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!
– 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
– 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.
– 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.
– 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.
– 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.
– 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.
– 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.
– 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.
– 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.”
– 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?
adopted and modified by Kanchana Weerakoon
President of Eco Friendly Volunteers (ECO-V)