Think about the “Three Rs”: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Simple as 1, 2, 3; there is a reason this familiar phrase starts with reduce. Ideally, one would reduce the amount of products they consume. If you can’t reduce, reuse what you have. If you can’t reuse, then recycle!
Reducing your intake of disposable materials, and reducing consumption of stuff in general, decreases the potential of trash ending up in places it shouldn’t and leads to less overall pollution.
If you must buy something, such as a plastic bag, then the second step after reduce is reuse. Take a single-use plastic bag and put it to another use. Use it to pick up after a pet, or use it instead of bubblewrap when shipping items. Or reuse the containers you had from take-out the other night for food storage some time, or use them when taking dinner to a friend. Reusing is better than recycling, because it gives the item a longer useful life, prolonging the time until it ends up in a landfill, or wherever else it might end up.
Recycling should be a “last resort”. If reducing and reusing products doesn’t work out, please recycle. Some grocery stores have plastic bag recycling receptacles where you can deposit plastic bags. Glass is very recyclable (and can be turned in for a cash refund in some states), and many plastics used in packaging can be recycled. Even some food packaging, such as bags of lettuce, can be recycled. Recycling could be the difference between a lively and lifeless ocean. In addition, recycling can reduce the amount of natural resources needed to produce new products.
As simple as this phrase is, it can be hard to be conscious of reducing, reusing, and recycling. Just give it a little more thought, every now and then!