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Turning sustainability into a habit

Turning sustainability into a habit

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The world can learn a lot from Scandinavia’s recycling model – where following the four Rs has become the norm rather than the exception.

The world can learn a lot from Scandinavia’s recycling model – where following the four Rs has become the norm rather than the exception.

Turning sustainability into a habit
The problem with many vital products is that they are hard to dispose of. The culture in Scandinavia has become that of the four Rs: reduce, reuse, rehome, and recycle – a waste management hierarchy.

I’ll be the first to admit, Scandinavia’s model – no matter how wonderful – requires a lot of government and corporate buy-in. It will take a lot for many countries to get to where the Scandinavian countries are in this aspect of combatting climate change. Especially when government-managed companies are not transparent about where the recycling goes. Let’s look at Sweden as an example. In Sweden, waste is separated into two sections: combustible materials used for waste energy and biodegradable waste for biogas extraction and compost. The recyclables are separate from the municipal-managed combustibles and biodegradables and it is up to the consumer to decide how much and to what extent they recycle.

The important thing, though, is how waste separation has become part of Sweden’s culture of reducing the impact on the earth. Here are some tips to adapt if you haven’t already done so and to share worldwide (when possible).

1.  Know what cannot be recycled

Things like takeaway cups, disposable nappies, polystyrene, disposable batteries, bubble wrap, medical waste, oils, ceramics, ovenware, and light bulbs cannot go into the separator bins. The list is quite exhaustive and disheartening. However, there are dedicated recycling points for some of these such as batteries and light bulbs. This is where the first R comes in: Reduce.

Reducing our non-recyclable waste will have a large impact on the environment in the long run. Obviously, we can’t avoid using light bulbs, but we can switch to rechargeable batteries, say no to polystyrene, use our own takeaway cups, and avoid buying ceramics as much as we can.

2. Reuse in the home, at school, or work

Whatever is going begging at home can possibly be reused elsewhere. Things like jars can be reused until they break and don’t need to go into the bin. Switching to produce packaged in glass means you’ll have also have better options for storage of other items. Packaging can be used for storage at school or work, or as gift wrap, thus eliminating paper wrapping. Clothes can be handed down or used again and again, especially the clothing you use at home or to clean the house. Broken ceramics can be ground up to use as a base for composting or decor around the house in potted plants.

3. Rehoming old things and buying second-hand

In 2017, about 80% of the global population regularly utilised second-hand goods. With the number of second-hand stores and the arrival of the thrift revolution, that number is probably higher now. Unfortunately, the majority of that statistic is due to people not being able to afford new things; used items are cheaper, more readily available in many parts of the world, and in some case the only option.

Large-scale production is energy- and resource-intensive and depends on there being a market. If we thrifted instead, there might be a knock-on effect with industry. There isn’t a single piece of brand-new furniture in my apartment. Second-hand shops are the first stop when buying, and it’s easy to see why, even with IKEA’s prevalence. And if you’re getting rid of stuff, rehome them instead of throwing them away or recycling.

4. Recycle properly

Part of the problem is that not all countries have proper guidance on separating waste and that recycling stations are few and far between. If not collected by the government find your local recycling point and make it part of your travel route.

Paper and cardboard, metals, glass, and plastics should each have their own bin outside the house.

Biowaste such as compostable waste and food waste can be taken to the garden and put in a compost heap. If you do not have a garden, maybe you can take it to your parents or some friends.

Electrical and electronic waste should be taken to recycling stations that collect this.  

Textiles can be rehomed through nearby second hand or thrift stores.

I also recently discovered that sex toys can be recycled. Yes, you read that right.

Living an eco-friendly life takes a bit of effort, but is possible everywhere. Knowledge is power and we can all do our bit to help our planet by doing research on where and how to reduce, reuse, rehome, and recycle.

The problem with many vital products is that they are hard to dispose of. The culture in Scandinavia has become that of the four Rs: reduce, reuse, rehome, and recycle – a waste management hierarchy.

I’ll be the first to admit, Scandinavia’s model – no matter how wonderful – requires a lot of government and corporate buy-in. It will take a lot for many countries to get to where the Scandinavian countries are in this aspect of combatting climate change. Especially when government-managed companies are not transparent about where the recycling goes. Let’s look at Sweden as an example. In Sweden, waste is separated into two sections: combustible materials used for waste energy and biodegradable waste for biogas extraction and compost. The recyclables are separate from the municipal-managed combustibles and biodegradables and it is up to the consumer to decide how much and to what extent they recycle.

The important thing, though, is how waste separation has become part of Sweden’s culture of reducing the impact on the earth. Here are some tips to adapt if you haven’t already done so and to share worldwide (when possible).

1.  Know what cannot be recycled

Things like takeaway cups, disposable nappies, polystyrene, disposable batteries, bubble wrap, medical waste, oils, ceramics, ovenware, and light bulbs cannot go into the separator bins. The list is quite exhaustive and disheartening. However, there are dedicated recycling points for some of these such as batteries and light bulbs. This is where the first R comes in: Reduce.

Reducing our non-recyclable waste will have a large impact on the environment in the long run. Obviously, we can’t avoid using light bulbs, but we can switch to rechargeable batteries, say no to polystyrene, use our own takeaway cups, and avoid buying ceramics as much as we can.

2. Reuse in the home, at school, or work

Whatever is going begging at home can possibly be reused elsewhere. Things like jars can be reused until they break and don’t need to go into the bin. Switching to produce packaged in glass means you’ll have also have better options for storage of other items. Packaging can be used for storage at school or work, or as gift wrap, thus eliminating paper wrapping. Clothes can be handed down or used again and again, especially the clothing you use at home or to clean the house. Broken ceramics can be ground up to use as a base for composting or decor around the house in potted plants.

3. Rehoming old things and buying second-hand

In 2017, about 80% of the global population regularly utilised second-hand goods. With the number of second-hand stores and the arrival of the thrift revolution, that number is probably higher now. Unfortunately, the majority of that statistic is due to people not being able to afford new things; used items are cheaper, more readily available in many parts of the world, and in some case the only option.

Large-scale production is energy- and resource-intensive and depends on there being a market. If we thrifted instead, there might be a knock-on effect with industry. There isn’t a single piece of brand-new furniture in my apartment. Second-hand shops are the first stop when buying, and it’s easy to see why, even with IKEA’s prevalence. And if you’re getting rid of stuff, rehome them instead of throwing them away or recycling.

4. Recycle properly

Part of the problem is that not all countries have proper guidance on separating waste and that recycling stations are few and far between. If not collected by the government find your local recycling point and make it part of your travel route.

Paper and cardboard, metals, glass, and plastics should each have their own bin outside the house.

Biowaste such as compostable waste and food waste can be taken to the garden and put in a compost heap. If you do not have a garden, maybe you can take it to your parents or some friends.

Electrical and electronic waste should be taken to recycling stations that collect this.  

Textiles can be rehomed through nearby second hand or thrift stores.

I also recently discovered that sex toys can be recycled. Yes, you read that right.

Living an eco-friendly life takes a bit of effort, but is possible everywhere. Knowledge is power and we can all do our bit to help our planet by doing research on where and how to reduce, reuse, rehome, and recycle.

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