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May 28, 2011
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July 25, 2011

Reuse Not Recycle

As a kid, my first contact with world-saving activities came with the concept of recycling. With that, the state of world-saving as a whole seemed pretty bleak. I could see the obvious truth that a lot of harm could be averted if everyone agreed to recycle their stuff, but seeing as no-one cared, harm went on. Nowadays, I think that it’s better to reuse and not recycle anyway, though the crux of the problem remains there.

Bringing About Change

Firstly, reusing, recycling or whatever, how do we bring about change? My attempt to answer that is: by focusing on something we can do to improve the world in our life, and doing that.

Don’t try and change minds that can’t be changed, and stay Zen about the harm that goes on in the world – while – get this – still caring. Don’t numb yourself to avoid feeling the horror, God knows we’ve got enough feelingless zombies around here without needing potential activists to go that route too. Anyway, make some change, somewhere.

This article is dedicated to people who want to do something to help change the state of the excessive waste in the world. You can make a change by starting a model business, by writing a blog, by doing talks, by raising awareness however feels best for you. You can even lobby for change or start a political party. Whatever you do, dedicate your all to it or it’ll probably never work. If you do decide to give yourself entirely to a project, though, I predict magic will happen, and people will thank you profusely for it. 🙂

The Problem With Recycling

Recycling can’t be the end-all of conservation efforts. It’s a band-aid to cover up a deeper and more relevant problem: we make too much waste in the first place.

Recycling isn’t such an amazing thing. Firstly, not that many people do it. It’s great that more and more people do. But it’s still not saving the world. Even if everyone did it, it wouldn’t save the world.

That’s because – my second point – recycling isn’t all too effective. The energy costs are large and often enough to make recycling economically unviable. Certainly it puts into question any argument recycling may have about reducing carbon footprints. It’s worth it to get that rubbish out of landfills, but I think we could admit there must be a better way.

Thirdly and finally, recycling is a distraction for the real problem. The real problem is that people create and ditch waste like it was nothing. Recycling gives them a false sense that their actions are impeccable. It takes a little weight off their shoulders concerning their joint responsibility for the fate of the world – but in reality that responsibility has hardly lightened at all. It’s not going away just because we seperate things out into different coloured containers. We can’t go back to sleep now. No. I’m sorry.

The Benefits Of Recycling

The benefits of recycling: it helps some and it’s relatively easy.

I don’t see it as a particularly world-saving activity at all myself. It’s just basic consideration, like avoiding wasting food and not peeing on the street.

(That said I do it because it’s easy for me. If recycling is a major effort for you because your local government doesn’t facilitate it, no sweat. Either launch an initiative to get recycling in your area or spend your time on some other way of caring).

Reuse Not Recycle

The answer here is to reuse things or just not create as much waste in the first place.

I think there’s a great business opportunity here for an ecological supermarket. I’ll explain — and please do steal my idea, otherwise I might have to do it myself, and there’s so many things I want to get done in this life…

We put up with extra waste because that’s the only option we have in general. What if a supermarket gave you the same convenience as another type of supermarket, but removed the garish trappings covering the products and you know, just sold products? Rather than marketing? Most shops really sell marketing.

Imagine that, like in old times, you’d have a jar in your house for beans, a jar for rice, a jar for pasta, and so on. Even modern stuff like cornflakes, soft drinks, and so on could be moved to permanent containers rather than throwaway stuff. If you didn’t want to lug heavy jars around while shopping, you could use reusable cloth bags to hold your items in transit.

Imagine a little more. Say you arrived at the shop by a random inspiration, or forgot your cloth bags. You could pay for some new ones and then return them to the shop later to get your deposit returned. If you needed the bags you’d keep them for yourself, otherwise you’d return them.

Something like this used to happen (in some places it still does): reuse of glass bottles, mostly. But we can do better. What if we just forgot about all the dumb marketing and had unedorned, functional bottles we’d use equally for orange juice or Coca-Cola? If it was absolutely necessary there could be billboards next to the product in our ecological shop giving it a marketing blitz. But there’d be less marketing drilled into our brains at every moment, and I think that’s a good thing. If Coca-Cola becomes a brown, uninteresting liquid in our plain glass bottles, maybe we’ll buy less of it.

Why We Don’t Reuse Rather Than Recycle

Recycling becomes a necessity because companies focus more on product marketing – focus more on selling – than on serving people. They need wasteful packaging to help sell stuff. They count on people not caring, people following the leader and just hoping the consequences of their actions will turn out OK.

But they won’t. “Plastic Islands” are forming in the sea like mile-long iceburgs formed entirely of accumulated rubbish. Uncountable sea life and animal life is suffocating on shiny morsels that look like food. Our waste is leeching toxins into the soil too, ruining our landscapes, and using up our limited resources. Trees are being torn down every year to make paper, most of which doesn’t need to be used. The Amazon rainforest is disappearing. We’re stabbing Mother Earth in one of her most major organs. The effects will be drastic.

No, it’s not the time to go back to sleep. Things have got to change around here.

Will you be the one to bring about change?

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  1. Kim says:

    *like* 🙂

  2. Great post. Really outlines what’s going on with everything today. I know so many who don’t recycle because they see no benefit for themselves or are too lazy. Sometimes both. Even the easiest thing to do people don’t! It’s a bit crazy.

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