In many western countries there are many recycling facilities – which is good – and people use them a lot – which is good, but I worry that it encourages an attitude of “I can keep doing what I want and using what resources I want – as they can be recycled”. Recycling in itself uses a lot of energy and resources and things like paper and plastic degenerate in quality as they are recycled, so your plastic containers end up being dumped anyway – or floating in the ocean. Glass and metal are the 2 that maintain their quality so are good choices for recycling.
However, here in Plateau, Nigeria its hard to find recycling facilities. Some markets have scrap metal collection points which are good options for tins, razor blades etc. I have heard that there may be a place for recycling glass but I haven’t found it yet (any tips?). Another idea I had was to give broken glass to a security company so they can use it on the top of their walls – but I am still looking for one to donate to!
The “3 R’s” of the dealing with waste are Reduce, Re-use, Recycle. So even though recycling is good, its the last option.
Reducing waste is vital! Can’t find your scrap metal dealer? Don’t buy tin cans! Forgo tuna and enjoy delicious local fish ready cooked from a local stall. Worried about fumes when you burn your plastic rubbish? Don’t buy plastic! Shop for things “to measure” in the market and carry it home in your own re-usable cloth bags.
Africa is brilliant at this! So many items are repaired, re-purposed; so many plastic drink bottles re-used to sell oils, honey etc.
If you need to start slowly, pick one item that you currently buy in packaging and aim to buy it in the market “to measure” in a re-usable bag. Or, think of one packaged item and how you could either do without it, or replace it with a market “to measure” item.
You will notice that you are buying healthier food – so as well as the environment being helped, you health with improve too!