We are never in short supply of waste. We produce it every day; both economic and human waste. These wastes can pose big health and economic problems if not handled properly. Most times we do it almost unconsciously. When the wind toss a plastic bag in the air for example, it is good to note that the piece of worthless plastic will outlive us for hundreds of years— it will live long enough to accumulate and consequently cause many environmental problems in the world we’ll leave behind. This can be quite worrisome but, if we realise that those products can always be recycled or reused to our favour, they wouldn’t have to pose a problem after all. In fact, the wastes that lie about are all potential beauty around us; if we look keenly enough. People have been able to make furniture, art works, and other household items from used product. The list of items that can’t be recycled is, luckily for us, quite short and through the advancement in recycling technology; the option to make our planet waste free now lies safely on our lap.
For the past few years, we at SOFER Initiative have been on the frontline of curbing the menace of Ghost Gears in riverine communities, sensitizing people on the proper ways of disposing worn out or damaged fishing gears. We have also organised workshops to teach people how old gears can be converted into usable items such as foot mats, handbags, baskets, etc. Beautiful items with very good commercial value have been created through these exercises. Today being World Recycling Day, we are celebrating the Recycling Heroes who have created something beautiful out of waste, in a bid to inspire others to get creative and responsible, for the sake of our environment.
Basket made from old fish net during a SOFER Initiative Craft Workshop
When we patronize products made from recycled materials, we are in a very big way supporting a green environment. For some products, it is even more economical to recycle— For example, recycling steel can save at least 75% of the energy it would take to create it from raw materials. We can support recycling starting from the clothes we wear. Old bed sheets and apparels we no longer need can be donated to charity or given to the naked bodied street children sprawling some street corners. There are scrap metal dealers everywhere as well. We can take our used aluminium cans and other used metal based products to them. This way, we reduce the risk of it finding its way into open canals and posing problems in future.
We can make conscious efforts to avoid products made from plastics; replace our plastic kitchen wares or boxes with stainless steel that can last over ten years than a plastic would. If you live in a community where there is no curbside collection of plastic bags for recycling, you could get creative and remake them into other items, such as rope strands for drying of clothes, plastic bag bracelets, plastic flowers and even plastic beads. Companies and individuals can also help by reducing their usage of unnecessary plastic bags because they contain harmful chemicals and can also end up in the oceans
Batteries are filled with toxic materials which could cause great harm to our environment. We can curb this by going green and buying rechargeable batteries instead. In some countries, there are some companies that collect used batteries for safe recycling. Even electronics these days can be recycled. We could make our old gadgets available to companies who need them rather than throwing them in the nearest thrash bin.
The government can also help by implementing recycling for organic wastes, especially in populated areas, set up websites according to cities that handles the issue of waste collection and recycling. They could also make a policy which mandates manufacturers to indicate through an icon how any disposable item can be disposed or taken for recycling. Recycle trash bins could be placed strategically in public places such as churches, schools, parks, etc. They could also make sure manufacturers use recyclable materials for packaging of disposable items.
Furthermore, they could make environmental education a mandatory subject for students across board, as well as encourage companies to carry out sensitization on waste management for their staff from time to time. The war against bad waste management can be won but that will only be when we all become Recycle Heroes by reducing the waste we produce, creatively reusing the items we can, and making the rest available for recycling.