Reduce, recycle, reuse. These were the first 3Rs we got used to over a decade ago. Then they became 5R, 6R and finally 7R, that is, seven concepts that start with the letter R and that seek to awaken our consciences to produce less waste.
Valuing Waste: yes, it is possible
The circular economy points the way to get there through the combination of various activities. Forget the “use it and throw it away”. Reuse packaging, recycle clothing, rethink purchases and fix objects instead of getting rid of them. It’s good for the environment and it’s fashionable. What are the R’s that promise to change the planet for the better? So far there are 7. To the first three other words starting with R were added. All in the name of a healthier planet. The first 3Rs that were born at the beginning of the 21st century were the starting point for the need to look at waste in a different way.
Reducing consists of consuming fewer products or resources to also reduce the amount of waste that is produced. But we are not talking about ceasing to consume and not satisfying their needs, but about avoid unnecessary consumption.
In addition to consuming less, another way to reduce the amount of waste is giving nnew uses for materials and products. It is the same as saying to use them more than once. They become useful again. A good example of what reuse means is, for example, what we do with ready-to-eat packaging or yogurts we bring from the supermarket. Then, we can choose to put them in the trash or reuse them for other purposes until they are in good condition.
What if, after going to the trash can, that packaging could still be used to produce new packaging or other objects? So that’s what recycling really means. After the object becomes waste for us consumers and goes to the trash, can still become useful for the production chain, enter the system again and give rise to new objects as raw material. For example, recycled paper and plastic are made from plastic and cardboard objects that are deposited in recycling bins and then go back to the production system. Also read: 5 websites to learn more about sustainability
A few years later it was introduced another R, for Rethink. The idea behind this concept is to make consumers aware of the relevance and urgency of their purchases according to the information they have at their disposal. Why do I buy product A and not product B? I used to buy product A, but product B is more environmentally friendly so I’m going to rethink my consumption and this attitude may make me choose product B now.
Thinking consumption can also mean Refusing. Do I really need this product? Can I refuse to consume it because it does not significantly increase my satisfaction? We may also use products that use materials such as disposable plastics and non-recyclable products. When shopping, for example, we can use the shopping bags we already have at home instead of buying new bags every time you go shopping.
The purpose of repair is to prolong the life of objects through of the respective repair. The consumer should choose to seek repairs instead of throwing it away and buying a new one. It could be a pair of shoes or a cell phone. In the case of electronic equipment this makes even more sense because they contain extremely polluting and rare materials, so buying new equipment means an additional consumption of the planet’s resources.
Its consumption may not be able to prevent damage to the environment, but can reward the environment for these damages. For example, you can help to plant more trees in order to reduce your environmental footprint. You can also opt for long-lasting products such as rechargeable batteries, products with as little packaging as possible and designed to be used several times.
Ecovalor: a new way of looking at waste
Ecovalor is a benefit that helps to finance the Integrated Used Tire Management System (SGPU), developed by Valorpneu, and thus benefit the environment and the lives of all of us. When buying a new tire, Ecovalor ensures that old tires are not left unattended, thus ensuring a reduction in the amount of waste produced, adverse impacts on the environment and also on human health.
Extended producer responsibility
The extended producer responsibility means that he has financial responsibility for the management of his own products from their conception when they become waste (life cycle management). Thus, the producer must be encouraged to promote changes in its design in order to generate less waste in its production and subsequent use, allow for the reuse and recycling of products and ensure that the resulting waste is treated in accordance with the principles of protection of human health and the environment and the hierarchy of waste.
The right to reparation
The European Union Right to Repair Directive says that producers have a duty to repair products, especially electronic equipment such as mobile phones, computers or household appliances. This directive was introduced in 2020.
Its objectives are: To encourage sustainable consumption choices and promote a culture of reuse; Increase the possibility of repair and the useful life of the products; Call for the introduction of a common charger to reduce the production of electronic waste; Systematic changes needed: from production and public procurement to advertising and waste management.
Simple strategies to better manage your waste
Whenever possible, opt for the use of e-mails and online means of communication, instead of using paper; Use both sides of the sheet and with minimal margins if you really need to print on paper; Reuse sheets of paper as a draft; Replace plastic cups with mugs or other longer-lasting materials; Foster the practice of correctly separating waste; Offer gifts without wrapping paper and that are made from recycled or reused materials. Also read: 13 tips to eliminate waste. Have you entered the fight of the decade?
Portugal still does not meet waste management goals
THE circular economy is nothing more than the joint promotion of the 3Rs to the 7Rs so that we can have a world, a planet and a brighter future. Unfortunately, the goals are not encouraging and require a joint effort from everyone. According to INE – National Statistics Institute and APA – Portuguese Environment Agency, the targets to reduce and recycle waste are far from being met.
Therefore, in 2020 the distribution of waste by the different waste management operations in Portugal was alarming. Of all the waste produced: 55% goes to landfill, 17% is incinerated, 15% is organically recovered and only 13% is recycled. According to the same sources, we continue to produce much more waste than the established target (we produce more than 500 kilos of waste per inhabitant per year, when the target would be 410 kilos).
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