At the top of the hierarchy of proper waste disposal is Source Reduction - defined as:

  • Changing the design, production, purchasing method or use of materials in order to reduce its waste potential;
  • Any effort to reduce, at the source, the quantity of waste generated, toxic chemicals used or released into the environment;
  • Eliminating waste and the use of less packaging;
  • Changing the design of products and packaging to decrease potential waste before it's created; 
  • Buying items in less packaging and purchasing non-toxic alternatives




Source reduction (also known as waste reduction) is a solid waste management strategy municipalities use when developing sustainable community plans. Source reduction can have a major impact on the amount of waste generated and is a logical starting point for those municipalities interested in managing solid waste in a more sustainable fashion.

The term source reduction is also used to describe those activities that decrease the weight, volume or toxicity of waste entering the solid waste stream. It also encompasses those activities that increase product durabilityreusability and repairability. Before starting a program to promote source reduction to residents, officials should first make certain to lead by example - by developing and implementing a source reduction program for all city offices as a way to reduce waste and promote sustainability.


  • Post notices electronically, send documents for review by e-mail, or 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 fax forms to avoid a cover sheet.
  • Buy printers and copiers that print dual-sided.
  • Designate one printer as the draft printer and use the back of used paper.
  • Reuse old folders, use old memos for scrap paper, reuse office furnishings. 
  • Use refillable products such as pens, pencils, tape dispensers and calendars.
  • Use solar powered calculators
  • Eliminate single use cups
  • Use round-trip packaging containers and padding
  • Buy less toxic and energy efficient products. 



1.    “Grass - Cut It and Leave It” programs - The objective of these educational 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. 

2.    Backyard composting programs – The objective of these educational programs is to get residents to reduce waste by composting food scraps and yard trimmings in a backyard compost pile. Municipalities may opt to provide backyard composting bins to those residents interested in starting a backyard compost pile. 

3.    “Pay As You Throw” programs - In communities with Pay As You Throw programs (also known as per container systems, unit pricing or variable-rate pricing), residents are charged for trash collection depending on the amount of garbage that they throw away. This encourages residents to reduce the amount of waste that they generate and to separate recyclables more carefully. 

4.    Toxicity Reduction programs – One of the main objectives of such educational programs is to inform residents about the many toxic materials found in their homes in the form of cleansers, pesticides and other household products. In addition, these programs inform residents about alternative products that contain little or no toxic constituents. Toxicity reduction programs also educate residents about the proper disposal of these materials through county household hazardous waste collection events. 

5.    Materials Exchange/Reuse Information programs - A materials exchange is a way by which a municipality can bring together residents who would like to discard any unnecessary or unwanted items with residents who are looking for used items in good condition. Materials exchanges are valuable to residents, as well as to the environment as they keep many materials from being disposed in landfills. A materials exchange can be set up at an established location, for example, at a recycling depot, or can be an online resource. There is typically no fee charged for the donation or acquisition of used items at such municipal materials exchanges.