to see what's in there. Is there anything that you could have used differently, or donated or repaired instead of thrown away? Borrowed instead of bought? By reducing waste, we can also reduce our spending, and that always helps.


There are many uses for all sorts of things around the house. We have probably all reused our plastic grocery bags for something, but there are many other items that can be reused whether by us or someone else. We can donate items we longer need to friends or family, neighbors, churches, schools, or to community groups. Places like local animal rescues, food banks, crisis centers, and larger organizations like the Salvation Army, Goodwill, and Purple Heart can always use appliances, clothing, baby and pet supplies, and other gently used household goods. See list of local organizations accepting donations.

In addition, a simple internet search will show you dozens of creative uses for various household "wastes." Here are a few that turned up on a recent web search.
  • Old shower curtains make a great winter cover for window air conditioners or drop cloths for paint jobs.
  • Used coffee grounds can be added to soil for added nutrients or used as a skin exfoliant.
  • Paper egg cartons can be used to start seeds inside during the winter.
  • Baby food jars can be used to organize and hold a variety of items: small screws and nails, paper clips, push pins, jewelry, or small craft supplies.

Freecycle is a great way to give or get items from others in the community. Bowie has a chapter, so before you throw away that old cell phone charger or buy a new one, visit their website to see if one of the 3,000+ people on there might need it or be giving away something that you have been meaning to buy.


The City offers weekly curbside recycling pickup for residents. The City's recycling service is "single stream," which means that all acceptable items (paper, yogurt containers, glass, metal cans, etc.) can go in the same bin. Residents can use the recycling carts that were delivered to each city household, pick up a blue recycling bin at City Hall, or use any trash can or other container as long as it is clearly marked "RECYCLING."

All recycling must be placed at the curb by 7 a.m. on your scheduled collection day. Pickup days vary by neighborhood. Learn more about the City of Bowie Residential Recycling Program by visiting the Public Works Department's Recycling page or calling 301-809-2344.


Roughly 20-30% of the material in a typical landfill, including yard trimmings and kitchen scraps, could have been composted. Composting is a natural process in which macro- and micro-organisms break down organic materials such as leaves, grass and vegetable scraps to form a rich, soil-like substance. The resulting compost is a dark, rich, organic material. When added to soil, compost provides nutrients to plants and improves the water-holding capacity of soil.

Starting a backyard composting bin or pile can reduce the trash waste stream, save municipal tax dollars used for tipping fees at landfills, and reduce energy and greenhouse gas emissions associated with putting these materials in the landfill.