We should try to reduce the amount of plastics that we use. There are five things we can do to limit the impact of rubbish on the environment: refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose and recycle.
The order of the Rs is important. The closer to the start of the list, the better the option.
Refuse and reduce
This first one is simple: say ‘no’ and refuse things people offer us that we don’t need.
Try to reduce the rubbish we make in the first place. For example, we should only buy products that do not have much packaging and that we really need. Could we use less?
Think carefully about what kinds of materials are used in the things we buy. Once they become rubbish, they might take a long time to decay [see the chart above].
Reuse and repurpose
People are often very imaginative in reusing items, rather than throwing them away, or repurposing them for another practical use. For example, we can flatten empty aluminium cans and use them as sheet metal. We can make furniture out of scrap wood and use well-washed glass jars to store foods, carpentry materials and office supplies.
If items such as glass bottles, metal and tin cans, newspapers and plastics cannot be reused, it may be possible for them to be recycled. For example, glass is washed in special factories, broken into pieces and then melted down into ‘new’ glass ready to be made into something else. Some countries have factories that will recycle these materials. However, some plastics can be recycled to make household objects such as hair combs, floor tile, bags, mats and polyester clothing.
This is an updated version of an article from Footsteps 59, which was adapted from Farm Radio International – Package 43, Script 4 and Package 50, Script 10.
For more information on how to recycle plastic, WasteAid UK’s website has a range of guides to making waste work: https://wasteaid.org.uk/toolkit/downloads/
You may also be interested in these blogs: Six top tips to protect livelihoods from disaster and Five survival strategies for drought-affected livestock herders in East Africa
Chris Szuskiewicz was a freelance writer working for Farm Radio International when she wrote this article. Farm Radio International is a Canadian-based, not-for-profit organisation working in direct partnership with more than 650 radio partners in 40 African countries to reach tens of millions of small-scale farmers.