Waste management and disposal is a serious problem we face that affects our environment and the future of our planet. The trash we create is being dumped in landfills and surfacing in oceans at an alarming rate. The best way to deal with waste is to not create it at all or at least significantly reduce the waste we contribute to landfills. Hence leading a Zero-waste life is the need of the hour.
The mantra each one of us should practice is Refuse-Reduce-Reuse and then Recycle, and in that order. Every time we refuse to accept, use, or buy something, we are bringing down the demand for that product. Say no to junk mails and freebies, switch to e-bills, etc When we reduce what we own and use, we tend to take better care of stuff (Less stuff, less cleaning, more time) When we reuse stuff, we are cutting down the trash and stopping it from ending up in a landfill.
A lot of us, think of recycling as the utmost responsible act that will reduce the waste we create. Recycling will not solve the whole problem. It is more like an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ scenario. Did you know that 91% of plastic ever made has not been recycled? Because, not all plastic is created equal. They are designated numbers grading from 1 to 7 depending on how recyclable they are. Numbers 1 and 2 are relatively recyclable(the PET and HDPE plastics), but as the numbers go high, the recycling process gets complicated. Therefore, they just get dumped in landfills or incinerators. Even when plastic is recycled it is usually downgraded into a different product or virgin plastic needs to be added to strengthen the material during the recycling process.
As mentioned earlier, the biggest step we can take in this direction is to ‘considerably’ bring down the amount of trash we create.
Ask yourself these questions.
Each one of us can make a major difference to this by being responsible for the waste generated in our households. At any given time, a major chunk of our waste bins at home are filled with packaging wastes. Again a major part of this would be a plastic waste, be it from the food wraps or from the products that we buy.
Plastic is omnipresent, from the toothbrush we use in the morning to parts in our gadgets. It is not an easy thing to give up because plastic has become so intertwined in our daily life. The first step towards a zero-waste life is to say no to plastics. Here are a few measures we all can take in order to bring down the size of our plastic-trash.
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We have got so used to the convenience of using disposables. Just think of it, if YOU were to process your trash in your own house, would you choose to use a disposable cup, (that will never decompose) or the good old ceramic/steel cup (that you can wash and reuse)?
Choose substitutes for Earbuds, Disposable wipes, Diapers and Pads, Plastic cutlery, water bottles, etc. If you look for it, you will always find a cloth, glass or metal alternative.
So to reduce garbage at home we have to stop shopping (????) Easier said than done, I know. What we can do is shop responsibly, don’t indulge in shopping just for the fun of it. Buy the necessary things. Buy things in bulk so that you cut down the packaging. Shop second hand whenever possible. Repair and use instead of throwing away.
Did you know that the packaging of an item constitutes 15% of its price? That means when you buy in bulk you not only cut down on the packaging waste, but you make money savings too. Implement a meal planner so that you have a grocery list ready and there is no wastage of food. Find stores that sell in bulk. Carry your own reusable shopping bags or containers whenever you shop. This way you don’t bring home 10 different plastic bags for the 10 items in your list.
The instructions on the sanitary pad packaging say – Do not flush- wrap and throw it in a trash. Pretty simple huh? But ever wondered what happens to it after it is picked up from trash? Since most sanitary pads contain some form of plastic, they won’t decompose and they end up in landfills or even water bodies. Menstrual cups are an eco-friendly alternative, made of silicone or latex rubber. They are environment friendly, and reusable for years. (…and hassle-free, I vouch for that!!)
Something that our mothers and grandmothers used to do before all the Reuse bottles and jars to store spices and condiments or even refrigerate food. Reusing or repurposing ensures that less stuff goes into waste and also, saves money and no garbage is generated from unpacking new ones.
Plastic storage bins and trays can be substituted with cardboard boxes. If you cannot reuse it, make sure to recycle cardboard, as paper and cardboard, are made from trees.
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Quit buying bottled water outside and then trashing the bottle. Instead, carry a reusable water bottle every time.
Paper towels and tissue rolls form a major chunk of garbage generated in every household. But these can be easily substituted with cloth towels and napkins.
Shopping in your local market helps your community, gives you fresher food options, and also cuts down packaging waste that is generated.
Make your bio cleaners at home by using scraps from vegetables and citrus peels. Check this video to learn to make your natural cleaners.
Turn your kitchen trash to treasure by composting. There are numerous options available depending on the area available, whether you have a backyard or a balcony.
It is indeed difficult to make a drastic lifestyle change to cut down the garbage that we tend to create. How about starting by recycling responsibly? All plastics cannot be recycled and if not separated and segregated, they might end up contaminating the whole lot. Hence it is very important to separate and segregate the waste.
Read more about it here.
A zero-waste lifestyle will not happen overnight. What is important is to be consistent and mindful of what we want to achieve. Let us act responsibly to leave a safe (and a better planet) for the generations to come. Be remembered for who you are and not for the trash you created. Here are a few talks for inspiration.