Waste is one of the main topics in the world! As an organization campaigning for sustainable Resource management and zero waste lifestyle for last 20 years, I wrote this article few years ago and modified again very recently with more details.
Hope one can learn something out of this. I heard about 10R in waste Management when I was in Melbourne in 2010 and since then we at ECO-V adopted the method by modifying it in our own way. We always talk about "conscious consumerism and waste" together as waste is not a waste but it is a resource.
Everybody knows about the 3R’s in Waste Management. I believe that simply following the guidelines of the 3R’s is not sufficient action to manage our global waste sustainably. I offer here a different perspective on waste management. We must stop generating further waste in order to get the issue down to a manageable scale. Human beings are the only living animal on this plant who generates waste. This is a self-created problem. Therefore, the solution must also be created by humans. I believe the only viable solution is a “zero waste” lifestyle (or to at least achieve 99% waste free). To enable us to lead a zero-waste lifestyle, we must follow the 10-R method. In other words, “consuming consciously or Conscious Consumerism”. There is no such thing as “waste” unless we humans generate or create wasteful products. Therefore, what we are managing is “Resources”; once you manage resources wisely then there will be no waste products left. Let us see how we can manage resources sustainably.
Follow the 10R method to become a conscious consumer and zero waste generator!! It’s very simple, once you get the hang of it!
1. Reject – Always buy only what you NEED. Reject unhealthy, unsuitable, unethical goods. Don’t buy more than what you need even if it’s cheap or on sale. This way you are saving resources for others who need to buy and also bringing less waste into your home. Moreover, it saves you money. Soon you will have created a list of permanently rejected items from your life. Some of such items that I have rejected in my life are: any kind of carbonated and sugary beverages, single use plastic or polyethene, artificially made or processed food like instant noodles and soup cubes, snacks, many varieties of biscuits, plastic straws, and tobacco. Rejecting these sorts of items has also helped our family to maintain healthy food habits, and has taught my two young sons how to eat healthier and eliminate waste from their lives. I have also rejected the purchase of any chemical detergents for cleaning and laundry. This way I know I am not polluting my home environment.
2. Refuse – Say no to plastic bags always…be brave enough to Refuse on the spot. This R is bit more flexible than Rejecting. Depending on the occasion you might need to take some of the items you want. For example, if you are really thirsty and you have forgotten your reusable water bottle you may need to buy a bottles water from a shop. Then you may buy it but the bottle will be given for recycling. Therefore, you must be conscious about your choices. This means you might buy or take items only when they are absolutely needed. Some items I have refused personally are paper bags, cloth bags, any wrappers including cardboard boxes, paper straws, milk packets, yoghurt, ice-cream, makeup, perfumes and even take-away food, online purchases etc. So, I will buy them only if I know how to manage the left-over waste that comes with the item. Otherwise, I will not buy or accept them.
3. Reduce – think twice and reduce consumerism. When you practice the above-mentioned two “R”s you are automatically reducing loads of waste and also saving many resources. Still, you can reduce using paper, cloth, shoes, clothing, handbags, jewelry, perfumes. Always try to avoid using wrappers when you give a gift item. If absolutely necessary then use a compostable paper wrapper or a reusable wrapping like a muslin bag. Be aware that many trees are cut down to make paper; we are losing vast amounts of forest land because of paper production and agriculture. Use less detergent, shampoo or soap and strive to completely eliminate all chemical products. You have plenty of natural alternatives now. Also, and importantly, be aware of the amount of food you consume daily. Wasted food feels like a crime to me. We must pay respect to our farmers by avoiding food waste. Also, we must be aware of how many resources, such as time, water, manure, and land, went into growing our food. Food wastes in landfills create methane gasses and are contributing to climate change. Each of us are obliged to consume a healthier, smaller quantity of food and to purchase food that has been grown through sustainable agricultural methods. Another resource we should treat with greater respect is water. Be conscious about how much water you are using when you bathe. Reducing water usage is an important step in the 10-R’s, especially as the planet is experiencing droughts and water shortages globally. In this same vein, we must reduce our global consumption of electricity and other sources of energy, fuels, etc. through frugal personal energy consumption.
