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Source Reduction (Waste Reduction)

What Is It?

Source Reduction is the first tier of the solid waste management hierarchy. The term source reduction is used to describe those activities that decrease the amount (weight or volume) or toxicity of waste entering the solid waste stream. Simply stated, source reduction means cutting disposal by going right to the source: deciding not to make or buy something. It can also mean cutting down on disposal of toxic materials by going to the source and making products out of less toxic feedstock. It also includes those activities that increase product durability, reusability and reparability.

Why Do It?

Source Reduction saves natural resources, and saves the fuel needed to change those resources into products. It saves landfill space. It can save you or your business money in disposal and replacement costs. Everything in your trash each week cost you money the day you bought it, and costs you money to remove, and placed a burden on the environment when it was made. It all took energy to produce, and when you throw the item out, you are giving up on all that investment of energy and materials. To learn more about how we use up resources, and how we can minimize our impact on the earth, visit:


How Do I Do It?

Source Reduction At Home:

“Pay-as-You-Throw" Systems - In communities with Pay-as-You-Throw programs (also known as per container systems, unit pricing or variable-rate pricing), residents are charged more or less for trash collection, depending on the amount they throw away. This encourages residents to reduce the amount of waste that they generate and to separate recyclables more carefully. Twelve towns in New Jersey now use such systems. Residents from these towns believe that this type of system promotes fairness. Comparison studies show that these towns recycle more and dispose of less waste than their neighbors.

New Jersey Municipal Pay-As-You-Throw Programs

"Grass - Cut It and Leave It" – The objective of these programs is to get residents to leave grass clippings on the lawn when they mow as grass clippings provide a natural and healthy fertilizer for a growing lawn. The NJDEP, Bureau of Pesticide Operations and the Center for Turfgrass Science advocate this approach to lawn care. By cutting your lawn short and removing the clippings, you are robbing your lawn of its own natural fertilizer and creating a waste that must be hauled away for disposal or recycling by a truck. This, of course, adds to the negative environmental impact of this practice since disposal vehicles use fuel and produce air pollution. By cutting your lawn higher and leaving the clippings on the lawn, you can use less water, fertilizer and pesticides, and expose yourself to fewer toxic materials.
Grass - Cut It and Leave It

DEP estimates that as much as a ton of clippings is generated for every acre of turf grass each year. With nearly 900,000 acres in New Jersey covered in turf, that adds up to big transportation requirements, fuel use, and air emissions.

Backyard Composting – Reduce waste by composting your food scraps and yard trimmings in a backyard compost pile. For more information, visit the following websites:


"Source Reduction in the Garden" - Summer, 2006 article

Toxicity Reduction – NJDEP is working with manufacturers to keep toxic material out of new products, but sometimes they can not be avoided. In addition, many old products that contain significant amounts of toxic materials are still in our homes.

People are exposed every day to toxic materials in their own home in the form of cleansers, pesticides and from fumes from paint and carpeting. Fortunately, comparable products with little or no toxic constituents are available in today’s marketplace. Visit the following website to learn how to reduce toxics in your home:

To dispose of toxic materials found in the home contact your county about upcoming household hazardous waste collection days. Visit: for more information on county household hazardous waste collection events.

Do you know what turns on the lights in your car when you open the trunk?

Up until recently it was a mercury switch. Mercury is a toxic metal that vaporizes easily when it is released from the glass containers in the switches. The Department recently initiated the Vehicle Mercury Switch Recovery Incentive Program, which rewards junkyards for removing the switches from autos before they are crushed for recycling. This practice will reduce mercury emissions from the smokestacks of iron and steel melters. In the future, manufacturers will use switches that do not contain mercury.

Did you know that the NJDEP has worked with the Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse since 1991 to implement the "Toxic Packaging Reduction Act"?

The Act requires manufacturers of packaging and packaging materials to reduce the amounts of certain toxic substances added to packaging and packaging components.

Green Shopping – Buy more durable goods, so you won’t be replacing them as often. Buy in bulk to save money and reduce packaging waste. Visit the following websites to learn more about source reduction through shopping:

Watch Those Disposables!! – While disposable products have revolutionized our lives in many positive ways, their widespread use has resulted in a significant increase in garbage generation. Purchase durable items instead of disposable products whenever possible. To learn more about disposables, visit the following website:

Junkmail – Still sorting through the junkmail to make sure that you don't miss that once in a lifetime coupon? If you're tired of reading and sorting it for recycling, you can put a stop to it. Consumers can contact catalog companies and ask to be removed from their mailing list. Company phone numbers typically can be found on the back cover.

