The 5 Rs – Refuse, Reduce, Re-use, Recycle, Rot. 

You have heard of these before, I am sure, but how ingrained are these concepts in your daily life? Are you just aiming to reduce waste? Or are you also mindful of what you buy and what you consume?

On occasion of Zero Waste Week, here are some insights on the core concepts of a zero-waste lifestyle.


Refuse anything with single-use plastic. Refuse anything that has a short life span and leads to its waste sitting in landfill for years and years to come. Such as bottled water, take away coffee cups and containers, and useless packaging. 

For example, I obviously carry a bag with me when I go shopping. At the pharmacy where i shop, they pack everything in a paper bag with the pharmacy’s logo. Its almost second nature to them, no matter how small the object is. I always refuse the paper bag and just chuck my items into my own bag. I always smile and tell them ‘save a tree’ – at the beginning they used to give me a suprised/weird look, but now they almost got used to me and smile back.


We all know that we buy way too much stuff; stuff that we don’t really need. Being mindful of what we buy is a smart thing to do, it will save us money and keep our homes tidy – and when our living quarters are in order, so are our minds. That is basically a suprising benefit of minimalistic living, I suppose. Take a look around your house – you will probably find things that you don’t want or don’t use anymore. Find someone who does and pass them on. 

Leaving products on the shelf sends a powerful message to the business who made that product. It says whether or not they should keep doing what they are doing. Don’t forget that for every euro you spend, you are casting a vote. Best is to buy things that have the longest lifespan possible, the least amount of waste possible, without sacrificing quality. 


There is so much we could re-use. All we need is thought and immagination. For example, you can take your own containers when ordering take-away food. You can use reusable cloths instead of wet wipes and napkins. You can take your own pantry jars to the supermarket.

The fashion industry is the second highest polluter on the planet. Re-use clothes and accessories as much as possible. If you don’t want them, donate them to a good cause or swap them at events. Learn to do some basic mending. Transform an old top into a one-of-a-kind bag.


The process of industrial recycling has its own challenges and its own carbon footprint so it should be kept as a last resort. How familiar are you with recycling? Do you know what goes in each bag? Do you know how to recycle items properly? Do you know where you have to take certain items? 

For example, did you know that glittery wrapping is not recyclable? Did you know that printer cartridges have a recycling scheme? Do you know how to dispose of medicines, electrical equipment, or batteries? If you are unsure, reach out to your local council or WasteServ for information. 


Also known as composting, is the act of turning food waste and other organic items back into nutrient-rich soil. Consider talking to your farmer as it is very possible that he or she will be happy to take your organic content. 

At this point we can close the loop and go back to refuse. Refuse to buy and prepare large amounts of food which will likely go to waste. Cook using fresh ingredients in small batches. Take a good look at your pantry and cupboards before buying anything new and try to use what you already have bought. Plan your weekly menu to ensure you buy the right ingredients in the right amounts. The most common reasons why food gets wasted in Maltese households include too much cooked food, leftovers are not eaten, food left in the fridge that goes off or left for too long. Avoid these mistakes and you’ll certainly notice a decrease in your organic bin. 

Want to make a difference?

Inspire others by sharing this article with your friends and family on social media.

Pledge to go zero-waste for a week – notice how it makes you feel – and imagine a world free of avoidable waste!

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