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The 7 R's of sustainability: Rethink, Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Re-use, Recycle, and Recover

Sustainability is a term used to define human actions and activities that aim to meet the current needs of human beings, without compromising the future of the next generations. It is directly related to economic and material development without harming the environment, using natural resources intelligently so that they remain in the future. Following these parameters, humanity can guarantee sustainable development. 

At the university I studied the 3R’s policy - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. 


Later came the 4th R - Rethink. And immediately after the 5th R - Refuse.

The 5 R’s policy differs from the 3 R’s policy, as it has the advantage of allowing companies, and consumers in general, a critical reflection of consumerism, instead of focusing only on recycling.



The 5 R's policy consists of five important measures to reduce the impact of waste on the environment. The five actions to achieve sustainability are: rethink, refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle.

The 5R's policy aims to reduce the generation of waste by changing behavior about consumption and in the way companies and people deal with the waste generated. The 5 R's are part of an educational process that aims to change daily habits.

It leads to rethinking values ​​and practices, to reduce excessive consumption and waste. Prioritize the reduction of consumption and the reuse of materials about their own recycling. And yet, refuse to consume products that generate significant environmental and social impacts.

Recently I came across the seven Rs:

  • Rethinking (do we really need this?)
  • Reduce (consumption, packaging, waste)
  • Reuse (the object for another purpose)
  • Reuse repair the damaged object before disposing of it)
  • Recycle (separate waste and send for recycling)
  • Refuse (packaging, unnecessary objects )
  • Recover (thermal recovery, composting of organic waste)



It is the basis of sustainable consumption and aims to ensure that the consumer is sure to be getting something not on impulse or by external influences, but by necessity. Ask yourself "Do I really need this?", "What do I need?". Not everything is really necessary. We must modify habits and attitudes, such as: 


  • Can we use a bicycle instead of a car to go to work or on trips? 
  • Do we really need certain products that we buy or win? 
  • Do we buy durable/resistant products, avoiding buying disposable products? 
  • Do we avoid buying products that contain toxic or dangerous elements? 
  • Do we bury our garbage, if there is no collection in the neighborhood? 
  • Do we avoid burning garbage? 
  • Do we read product labels to know their recommendations or environmental information? 
  • Do we use biodegradable detergents and cleaning products? 
  • Do we use rechargeable batteries? 
  • Do we not buy products from slave labor?
  • Do we not buy products produced by children who are forced to work? 
  • Do we avoid buying notebooks and papers that use chlorine in the bleaching process? 
  • Don't we throw medicines in the common garbage, injections, and dressings made at home, looking for a pharmacy? 
  • Do we avoid batteries with a high content of lead, cadmium, and mercury, or, after use, do we return the product to the dealer?

At home: Rethink your consumption and assess whether you really need that purchase - Refusing to consume what you don't need.



Reduce is to take actions to reduce the amount of waste. Therefore, this process begins at the time of purchase and when choosing products. The preference should be for products with greater longevity durability, which are packaged in paper instead of plastic. It is also very important to opt for reusable bags. 

  • Buy only what you need; 
  • Buy durable products; 
  • Adopt a more rational consumption; 
  • Decrease the number of packages and packages; 
  • Avoid spending too much on paper to wrap gifts; 
  • Share with others some materials such as newspapers, magazines, and books. 
  • Take bags or trolleys from the fair to carry purchases, replacing the bags offered by stores and supermarkets;
  • Reduce the use of energy and water and reduce waste, food, plastic, and transportation waste. 
  • Reduce energy consumption by switching to low-consumption devices, turning off unused devices, and reducing consumption as necessary. 
  • Invest in quality clothes, with materials of ethical origin, which last longer.
  • Carry a reusable water bottle
  • Take lunch in reusable containers
  • Say no to disposable cups and cutlery
  • Store leftovers in glass jars
  • Share these tips with your friends
  • Exchange paper towels for cloth towels
  • Swap paper napkins for cloth napkins
  • Swapping paper plates for reusable plates
  • Exchange paper cups for reusable cups



  • This concept is related to the use of a product or packaging more than once. When?
  • We buy products whose packaging is reusable; 
  • When we use the back of the sheet of paper to write; 
  • We painted old furniture, making it look new; 
  • We changed the upholstery cover; 
  • We keep, for later use, brown envelopes that have already been used, but that are still perfect; 
  • We clean old objects to start reusing them; 
  • We donate products that can serve other people, such as magazines, books, clothes, furniture; 
  • We repair toys.