To stop receiving credit offers, call: 1-888-5-OPTOUT, or (1-888-567-8688). - Catalog Choice is a free service that lets you decline paper catalogs you no longer wish to receive.

Learn How to Receive Fewer Phone Books!

Pay Bills Online – Pay major credit card and utility bills online, and eliminate incoming and outgoing mail. Besides being convenient, this practice eliminates paper documentation that could lead to identity theft.

Source Reduction and the Holidays:

Trimming Our Holiday “Wasteline”

Source Reduction at the Office:

Computers did not bring us the paperless office as predicted. In fact, we use more paper than ever. It costs money to buy it, store it, and print on it. Needless use of paper adds up to lost profits and environmental damage. Even though paper can be recycled, it is still better to cut it right out of your operations, where possible.

  • Use those computers to cut paper use. Post notices electronically, and send documents for review by e-mail. Let the recipient decide whether to print or not. Set up shared file systems to let people access documents without requesting a hard copy. Store files electronically only.
  • Reformat facsimile forms to avoid a cover sheet.
  • Buy printers and copiers that print on both sides – the technology is available. If you can not print two-sided documents, and if you have many printers, you may want to designate one to be the draft printer, and print on the back of used paper.
  • Let your staff know that office materials do grow on trees; reuse old folders, use old memos for scrap paper, reuse office furnishings. It all comes from the company's bottom line, and it all uses natural resources.
  • Target your direct mail audiences to reduce your contribution to junk mail. Avoid duplications on your mailing lists. Visit
  • Stop receiving catalogs, magazine and other bulk mail addresses to former employees. Visit for more information.
  • Visit the following websites for more information:

Other Workplace Source Reduction Suggestions:

  • Use refillable products such as pens, pencils, tape dispensers and calendars
  • Use solar powered calculators
  • Reuse bank deposit bags
  • Eliminate single use cups
  • Use round-trip packaging containers and padding
  • Buy less toxic and energy friendly products.
  • Visit the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmentally Preferable Purchasing website at for additional information.

What is ReUse?

In setting source reduction strategies, the first priority is the elimination of waste; the second is reuse. Reuse programs keep materials that would otherwise be discarded out of the waste stream and make items available at lower costs or at no cost.

ReUse Strategies:

Donation - We sometimes forget that the things we no longer need can help those who have less, and items that we think are outdated are still of value to others. With this in mind, the Department sponsored the printing of a “redistribution manual” entitled “A Place for Everything – The Ultimate Redistribution Guide for Mercer, Middlesex & Monmouth Counties.” The manual provides information about those organizations in your area that collect goods for various charities.

For a copy of “A Place for Everything – The Ultimate Redistribution Guide for Mercer, Middlesex and Monmouth Counties”, contact Audrey Rockman at  Preferred pricing is available to any service organization wishing to use the guide as a fundraiser.

Reuse Opportunities Listed By Material (list includes names and websites of organizations involved in reuse of various materials)

Resale – Garage sales and consignment stores allow used goods to move from hand to hand, and return a portion of the original cost to the former owners. By purchasing used items, you help to keep materials out of the landfill and cut down on the number of new goods manufactured.

Rental – Consider renting those tools that you may only need for one project rather than buying them and having them sit idle for years and deteriorate unused. For example, big power tools, landscape tools, snow blowers and even furniture can be rented.

Sharing – Your neighbors and family can share big items like extension ladders and chain saws.

Materials Exchanges – These enterprises accept large volumes of business or home furnishings for sale at low prices. They are good for large corporations who wish to update their equipment, while avoiding the cost of disposal of the old items, and they help start-ups obtain equipment at low cost. Visit the following websites for more information:

Sustainability and Simplicity Movements:

Source reduction is a component of both the sustainability and simplicity movements. Sustainable practices are those that meet the needs of the present with out compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Simplicity means finding out if you would be happier with less: less to clean up and put away, fewer work hours, fewer cars, fewer scheduled activities each day, less debt and less stress. It can mean more, too. More time for friends and family, more health.

If you are a public policy-maker, visit:

If you are a business policymaker, visit:

If you are an educator:

Other resources:


Contact: Steve Rinaldi, NJDEP, Bureau of Energy and Sustainability – or 609-633-0538