In the quest to minimize the damage caused to nature by the excess of produced waste and the overexploitation of natural resources, some important alternatives of preventive action and repair, such as reduction, reuse and recycling, have emerged.
These actions, called 3 Rs, seek to reduce waste generation and turn others into new products. They are part of an educational process that aims to change society’s habits with regard to overconsumption and waste.
The 3 Rs must be understood in order of importance. So, the first step is to reduce the maximum. Then, the reuse of a product should be applied whenever possible. Finally, when a material really needs to be discarded, we can apply recycling.
Reduce: Reduce waste generation.
Reducing consists in decreasing the production of waste, whether recyclable or not. This does not mean that we should stop buying or abandon practices that are part of our routines, in fact, this concept is precisely linked to rethink habits to follow the normality of our lives aware that we consume responsibly. For example, when making our purchases we should only acquire products that are really needed, eliminating the purchase of superfluous goods. This rule applies to all types of products (plastic bags, food, clothing, appliances, electronics, toys).
In addition, we can also reduce and optimize the use of water, energy and fuels by exercising a sustainable view of consumption. In this sense, we can revise our way of thinking about the possibilities: why not trade the car ride for walking, cycling or public transportation? Instead of buying new clothes, why not visit thrift stores and bazaars? A jeans is a garment that needs 11,000 liters of water to be produced – that does not mean that we should no longer buy jeans, but that it is worth the effort to be careful to preserve as much of this garment as possible so that there is no need to produce it beyond what we need.
Saving natural resources, combating waste and reducing residue generation and consequent pollution and excessive environmental exploitation is a step we can all take to contribute to the responsible growth and development of the place where we live.
Some actions you can take to reduce waste and residue are:
- Try to reduce print usage and take advantage of the technologies as allies in sharing documents and content. Nowadays there are digital platforms that even allow professional contracts to be drafted 100% on the computer.
- When shopping, instead of putting your fruits and vegetables in several different plastic packages, let each unit weigh in the box and carry them in a reusable shopping bag. Thus, in addition to saving the individual packages, you will also be sparing plastic bags.
- Buy cloth napkins, or if possible, have them produced locally with a seamstress you know. In addition to using at home, you can carry them in your bag or backpack so you can use them on a daily basis.
- At company events and in everyday life, avoid using disposable plates, cutlery, glasses and napkins. They result in a large amount of waste, and although plastic is recyclable, not all of it is – in fact – recycled. A sustainable tip is to bet on eco friendly cups that can always be carried along with you and, in situations where the use of cutlery is necessary, take yours from home.
- Avoid ordering food for delivery. Each time you order a delivery the planet cries. The production of certain types of packaging is extremely harmful to the environment due to the difficulty of recycling, such as styrofoam. Whenever possible, choose to cook in your own home or go to the place where your favorite food is being served.
- Use rechargeable or alkaline batteries, which pollute less.
Reuse: Reuse products as much as possible.
Reusing a product means re-applying it to the same function or various other uses, extending the life of this material. For example, we can turn pots and plastic bottles into flower pots or decorative items, an object that is no longer useful to someone can be donated to someone else, used paper can be turned into scratch pads, and water used for washing clothes can be applied to flush toilets and to wash backyards or other environments. When we reuse, we avoid discarding a material and buying a new product. Therefore, this practice reduces the amount of raw material, water and energy needed to manufacture new consumer goods, thereby reducing pollution.
- Old newspapers can be used to pack items instead of plastic bags or paper bags.
- Used paper can be used as a scratch paper, to take notes and sketches and to be sent to the recycling center when you no longer need it.
- Reuse cooking oil in your home for soap production, or donate this product to cooperatives and establishments that use it.
- Broken equipment can be repaired rather than immediately replaced.
- Use the laundry water to clean sidewalks or other household activities.
- Or even some classic uses, such as reusing old jars and vases to put items in your office or storing unused computer wires, for example.
Invent new ways to recycle different items, such as harnessing materials that could be discarded as a basis for new things. An old suitcase can become a chair. Used paper rolls can be used as cable organizers.
Recycle: Recycle your waste to save the environment.
The third R represents recycling, which is the process of transforming something used into something totally new. That is, materials that would be discarded are reinserted in the production cycle and used as raw material for the manufacture of new products. Several materials can be recycled (paper, plastics, glass, metals, tires) and waste sorting is critical to the entire recycling process. So we should separate recyclable from non-recyclable, recyclables being sent to specialized companies or cooperatives. Which contributes to job and income generation, extends the lifespan of landfills and assists in the preservation of natural resources, although it is a resource-consuming process.
Carefully choosing the products to be recycled can be a first step towards efficient recycling.
- Give preference to materials that can be recycled, such as aluminum, which is 100% recyclable. For example, when consuming soda, opt for cans instead of plastic bottles whenever possible.
- Unfold the Tetrapak milk and juice cartons. In addition to saving space in your recyclable waste bag, you make it easy to transport, sort it when arrives at a pickers’ cooperative and especially the baling press of the material.
- Avoid buying materials with difficult recycling. Buy non-toxic products whenever possible and avoid materials such as steel sponge. Double your care with mirrors and ceramics.
What is recyclable and what is not?
Adopt this idea
In your daily life, seek to perform your activities and consumption from these concepts. Raising awareness to the need to conserve our region and stimulate sustainable growth is the first step in moving towards responsible development, with respect for all people, the environment and biodiversity. The next step is to take action… what are you doing for the nature of your region?