According to the National Geographic, humans produce over 3 million tons of solid waste…. Every. Single. Day. That’s a staggering amount! That’s not even counting what we pour down our sinks, toilets and shower drains. You’d be amazed at what people put down there, too. In fact, a ‘monster fatberg’ was removed from London’s sewers not long ago. It weighed over 100 tons and was made up of baby wipes, nappies, q-tips and even condoms!
Human waste has been found on virtually every corner of the globe; it enters our seas and turns up in the most remote of places. Our waste, plastic especially, is harming wildlife all over the world. Animals are being caught in it, they’re ingesting it and they’re dying as a result. In this day in age, when we’re more aware of how our behaviour is affecting wildlife than ever before, isn’t it our duty to do something about it?
We’re capable of cutting down our waste, most of us just choose not to. It’s easy to blame the government and the manufacturers of our everyday products, but the change can easily start with you. Malta’s new garbage system is a step in the right direction, so now you can do your bit by separating your landfill waste from your recycling and organic waste. However, that’s pretty much the bare minimum you can do. In addition to sorting your waste, there are plenty of ways you can cut down your waste. Just being more aware of how much your household produces will get you thinking about it. After all, ‘awareness leads to action and action leads to change’.
A great place to start is at the supermarket. Bring your own bags! Not only will this save you money, as most supermarkets now charge for carrier bags, but it will also save the planet! If you need some encouragement, you can listen to Tim Minchin. His catchy song will forever remind you to take your canvas bags to the supermarket. ‘Why use plastic ones,’ he says, ‘when you know the world can’t take it?’. Canvas bags are stronger than plastic ones, they’re usually bigger and they are reusable! There’s no excuse, really. You can find cute, cheap canvas bags all over the place. Keep them in your car, honestly, or in your handbag. You won’t believe the number of times you’ll have to quickly pop to the store and realise you’ve forgotten to bring a bag. Try to keep one on you all the time – you can buy fantastic ones nowadays that can literally squash into your pocket.
There are many people who are trying to go ‘zero waste’ and who are blogging about their experience. You can follow them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for some inspiration. One thing many of them advocate for is reusable vegetable bags, too. At the supermarket, there are usually rolls of plastic bags available for you to use for your greens. Some stores offer biodegradable veggie bags but not all of them. Instead of using a plastic bag for each piece of fruit or each vegetable, put them all in one. Or, even better, get yourself some cloth bags! You can now buy cloth bags for your veggies that are practically weightless and washable. As Tim Minchin would say, ‘don’t you use those plastic ones, no no no…’!
Pay attention to the packaging when you shop. If you’re buying orange juice, for example, why not purchase the orange juice in the recyclable bottle instead of in the tetra pak? Tetra paks are notoriously difficult to recycle, so many recycling plants don’t even accept them. It might feel counterintuitive to buy orange juice in a plastic bottle when you’re trying to cut down on plastic waste, but at least you can rinse the plastic bottle out and put it in the recycling! Again, just by being aware, you can help yourself change. When you pick an item up, look and the packaging and think, ‘can I recycle this, or can I repurpose this?’. If the answer is no, see if you can buy the same product but packaged in a recyclable alternative.
Recycling doesn’t just have to be confined to your metal, plastic and glass. What about your old clothes, your old books and your old electronics? Don’t throw them away! Ask around your friends and family, maybe someone will want what you’re getting rid of. Old electronics, phones, TVs, tablets etc., can be sold to help pay for your upgrade. If no one you know wants your old clothes, books, furniture, why not donate them? There are many charity shops over Malta and Gozo to which you can donate your unwanted belongings.
In Malta, most people don’t use tap water for drinking or cooking. It’s perfectly safe, but it doesn’t taste particularly nice. Bottled water is everywhere, and everybody uses it. It’s recommended for us to drink 2 litres of water every day. That’s one big plastic bottle per day per person! Added up, that’s 7 plastic bottles a week and 365 plastic bottles a year! Why not get a dispenser at home? There will be an initial cost for the dispenser, but you can buy a really simple one that the bottle just stands on. Otherwise, if you have a bit more money, you can buy fancy dispensers that cool and heat the water. In any case, many companies deliver big bottles of water to your door. This will save you money in the long run, and dramatically reduce your plastic waste! One big 40l bottle is equivalent to over 2 weeks’ worth of smaller plastic bottles. Plus, most companies pick up the empties and refill them. Bingo!
These are just a few small changes that won’t cost you much money or effort. Just a little foresight and thinking ahead is all it takes to make a big impact on the amount of rubbish you throw away. Get your friends and colleagues involved. You can keep each other motivated and maybe start a friendly competition! You’ll be surprised how quickly you get used to it, and you’ll feel better for doing your bit for the planet.