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Learning the 3R’s: Reduce, reuse, recycle |

Health And Family

Learning the 3R’s: Reduce, reuse, recycle

CONSUMERLINE - Ching M. Alano - The Philippine Star
Learning the 3Râs: Reduce, reuse, recycle

Yes, you may have mastered the three Rs — reading, ’riting, ’rithmetic — in school, but you probably still have a lot to learn about the other three Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle.

Like it or not, we do accumulate a lot of stuff over the years. There are people who hoard books and magazines bought at sales here and abroad, which they often never get to read and are just gathering dust at home. Then there are those who buy clothes and shoes and bags just because they’re on sale — and forget about them later. They even buy clothes that are two or three sizes smaller, hoping their magic diet would work and they could fit into these clothes in the future. Rule of thumb here: Get rid of or retire what you have never used after a year or two. Donate to charity or members of your household who can put them to good use.

A lot of us may have accumulated stuff that we can no longer keep, maybe due to lack of space, transfer of residence (downsizing for empty nesters), product obsolescence or maybe because it’s just not practical to keep them.  Should we simply throw them away?  Tossing them into the bin is not the smartest (or most earth-friendly) thing to do.  The things you dispose of may be temporarily “out of (your) sight, out of (your) mind,” but not permanently.   Remember that the stuff we throw has to go somewhere. 
Didn’t the late educator Barry Commoner, author of The Four Laws of Ecology, say that “everything must go somewhere”? For instance, Commoner cited the case of a household battery to explain “where does it go.”  He writes: “A dry-cell battery containing mercury is purchased, used to the point of exhaustion, and then ‘thrown out.’ But where does it really go? First, it is placed in a container of rubbish; this is collected and taken to an incinerator. Here the mercury is heated; this produces mercury vapor, which is emitted by the incinerator stack, and mercury vapor is toxic. Mercury vapor is carried by the wind, eventually brought to earth in rain or snow. Entering a mountain lake, let us say, the mercury condenses and sinks to the bottom. Here, it is acted on by bacteria which convert it to methyl mercury. This is soluble and taken up by fish; since it is not metabolized, the mercury accumulates in the organs and flesh of the fish. The fish is caught and eaten by a man and the mercury becomes deposited in his organs, where it might be harmful. And so on.”
For her part, environmentalist Tessa Oliva of Green Convergence and Miriam College writes in the book Seven Lenses, “Efforts must be exerted so that garbage can go where it becomes a resource instead of a hazard.”  “Everything goes somewhere,” she stresses, must be the guiding principle in the ecological management of what we use and later discard.
Do you want to know where our unwanted stuff should go? To begin with, our unwanted stuff should not simply end up in distant dumpsites far from our sight where it could cause air, soil, and water pollution. Thus, proponents for zero waste resource management from the EcoWaste Coalition have come up with some ideas on how to get rid of unwanted stuff without aggravating our environmental woes, as follows:

• Hold a garage sale for your unwanted clothes, beddings, sporting goods, furniture, home decorations, equipment, e-gadgets, etc. that others may find useful.  Arrange them accordingly, with matching price tags.  Promote the event among your neighbors, churchmates, and friends to get a good crowd.  You may even plan for a bigger ukay-ukay sale involving more households with stuff to dispose of.   
• Sell your unwanted stuff online.  Check the Internet for online platforms where you can post and sell your stuff, including gently-used and pre-loved stuff that budget-conscious consumers, buy-and-sell entrepreneurs, as well as avid collectors may like to purchase.
• Swap unwanted stuff with your colleagues, relatives, friends, and others.  You can prepare a list of things that you wanted to swap in exchange for things that you need.  Share the list with others and wait for takers.  In the Nordic countries of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, environmental groups led by the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation have been holding clothes swapping events with impressive results.  In 2016, for instance, some 58,000 garments changed hands, which is really good for the environment.
• Another nice option would be to give up items “you no longer need, have too much of, or about to throw away” to Segunda Mana, the special donations-in-kind program of Caritas Manila.  Call 243-7171/ 243-7172 / 562-0020 to 25 extension 140 or 141 / 564-0205 / 09298343857, or visit for details.  Segunda Mana stores and some churches have drop boxes for your donations.
• Donate old books to your alma mater, public libraries, day care centers and charities.  Teachers, students, researchers, bookworms, and others in search of knowledge and wisdom will surely love to receive textbooks, children’s books, coffee table books, travel guides, pocket books, cookbooks, and prayer books in good condition.  Please consider supporting the Taguig City-based Books for a Cause through your book donations (telephone 0929-8082664). This advocacy, which seeks “to provide precious knowledge to every Filipino,” recently turned over donated books for the inmates of Manila City Jail.

• Give your glossy art, automobile, and lifestyle magazines to your favorite beauty salon, barbershop, massage and spa shop for other customers to browse and read.  Or give these magazines to people’s organizations that turn used paper into creative and eco-friendly bags and accessories like the Samahan ng Muling Pagkabuhay Multi-Purpose Cooperative based at Smokey Mountain, Tondo, Manila (telephone 254-1866).  
• For unwanted stuff that cannot be used, sold or donated such as spent fluorescent lamps, used household and phone batteries, busted TVs, and other waste electronics or e-waste, store them safely and contact the authorities for advice.
Spent light bulbs such as the energy-efficient but mercury-containing compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) should be safely stored to avoid breakage that can cause mercury vapor inside the glass tube to escape and contaminate the surroundings.

Safely store used batteries, do not put them on fire or mix various battery types to avoid leakage and explosion.
Do not put busted cathode ray tube (CRT) TVs (as well as computers) in the trash.  CRTs contain loads of highly toxic and poisonous substances, including lead, cadmium, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), and other chemicals of concern, and should be disposed of in an environmentally-sound manner. 
If you have collected considerable volume of special waste like spent lamps, batteries and CRTs to be disposed of, do seek advice from your city environment and natural resources officer (CENRO), or call the National Solid Waste Management Commission at 920-2252 or the Environmental Management Bureau at 920-2232 for referral to an accredited transport, storage, and disposal (TSD) facility.  Open dumping and open burning of discards, especially those containing toxic and hazardous substances like e-waste, are a no-no, the EcoWaste Coalition reminds everyone.

• Finally, why not consider “upcycling” your unwanted stuff?  There are many ways of finding new uses for empty glass jam jars, CDs/DVDs, worn-out pants and shorts, old pillow cases, etc., which can be transformed into decorative or functional items.  Instead of dumping or burning your junk, give them a new lease on life by creatively reusing them.

Hope you don’t throw away these ideas and take these lessons to heart.

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