The 5 R’s – The key factors that are to be remembered in respect of waste management are – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Recover and Replace.
1. Reduce – wherever possible reduce waste production. One can always reduce waste production by following these simple guidelines:
a. Use or buy only what is needed – when there is no waste generated, then there is no waste to be treated. Make a shopping list before going for shopping. This will ensure that you don’t buy things which are not needed. Don’t give in to temptation by buying random items.
b. Buy items that can be re-used like rechargeable batteries. This will create very less waste as they can be reused more than once.
c. Unsubscribe from paper mails and instead opt for emails.
d. Buy products with minimum packing. Flashy and fun packaging does not necessarily mean better product quality.
e. Say NO to plastic bags. Carry your own reusable shopping bags.
f. Spread the word on waste reduction at source – more people adopting waste reduction means less waste generated.
2. Reuse – if waste is produced, explore the feasibility of reusing the waste. Don’t throw away items that are reusable. Reduce waste by making full use of any item. Here are some useful ideas on how to reuse those everyday bits and pieces.
a. Re-use old clothes by stitching items like cloth bags, cushion covers, table / sofa covers etc. Those that cannot be reused as such can be used as waste cloth for cleaning.
b. Re-use old tires in the garden as swings or as pots for growing small plants.
c. Re-use glass bottles and jars as storage containers after cleaning and drying.
d. Re-use envelopes by sticking labels over the address.
e. Re-use plastic bags as waste bin bags.
3. Recycle – if reusing is not feasible, explore the next option of recycling the waste. As there are economic and environmental costs associated with waste collection and recycling, it should be considered only where reduction and reuse of waste is not practicable / feasible. Most of the household and work place items can be effectively recycled with a little effort. Here are some tips on adopting recycling:
a. Keep recyclable trash containers at strategic locations at home / work place. This will foster better participation in the recycling process from every one.
b. Don’t throw something out just because it is old or broken. Repair and repurpose it for use again.
c. Recycle food waste by composting using compost bins.
4. Recover – it may be possible to recover materials or energy from waste which cannot be reduced, reused or recycled. For instance, Sweden has been successfully generating biogas and fuel oil from waste and trash.
5. Replace – adopt eco-friendly goods or lifestyles, such as using handkerchiefs instead of tissues, travel by public transport instead of private cars, walk or cycle for short commuting distances, adopt car-pooling for long distance commuting instead of self-driving etc.
Habit is a powerful tool in our daily life. Most of the things we do in our daily life are a matter of habit. Buying unwanted items, using tissues instead of handkerchief / cloth napkins are all habits which have been ingrained into us. The trick lies in changing these habits into environmental friendly habits, a challenging task for anyone, but still necessary for a better world. In other words, the 5 Rs should be practised as a norm rather than as an exception.