Acronyms are a wonderful way of remembering possibly complex solutions. This fact becomes particularly useful when we look at the environment since our acceptance and adopting this particular acronym helps is working towards a better, cleaner environment, leaving it better than the way find it today.
The 4 Rs - REFUSE | REDUCE | REUSE | RECYCLE
Each of us, individual citizens of this Earth, and collectively as communities and organisations have to do our bit to stem the scourge of pollution in the world. Even though plastic was invented in 1907, it is only from the 1960s or thereabouts that plastic attained commercial success and started entering our homes. Plastic is something that the Earth cannot digest. Plastic is not food for any insect, animal or bird on Earth. Every bit of plastic ever produced still exists somewhere on this planet ... whether in a landfill or floating in our rivers and seas. And this ends up polluting not only the soil and water, but also has a major impact of marine life and bird life, since plastic mistaken as food is consumed by them. These poor creatures' stomachs fill up with plastic, does not get digested, they cannot eat anymore and die a painful death. More significantly, the fish that consume these plastic particles end up on our plates as food. A study of humans might well bring out the gory fact that all of us have a significant amount of plastic chemicals flowing in our bloodstream.
If we can imbibe the concept of the 4 Rs in our individual lives, very soon we will see a paradigm shift in how plastic is polluting this marvellous blue planet that we live in. Let us look at what each of these letter of the 4 Rs acronym stad for and what we can do about it.
There are four simple things that each of us can do to stem the problem. The first of these 4 Rs is the most important - REFUSE. If each of us refuse to consume products made of plastic, manufacturers will have to per force find alternative material to make their products with. Manufacturers manufacture plastic cups and straws and shopping bags and disposable lighters and disposable pens and the many other items, because we as consumers buy them. We need to hit the bottomlines of manufacturers, stop buying items that harm the environment, and they will have to manufacture alternatives.
Refusing to buy and use single-use products is an individual decision. If each one of us refuse to use straws, cups, plates, spoons, bottles, etc, and enough of us do so, alternatives are bound to become available. The reality of plastic is that is is cheap and durable, and this is what makes plastic products so attractive for manufacturers as well as consumers.
Unfortunately, plastic has pervaded our lives so comprehensively that it is almost illogical to think of living an entirely plastic-free life. That is an unfortunate reality and we have to live around this reality. Which really means that we have to reduce our consumption of plastic, and be conscious about the items we end up using that are made of plastic. For instance, it is impossible to think of living a life without our mobile phones. We need it and cannot do without it. However, there are a lot of decisions we can take in out lives that can help us move towards living plastic-free.
We need to start with small steps, something that will not overwhelm us. Do not try and make an overnight judgement of living plastic-free from the time you wake up in the morning. It could well turn out like your New Year Resolution. Start small, slowly reduce your use and consumption of single-use plastic. Start with just eight products that are relatively easy to reduce our consumption of:
- Plastic shopping bags
- Disposable drinking straws and stirrers
- Disposable crockery and cutlery
- Disposable lighters
- Disposable pens
- Wet wipes
- Disposable razors
- Packaged goods (by buying loose items or in bulk)
Most if us have grown up with plastic as a part of our lives. From the toys we played with when we were toddlers, to the cell phone we use today, there is plastic in so many items that we use. Just because we have decided to live plastic-free, does not mean that we throw away everything in our house that is made of plastic. That will be catastrophic since in the process of trying to step into a plastic-free lifestyle, we will end up adding to the plastic trash, something that we probably would not do had we not taken that decision.
Reuse the items that you find in our home ... for as long as you can. If you have a plastic shopping bag, carry it with you the next time you go shopping. If you have a disposable plastic pen, buy a bunch of refills. Buy a can of lighter fuel and refill your disposable lighter with it, instead of buying a new lighter when the fuel runs out.
You will be surprised with the number of things you can end up reusing if you just apply your mind to it.
You will often find yourself with a product that has outlived its life, even if you have reused it multiple times. Again, do not throw it away, but recycle it. And not by the process of conventional recycling through factories, but by finding newer ways of using "trash" in and around your home or workplace. There are a lot of innovative ways through which you can recycle plastic items. This page will give you some interesting ideas. But what you can do to recycle items is really limited by your own imagination. Make it into a family exercise, or an exercise where you get the students of a school or members of a community involved.
Once you crate something interesting, share it publicly through social media so that more people get to know the how of it.