Waste produced by people is a massive problem in our modern world. Glass makes up a sizable chunk of our waste, but not many people know that recycling a single glass bottle saves enough energy to run a computer for 30 minutes. For this reason Whale Coast Conservation has chosen ‘Waste not, Save a Lot’ as our sustainability theme for 2013. This theme will be highlighted in all our educational work and exhibits to schools and the public during the year. We will stress the need to reduce all waste and explain some methods of recycling and reusing much of what is now regarded as waste and simply thrown away.
Because plastic is such a convenient material for packaging, we tend to think of plastic waste as a huge problem. But, truth to tell, it’s not the plastic that’s the problem, but the way we humans waste it.
And it’s not just plastic: what about the other precious resources that we waste? What about water, energy, food, paper, glass, tins, packaging of all kinds, arable land, unspoiled natural areas and their eco-systems?
In more recent years, many of us have become aware of just how expensive and irresponsible it is to continue on this wasteful track. As a result people are becoming increasingly aware of the need to dispose of our waste responsibly, to reduce it at source, and to reuse and recycle what we would previously have sent to the ‘dump’.
Ultimately, the aim is to achieve “Zero Waste,” but as with any goal, small steps are the way to start.
We have to start with reducing the amount of ‘stuff’ we buy. We should look honestly at what we use and how we use it.6
Let’s think about our buying habits. Should we buy bottled water, when tap water is perfectly safe to drink? If we buy more food than we need, what’s the most effective way to store it or share it so that it doesn’t go to waste? When we go to the supermarket, do we take a reusable shopping bag to carry our goods to the car? Do we always drive there alone or can we share the trip with a friend or neighbour?
Are we as careful with power resources as we could be by switching off whatever is not needed, and using energy-efficient appliances? And when it comes to water use, do we take a short shower or a very small bath, flush the toilet only when really necessary, and plant a water-wise garden?
Before we automatically put any item in the waste bin, we need to think about whether it can be recycled or reused. Cardboard, most papers, aluminium, glass and textiles can be recycled. Reducing the amount of ‘waste’ going to expensive landfill not only saves us money, but also reduces the negative impact of such pollution on the environment.
No matter how attached we are to our possessions, there comes a time when they are no longer useful to us. Before automatically discarding clothes, books, toys and other items, consider whether it could be handed on to another family, a charity shop, or recycled.
Do we stop to consider the value of natural habitats before transforming land to other uses?
Since we only have one planet, we owe it to ourselves, our children and each other to use (rather than abuse) its resources responsibly.