Three R's for Sustainability: Reduce, Repair and Recycle
Sunnuntai 7.4.2019 klo 16:41 - Mikko Nikinmaa
Three R's are a principle in the use of experimental animals. However, there are very different three R's that would be highly appropriate for controlling how we utilize the Earth - Reduce, Repair and Recycle. By applying them properly we could decrease the material flow quite easily to one tenth of what it is now.
1. Reduce. In our societies overpackaging is the rule. Quite often, e.g. bisquits are first in cardboard box, which is divided into two by plastic cover, inside which individual bisquits are further wrapped in plastic cover. We ourselves continue this overpackaging by, e.g., putting bananas in (plastic) bags, although the pricetag could easily be placed on the fruit itself. One can quite easily find possibilities for reducing material without reducing functionality in virtually everything we use. The possibilities are immense.
2. Repair. During recent past it has been common that instead of repairing a broken machine (I include TVs, computers, phones, printers etc. in this in addition to dishwashers, fridges, washing machines and freezers) it has been cheaper to buy a new appliance. This is certainly not sustainable. When we were poorer in 1950's and 60's the household machines were invariably repaired many times. The EU is now making a repair directive in an effort to facilitate slower turnover of household machines.
3. Recycle. Since apart from packaging the amout of materials is not really increasing any more, all the materials used in them could be reused to make similar products. This would significantly decrease the need for mining thus reducing the environmental destruction. It could also be cheaper than making the metal from low quality ore. In recycling, the best possible case is, if the recycled product can be reused as it is. In this regard, returnable flasks are the best, when the same product can again be placed in the bottle. In this case no energy is used for remolding the material for new use. It is also quite funny that since plastics recycling is not very effective, there is not enough material for factories using recycled plastics as raw material.
By using the three Rs, the use of materials could become sustainable. As estimated in the beginning, one could require only one tenth of the material as compared to today. A reduction in material requirement could easily be three-fold, product life length doubled and recycling doubled or tripled.