Waste management tips

What is ‘waste’? It's the collective term for everything that we throw away.

However, what you call waste is not important. It’s what you do about it that is crucial!

In nature there’s no such thing as waste; life works in a circular system where ‘waste’ generated by one organism becomes food for another. For example, fallen leaves decompose through fungal action and the nutrients are returned to the soil where they can be absorbed by tree roots and become food for the tree again.

Our industrial society today, however, has developed a linear or straight-line process of producing, consuming and disposing of products. The result is that great amounts of what we call ‘waste’ go directly into landfill sites, and often into the natural environment. As humans we need to develop our own ‘circular system’ for waste.

Waste is one of the negative legacies of our ‘consumer culture’. It is estimated that on average each person in a developed country throws away about 1-2 kilograms of waste (such as paper, plastic, metal, glass, food waste and garden clippings) per day. This adds up to about 50 tons of waste in your lifetime! And this doesn’t include the amount of waste produced by the manufacturers of our goods.  Stop to think about how much waste was created in getting an item onto the shop shelf.

Changing the way we choose to buy things is challenging because ‘buying stuff’ has become a habitual part of our lives. To change this behaviour requires examining ourselves and what we truly value. Everyone needs to become more conscious of the choices that we make in our everyday lives. We need to realise that all waste has a value and that our natural resources will last longer if we start to reduce, re-use and recycle waste.

It's time to innovate and think outside the box.

Let's focus on the REDUCE of the three Rs.

How can you reduce the amount of waste you produce to a minimum?  Reduce what you buy; it is that simple.

When shopping, check a product’s ‘waste footprint’ before you buy it. If you can choose, pick one that has the least amount of waste associated with it –

  • Buy a locally manufactured product that has not travelled half way around the globe. Supporting your local economy makes good sense. Local is Lekker!
  • Choose one that uses the least packaging or at least packaging made from recyclable materials. Polystyrene is a curse, its virtually non-recyclable. Avoid foods packaged in it if you can.
  • Check the information on recycling options or recycled content of a product which is usually printed on the back of the product.
  • Take your own carry bags to the shops. It takes a little training and forethought but is well worth it.  Invest in a set of bags that you can re use.  One supermarket chain sells “Bags for Causes”. Support a good cause in the process.
  • Encourage your greengrocer to use environmentally friendly packaging. An increasing number of supermarkets are making changes. Support the movement.

 If you act early in the process, your effect will be greater. So don’t settle for doing the bare minimum! Changing the way you think about and manage what goes into your waste bin will help to ensure that your waste does not turn the planet on which your grandchildren will live into a toxic rubbish dump.

 Remember the mantra – REDUCE, RE-USE and RECYCLE. 

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