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The Five Rs of Waste Management

The Five Rs of Waste Management

If you are reading this, there is a high chance you have already begun your journey to a plastic-free life or at least hope to make a positive change for our planet. Have you seen the whale that washed up on yet another beach? Or was it the image of apparent albatross regurgitating plastic into its young chicks’ mouth? Or the horrible video of the ocean conservationists pulling an entire straw out of a turtle’s nose?

Whatever the catalyst was to check out this article and how using a reusable water bottle can make a significant change for the creatures on our earth, we (and them) are grateful.

Check out the whole collection here.

We all know by now that single-use plastic bottles are chocking our waterways and polluting the ocean. Even if you try and do the responsible thing and recycle them, did you know that only 36% of all the plastic bottles are recycled in Australia? That means around 373 million plastic water bottles end up as waste each year.

 

That terrifying statistic exists because

  1. Recycling so far has not been deemed profitable
  2. Many countries (even Australia) do not have the infrastructure to deal with the mass amounts needing recycling.
  3. The whole point of single-use plastics is convenient, and searching for a recycling bin is not always convenient
  4. 80% of the plastic bottles used are in just 20 countries in the world. These include China, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka. Some of these depend on bottled water to protect them from diseases and waterborne pathogens.

Recycling is simply not a solution right now. Until Australia works out a way to process the items, we put in yellow-topped recycling bins properly, the infinitely better solution is to reduce. 

Image by Willfried Wende

You have heard of the five Rs? Refuse, repair, reduce, reuse, recycle. They are also placed in the order best for our planet. 

Refuse

The ideal situation is to refuse items you don’t really need. For example that eater bottle. Australia and many other (developed) countries have potable drinking water accessible from every tap. There is also usually an abundance of water fountains in public areas where you can rehydrate. Refusing a single-use water bottle, or straw, or cup, is slightly more inconvenient when it is offered to you, however, the change in mindset is the first most crucial step. When you reprogram your mind into not seeing single-use water bottles as an option, the convenience argument will slowly disappear. This is because you wouldn’t have invested in a high-quality reusable water bottle.

Repair

The second of the Rs mentioned is repair. A reason why investing in a few, pricier, but high-quality items make the most environmental and economic sense. A high-quality item created from durable materials can easily outlast the fast fashion, fad trends, or cheap branded products given away for free. I am sure you have certainly acquired a number of free water bottles at various sporting or workplace events. The cheap plastic was advertised as an eco-friendly alternative to the thin PET, but if we consider the resources required to produce this item and the comparably small amount of time it was used for, it’s almost debatable to say the thin PET bottle is a better alternative. In a future blog post, we will discuss whether paper bags are indeed better than plastic bags and if the reusable plastic bags made a positive impact on the planet. A high-quality water bottle, however, can withstand many years of hard wear and tear, with some companies being able to provide replacement parts if a certain section breaks.

Reduce

Image By Hans Baxmeier

As an outcome, you will be reducing not only the amount of single-use plastic bottles ending up in the landfill, but also the amount of reusable water bottles that you need to purchase, or that need to be created. That is the entire purpose of the third r. To get you thinking about what you really need and what you just want. Through the carefully implemented marketing by massive companies, we have been conditioned to buy, buy, buy. Did you know that coca cola was named the largest polluting company in the world for a second year running by Break Free From Plastic. Stepping away from commercials and marketing is not easy, but you have the chance to become an educated and smart consumer. Spending those extra dollars once on a sturdy, stainless steel water bottle will not only save you money but will save the use of precious earth resources.

Reuse

The fourth R is straight forward in the case of high-quality reusable water bottles. You can simply reuse the one you bought every day. Whether you head over to the school, work, sport event, gym session, friend’s house, airplane, camping trio, or even the pub! The great thing about insulated water bottles is that you can add a couple of ice cubes inside and they will keep your drink cool for a whole day. On the other side of the spectrum, if you pour in your hot morning tea, you can trust to be warmed up for the duration of your day. Whatever you decide to put into your reusable bottle, at the end of the day you can simply wash it out and reuse it. In addition, the benefit of investing in a high-quality product you do not have to fear the leaking of unwanted chemicals into your water. Recent studies have shown, that even food-grade plastics such as the ones used in Tupperware or toothbrushes, when aggravated, will release harmful chemicals into your system. Just see here how switching to a bamboo toothbrush is better for your teeth' health as well as the planet.

Recycle

Now we have reached the last R, the recycle. If you have attempted all of the above steps, then recycle is the last option on the list. The reason it is the last option is that it is still very resource-heavy, can only recycle certain materials, can be easily contaminated, and few adequately sized facilities exist. While it’s still better to opt for plastics made from recycled rather than virgin plastics, the truth is our planet and the ocean has enough plastic. Apart from the economically benefiting fossil fuel industry, virgin plastic and materials made of them are quickly rising to become one of the larger problems in the 21st century.

Waste Management

The largest problems of course still being the carbon emissions and subsequent climate change, wealth disparity and growing population in poverty, and the increasingly urgent water scarcity issue.

Unfortunately, do topics are a little bit harder to tackle and deal with during your day to day life. Thankfully, switching to a reusable water bottle and slowing down the rate of garbage being dumped in the ocean, (Which is currently at an alarming rate of 1 garbage truckload a minute) is something you can control with small choices every day.

You can make a difference

Every time you refuse that single-use cup is one less cup that an innocent crab might mistake for a home. Every time you repair what you already have is one less lot of resources needing to be used from our over-strained earth. Every time you look around and say no to a sale or an item you might just "want" is a vote to the companies that we are choosing our earth first. And every time you take a sip from your reusable water bottle; you can rest assured that is one less plastic bottle that could be broken into microplastics or hurt some sea life in our oceans.