4. Reuse – Use a cloth bag and reuse hundreds of times. Even paper bags or plastic bags can be reused multiple times. Use reusable cutlery, crockery, or wrappers. When somebody gives you, a present wrapped in wrapping paper, remove it carefully and save for reuse later. This applies to bubble wrap, brown paper, commercially-made wrapping paper and other packaging. Before you buy an item, think twice about whether you can reuse it or not. Always reuse and upcycle whenever possible. When up-cycling, you should remember to upcycle something with no waste generated or whatever waste generated is recyclable. In the meantime, do not up-cycle an item where the end product is going to be waste. For example, people like to upcycle plastic bottles (PET bottles) into growing/planting containers. When they cut them to make a planting container, loads of micro plastics are released into the environment and these small pieces of plastic are not recycled. Furthermore, the upcycled plastic growing container is then filled with soil and, over the growing period, this plastic breaks down into smaller, now contaminated pieces which are no longer recyclable and becomes a waste product that will not break down for thousands of years. It would have been better to return that water bottle for recycling when not contaminated, and even better to not purchase it in the first place. You can use other types of garden containers (even plastic pots) which are designed for growing plants and are durable so that you get years of use out of them before they become waste. Never reuse plastic PET bottles for storage of food or liquid as they might be releasing Bisphenol- A (BPA) chemical over the time. In plastics, only type 4 (LDPE) 5 (PP) and 7(other) are meant to reuse for food and liquid.
5. Repair – rather than simply discarding damaged bags, cloths, shoes, furniture, tools and other utensils, seek to repair them. If something is broken, be creative and see if there is another way to use it if it can’t be repaired. This way you will be saving money and reducing the energy used for recycling.
6. Replace – replace parts rather than buying new. Before you purchase anything new, always think about whether those items are reparable or replaceable. For example, if you buy plastic furniture, you will end up having to recycle when broken. Wooden and metal furniture has several other options when broken such as repair, replace reuse, and recycling.
7. Recycle – always separate your waste and submit for recycling as almost everything, except for a few types of polythene, plastics and hazardous wastes, is recyclable. However, recycling is not always the best action; recycling requires a large amount of resources like energy and water and emits pollutants into the environment. Some areas accept recycling but don’t have the resources to actually recycle and so these items end up in the landfill. Hence, we must consider reducing recycling too. For example, you may feel that it is fine to use paper wrappers as they are compostable or recyclable. But never think that way. Always be conscious about the original resources that went into making these items, and the resources that will be required to recycle them. If you use more recyclable items, and find yourself with large amounts of recycling, that means you are wasting natural resources.
8. Rethink – You must think over and over again about how much you are consuming. Rethink your choices and choose Nature-friendly innovations. Be mindful about all positive action by practicing the above “R”s. Even though you may avoid many wastes coming into your home, you may still have some items that you can’t prevent from entering your life or home. So, the best solution to Rethink is having your own ECOBRICK. It’s the best solution you have at the moment to go towards a zero-waste lifestyle. I will give you one example. As I said, I have rejected buying unwanted items, but occasionally I buy a dress. The dress has a price tag, brand tag and sometimes many plastic labels. So, when I purchase my cotton dress all these tags are coming along with it. I cannot reject them and drop them at the shop. It would be a very extreme act too and I would lose the opportunity of exchanging it later if there is an issue. Even if I were able to leave the tags at the shop, they will be thrown into a waste bin at the shop. Therefore, the end result is trash going into a landfill (nobody recycles such tiny tags). Trash often ends up in the ocean where it is responsible for killing many ocean creatures and ultimately ends up in our bodies where it can cause hormonal imbalances and cancers. What I believe is, if I purchase an item whatever labels, tags coming along with that product is my responsibility. So, I have decided that the best option is to bring the dress home with its tags, remove them carefully and collect all the tiny pieces and insert them into an ECOBRICK. By taking this small action you keep in mind all living beings, and rethink your own waste generation.
9. Remember – to consume consciously, remember to take your own reusable bag, refillable water bottle, and reusable cutlery set when you go away from home. Always remember to keep extra bags or containers with you and in your vehicle, and remember to tell others of your good actions as inspiration for how they too can become more eco-friendly. By following the 10R’s and telling others about them, you will create many positive ripples in society. Remember to walk and talk your beliefs. If you forget today, be sure to remember right away and take action Now. We may not have time tomorrow.”
10. Repeat – repeat all above actions every day in your life. Make it a habit like breathing in and breathing out. Make the 10R’s a beautiful song that you sing every day! Healthy consumerism, Healthy life and Healthy Planet with no waste!!!! The Planet will thank you by healing and thriving. For truly, we cannot thrive if the planet dies. This, then, should be our walking meditation from the time our eyes open until we close them at night: If not me, then who? If not now, when?
Concept adopted and modified by Kanchana Weerakoon
Founder President of Eco Friendly Volunteers (ECO-V)