Some years ago, in the mid 1970s, one of the great themes in the worldwide ecology debate was the slogan… ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’……a slogan which is think was, and is, brilliant and succinct
The idea seemed extremely sensible as we appeared to be consuming the world’s goods at a horrendous rate
…….. perhaps we could ‘do without’ occasionally. In other words…so we would use a lot less of our dwindling material resources, as the world is not infinite.
…… If we could find some other uses for the items, we might double or even treble the lifetime for which the item could be used
…….and only lastly, when no further use could be contemplated, it could go in a recycle box. It was then out of our hands, and we would have played a part in the three stages.
This, however, requires us returning a couple of generations in our thinking……..we have to learn that just because something is heavily advertised, it is not absolutely essential that we go out and buy one……..we have to be more knowledgeable and inventive in our attitude to repairing, modifying and adapting items for re-use in some other guise……….and thirdly we have to be able to recycle (in an economic way) those items which cannot be reused in any other way.
Fast-forward to the 21st Century…………and how far are we on in the crusade to ‘Reduce, Re-use, and Re-cycle’ ? Frankly I don’t think we are much better! But let’s look at it all in a bit more detail……
- Watching people in supermarket check-outs shows me we are purchasing more than we used-to. Food is certainly a necessity, but we are eating more than we ever did, as obesity remains high on the list of medics’ concerns.
- Continuing persuasion, by marketing folk, to get the ‘very latest’ tech gadgets, furniture, clothes, mobile phones, and holidays etc from larger and larger stores, at lower and lower prices has been evident and shortened the life-time, and reduced the ‘valuation’ of almost everything we own.
- So we are consuming more, of everything, we are travelling more miles on our way to exotic locations for holidays. I know of no areas where we are consuming less. Economic growth seems to be all important to the good of the country, but not of the world.
- Regarding packaging….When I was young, I remember my mother opening her carry-ing bag , to allow the grocer to put in loads of potatoes, carrots etc, followed by beautifully-wrapped chunks of cheese, fish, and meat, and this worked well. The bag was reused many times, and some of the greaseproof paper may have wrapped my lunch-piece, and ended up helping to light the fire. The use of more-complicated wrapping materials has caused a problem As much cannot be recycled.
- As far as repairing and re-using items, we in the West are not particularly good as doing this, whilst less-developed civilisations are much better. We have lost many of the skills which our parents had, for self-sufficiency and rarely is something repaired. It us almost impossible to get a cooker, fridge or washing machine repaired, as the tradesmen often suggest that it is cheaper for you to buy a new one than repair it.
- And finally, recycling may recover some of the materials, but cannot regain the energy used in the manufacture of the original product. So we really have only one option……buy fewer things, repair, and then, and only then see if there is a proper re-cycling programme available, and not just a massive skip of mixed stuff…
So maybe it IS time to rethink our attitude to usage of what is, after all, a finite resource. The future generations will condemn us, and rightly so, for this inordinate consumption, and the way in which we dispose of our waste into the oceans, and landfill……oh, dear, what a mess we are in…..