Sunday, 13 July 2008

Photo courtesy of Seema

I have great admiration for people who show amazing resourcefulness.  I always get excited when I find a new and often bizarre use for so-called useless items.  One place I have found to be one step ahead of the game is Mumbai.  Not because they want to be trendy 'green eco warriors' or because their local supermarket promotes 'green', not even because they care about the environment, they probably don't even know what a carbon footprint is, but because they have no choice.  It's reuse, recycle, over and over again because of necessity.  In the slums, one mans waste is another mans home.  An old tyre is a great substitute for the sole of a shoe. Have you ever fixed an umbrella before?  Did you just throw it in the nearest bin and buy a new one?

I remember reading this wonderful article in National Geographic about Dharavi slum in Mumbai.   
By the mucky industrial canal, the recyclers are in full swing. In Dharavi nothing is considered garbage. Ruined plastic toys are tossed into massive grinders, chopped into tiny pieces, melted down into multicolored pellets, ready to be refashioned into knockoff Barbie dolls. Here every cardboard box or 55-gallon (208 liters) oil drum has another life, and another one after that.

I have taken up Jennifer's challenge to limit our rubbish to one bag a week.  The 2 main problems I face when throwing away our waste are:

1) We don't have any means to compost.  No garden means nowhere to use the compost.  I'm looking into other ways to solve this problem, a wormery maybe!

2)  Nappies:  I use 70% biodegradable Nature nappies, the little Angel's down to about 3 a day now, she spends most of her time a home 'au natural'. 

I had a look on the local council website to see if there is anything I'm missing when it comes to recycling and I found this advice, it's quite straight forward and logical, but something that I think we all could be reminded of:

The 3 Rs of recycling 

Reduce, Re-use and Recycle are all ways of reducing the amount of waste to be sent to landfill. They are also known as the waste hierarchy.

Reduce - reducing how much waste we accumulate is the first step. This can be achieved by selecting items with the least packaging and wherever possible, buying better quality items which last a lot longer.

Reuse - the second step is to re-use items instead of throwing them away. Passing items on, repairing, or adapting them for other uses. For example re-using ice cream containers as sandwich boxes or yoghurt pots as plant pots takes materials from the waste stream. Many items such as clothes or unwanted gifts can be passed on to family and friends or given to charity shops. Unwanted furniture can be given to voluntary organisations. Alternatively, a car boot sale is a good way to re-circulate unwanted items.

Recycle - by always ensuring that what can be recycled is recycled then amounts of waste needing disposal is significantly reduced.