Source Reduction and Recycling

New Residential

What is Source Reduction and Recycling?

Source reduction or waste reduction refers to reducing the amount (by weight or volume) or toxicity of waste that enters the solid waste stream. Recycling turns materials that would otherwise become waste into new resources.[1] Additionally, source reduction is the first tier in the waste management process. Source reduction decreases the amount of waste that enters the solid waste stream as well as decreases the disposal of toxic materials by sourcing fewer products out of toxic materials. Many steps can be taken to minimize household waste through reducing, reusing, and then recycling.

How to Implement Source Reduction and Recycling

Source reduction includes taking steps such as:[2]

  • Buying durable, reusable and repairable products
  • Avoiding single-use items (plastic straws, plastic bags, etc.)
  • Selecting products with less package and/or buy in bulk
  • Buying used items
  • Maintaining and repairing household items
  • Sharing, borrowing or renting items
  • Avoiding the use of toxic and hazardous products and materials

Check with local laws and regulations about recycling and give careful consideration to the type of recycling containers, space allocations for containers and storage, and the movement of recyclables from inside to outside. It is mandatory to recycle certain materials in New Jersey and important to be aware of the local recycling rules. For more information about solid waste and recycling in NJ, visit the NJ DEP Solid Hazardous Waste Management program website.

Jersey City Make it GreenExample

Jersey City Make It Green

Education is an important aspect of waste prevention, and many municipalities provide guidance materials related to source reduction and recycling. Jersey City Make It Green provides educational information about the how and why of waste prevention and offers resources such as Recycle Coach, a searchable website that provides information about what to recycle, where to drop off materials, and a customized waste pick up calendar.


Source reduction and recycling can save money and reduce the amount of material entering the solid waste stream. Recycling reduces the amount of strain put on landfills and incinerators, which decreases air and water contamination as well as preserving open space. Additionally, recycling conserves resources and reduces the need for new resources to be extracted from forests, oil wells, and mines, among others.[3] Recycling also has many indirect benefits. Recycling can lead to the creation of jobs and tax revenues that can make communities stronger and more prone to start environmentally responsible initiatives. Also, recycling can reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG’s) because the production, transport, and disposing of solid waste produces GHG’s.[4]


EPA’s WasteWise partners have documented that source reduction can lead to cost savings, particularly in shipping and receiving, office operations, and manufacturing.[5] Recycling can help reduce disposal costs.[6] While the individual cost of purchasing reusable items may be more than disposable products, realizing the long-term benefits of reusable items and life-cycle cost comparisons can balance the initial costs. The life cycle costs include not only the purchase price but also its use, distribution, sterilization of reusable products, and the cost for waste disposal. Consider factors such as its effects on health and impacts on the environment. Some source reduction and recycling practices require a change in habits rather than a change in cost.[7]


Source reduction can decrease the quantity of waste generated when a natural or human-caused disaster occurs. Proactive strategies for waste-related issues associated with disasters is an integral part of resilience planning.[8] Reducing waste and reusing or recycling materials can help protect natural habitats that contribute to more resilient ecosystems.

[1] US EPA. Recycling. (accessed March 24, 2019).

[2] US EPA. Reducing and Reusing Basics. (accessed May 10, 2019).

[3] NERC. “New Jersey Environmental Benefits Fact Sheet on Recycling.” (accessed March 24, 2019).

[4] Recycling and Climate Protection.  (accessed March 24, 2019).

[5] US EPA. Wastes – WasteWise Program. (accessed March 24, 2019).

[6] US EPA. Managing and Reducing Wastes: A Guide for Commercial Buildings. (accessed March 24, 2019).

[7] GSA. Sustainable Facilities Tool. Life Cycle Approach. (accessed March 24, 2019).

[8] US EPA. Waste Management Planning to Mitigate the Impacts of Climate Change. (accessed March 24, 2019).