Ok, let’s be honest!  Sorting and sifting through your rubbish?  Why would any sane person want to spend their precious time doing that?  To understand the importance of recycling, we need to understand what happens when we don’t…

The story about Landfills

Everything single thing that we indiscriminately throw into our municipal dustbin, gets magically transported out of sight and out of mind and disposed of in land-fills around the country.

A landfill, or rubbish dump, is a site where rubbish is being disposed of by burial.  This is the oldest form of waste disposal.

Landfills, however, has a number of adverse effects on the world around us, such as

  • Pollution of groundwater through leakage
  • Contamination of soil
  • Offgassing of methane (more hazardous than CO2)
  • Harbouring of disease carriers such as rats and flies

It doesn’t take a scientist to realise that this is a potentially hazardous situation.   Also, it seems that we are generating more waste per person than what nature can safely recycle by itself.

But if this method (of landfills) has been used for centuries, why do we have to worry about it now?

Landfills across the world, it seems,  are starting to fill up.  Due to an ever-increasing human population, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find big open areas where it is safe to dispose of people’s waste.

Besides landfills filling up, we have, through innovation and design, created products that are longer lasting and more durable – unfortunatly to the detriment of the environment, as these products cannot be recycled by living organisms and bacteria as it is non-organic and synthetic.  This makes it necessary to use strong and often poisonous chemicals which is also damaging to the environment.

Maybe sorting your rubbish is starting to make more sense?  So let’s reduce what we put into them.  Waste minimisation involves a three step process also known as 3R  Concepts:

  • Reduce
  • Reuse
  • Recycle

Reduce involves the process of conciously reducing the amount of waste produced per individual and/or household.  Techniques like buying products that are packaged in bio-degradable packaging, buying larger quatities that use less packaging per product and turning kitchen and garden waste into compost.  Despite the fact that households contribute a very small amount of waste compared to industries, it is still important to remember that it is in the home that we change perspectives and opinions of our future factory managers and engineers.

Reuse is when we use an item more than once.  It involves conventional reuse and new life reuse (using the item for a different function than initially planned).

Recycling is probably where most of us will start.  Recycling involves disposing of waste by type (glass, paper, metal, textiles, plastic) to specified institutions that will re-process these materials to be used again.  Advantages of recycling are:

  • Prevent wasting of usefull materials;
  • Reduce consumption of fresh raw materials;
  • Reduce energy usage;
  • Reduce air pollution;
  • Reduce water pollution;  and
  • Lower green house emissions.

Of course there are those who dispute the value of recycling for several reasons that we will not discuss here.  I personally see recycling only as one of the first steps to living greener and more sustainable life.  By understanding the impact that our lifestyle has on the environment, I believe that we will become more discerning as consumers.  We will start to make greener choices, like choosing fruits and vegetables in recyclable containers or no containers, using zero-waste containers and start asking the right questions from your local suppliers of products.