With the reuse, the amount of waste decreases and we still save.

To achieve a circular economy, companies can think of recovering and reforming old products to be sold again or made into new products.

At home: Renew old products by giving them a new life: recover old furniture and give them a new life with new paintings, reuse old pieces of clothing by sewing and transforming them into updated models.


Before disposing of anything, consider how it could be reused or repaired. There are many exciting ways to reuse and repair household items. Repairing items is a way to reduce the consumption of materials and natural resources. By repairing, you are adding value to the item, you are applying sustainability to the products you have, and reducing waste. There are many resources online to learn how to fix household items. Was it spoiled? Don't throw it away. 

Often a repair is cheaper than buying a new product and prevents more objects from filling the garbage and landfills in your city. And that rule doesn't just apply to broken things. You can perfect some equipment, such as computers, adding new parts and exchanging what is not so good. 


Through recycling, products (thrown in the trash) will be transformed into raw material to start a new cycle of production-consumption waste. The environment is favored by recycling, which contributes to very large water and energy savings. 

We can contribute to recycling:


  • Buying recycled products or products whose packaging is made of recycled materials; 
  • Participating in campaigns for selective garbage collection; 
  • Organizing a waste separation project in your work/school/home/community/church; 


Is to say NO to products that harm the environment. The environment is grateful if we do not use what is aggressive to it. If you rethink and see that you do not need to buy or accept any product, simply refuse. This simple action can prevent the production of a lot of unnecessary waste on the planet. 

How to practice the concept of refusing? 

Stopped in traffic, when someone offers you a leaflet that you know is not of interest to you; 

At the checkout, when paying, when the assistant hands you a plastic bag to put your purchases in, but you don't need to.


1. Plastic bags take about 1,000 years to degrade, therefore fill landfills toilets. 

2. To produce plastic bags, non-renewable resources are used. Most plastic bags are polyurethane, a compound created from non-renewable components such as natural gas and crude oil. 

3. They are harmful to animals. Plastic bags that enter the environment can cause damage to ecosystems, such as the asphyxiation of animals. Both marine and terrestrial animals suffer from hunger, strangulation, suffocation, and entanglement by plastic bags, either because they bump into them and get stuck or because they eat them frequently. It is estimated that about 100,000 marine animals die due to plastic bags. Plastic bags are among the five most common types of garbage found on beaches. 

4. They can be harmful to people. Plastic bags should be kept away from babies, as they pose a risk of suffocation and suffocation. 5. Who recycles? While it is true that plastic bags can be recycled and many markets have waste bins to recycle, the sad truth of the situation is that only about 1 percent of plastic bags are recycled worldwide. 


Recovers the energy incorporated from non-recyclable waste, when feasible. Non-recyclable waste can at least be converted into energy through processes of transforming waste into energy, such as combustion and gasification. 

The concept of recovering also includes composting. If you have a yard at home, you can use the organic remnants of your kitchen to compost in the yard, or bury them directly in a ditch.

Certain products are
 biodegradable and can be disposed of in the yard to rot for example the cables bamboo brushesbamboo cotton swabs, and diapers Bamboo brand.


We are always in time to reclaim the land, despite already having a lot of damage is done. Everyone must collaborate!


Reuse products by transferring them to another user. Markets like eBay have already conquered the consumer market and are also beginning to be used in industries.

At home: Sell the products you don't use and consider buying a used one instead of a new one. Find new uses for the products (old bottles can be used as flower pots!).


You have ideas, thoughts, or want to share a way to perform one of Rs 7? We'd love to know !!!!

Ideas with varied products to recycle and reuse:



Catarina Vilela - Nurse

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