by Michael Smith (Veshengro)
One of the great things about recycling is that the process helps to minimize the presence of waste material in our communities but recycling is really the last stage of waste management which begins at home.
Waste management does not begin with recycling, it ends with it, for when we toss stuff out we have actually lost in the waste management game. The first stage is, obviously, waste reduction on all levels and that especially in the packaging department for packaging waste is – more often than not – the largest amount of waste that is being created, closely followed by food waste.
Reduction, therefore, is the first step on all levels. When it comes to packaging most products found in the stores are seriously over-packaged and often in materials that are not reusable nor recyclable. This goes especially when several materials a “welded” together which then are (almost) impossible to separate for recycling. This also goes for the “paper” coffee cops which are paper lined with a wax or a plastic coating and cannot, for that very reason, generally, be recycled.
The next step is and must be REUSE and that includes finding reuse for packaging materials that just possibly can be reused. Tin cans, glass jars and metal or plastic sweet tins are great candidates for reuse as are sturdy shoe boxes and many other things.
Our ancestors were masters in reusing, they had the mindset, and very little was thrown away if they could think of a use for it. And we must develop this mindset again to avoid the amount of waste that is going to landfill and even to recycling. Recycling still uses lots of energy and also, to some extent, raw materials, as often virgin materials have to be mixed with the recycled materials to make new.
Reusing waste is, after reduction of if, the most important step in our waste management strategy in the home, as well as everywhere else. And it is even easier than the reduction of waste, especially as far as packaging is concerned, as we have very little direct control of it.
When it comes to packaging waste we have, as said, very little control of the materials and the amount of them as, more often than not, we are being forced to buy good that are packaged, often seriously over-packaged, in plastic or other materials and thus the reduction of this waste is not, really, in our hands bar for trying to get the message across to manufacturers and stores alike that we do not want packaging or at least not the amount that we are presented with on a daily basis.
Aside from simple reuse there is upcycling, that is to say to use this item of waste and make something better out of it and/or to put it to a greater use and, in as way you do that already when you, for instance, reuse, as many of our ancestors did, a glass jar as a drinking vessel. Or a tin can as a pencil bin. And there are many more things that you can do in that department and the Internet is full of ideas.
Recycling is the absolute last resort, and when you have to throw something into the recycling bin you have already lost as far as your waste management strategy is concerned, but there are, I know, only that many glass jars and tin cans or shoe boxes, etc. that a man or woman (even a child) can possibly make use of.