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What is reduce, reuse and recycle? It is useful for something?


On World Recycling Day, everything you need to know about three key practices in the face of the serious pollution problem facing the planet.

A worker poses with bottle caps collected in exchange for city bus tickets in Surabaya on March 3, 2022, before being resold to plastic recycling factories.

(Photo by JUNI KRISWANTO/AFP) (Photo by JUNI KRISWANTO/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNN Spanish) --

It is impossible to sustain the lifestyle we lead today in the long term: the demand for natural resources is already at a maximum, continues to increase and, according to UN data, if the population continues to grow as expected predicts, by 2050 we could need the equivalent of three planets to meet our demands.

But we are not helpless in the face of this gloomy scenario, we can contribute through three key actions: reduce, reuse, recycle.

This May 17th, Recycling Day is celebrated, an opportunity to raise awareness about an omnipresent practice in public discourse, but which, at least in numerical terms, has not given the result that many would expect, since, for example, only 9% of all the plastic waste that has been generated in history has been recycled.

On the occasion of this commemoration, we take the opportunity to explain three concepts linked to waste management that are intrinsically related and that we sometimes confuse: reduce, reuse and recycle (and the order in which we explain them to you is not by chance).

And we answer one of the key questions: how useful is it really?

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Change the way you buy clothes.

According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD, for its acronym in English), the fashion industry is the second most polluting in the world and produces more carbon emissions than all international flights and maritime shipments combined.

Credit: Don Emmert/AFP via Getty Images

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What can you do?

Avoid “fast fashion”, buy less, buy clothes from sustainable brands, second-hand clothes or rent, donate and recycle clothes.

Some stores take used clothing — from the brand — or take it to a textile recycling center.

Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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Reduce your meat consumption.

According to a study conducted by the scientific journal Scientific Reports, if everyone in the US reduced their consumption of meat — beef, pork and poultry — by a quarter and substituted plant proteins, we would save about 82 million metric tons of GHG.

By opting for a vegetarian diet, we would save 330 million tons of GHG per year.

Credit: ROMEO GACAD/AFP via Getty Images

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Reduce your consumption of single-use plastics.

Reducing the use of single-use plastics is the most effective means of avoiding this waste.

Bringing your own cloth bags to the supermarket and using reusable bottles is a way to avoid these plastics on a daily basis.

Credit: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

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Modify the way you transport yourself.

Private cars generate 18% of CO2 emissions, according to the World Health Organization.

Therefore, choosing any other means of transport, or sharing a car or using public transport, generates a positive change.

The bicycle is the best transport option because it does not generate emissions, beyond those produced in its manufacture.

Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

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Choose efficient vehicles.

If you have to use a car, a hybrid or electric type will help you save gas and money.

Before you buy a new car, check its gas mileage on this page.

Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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Travel less by plane.

Aviation, including domestic and international passenger and cargo flights, contributes about 2% of global carbon emissions.

Reducing the number of flights and opting for the use of trains is a better alternative.

Credit: COOPER NEILL/AFP via Getty Images

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Use smart technology in your home.

Invest in more sustainable appliances, for example by using smart thermostats, more efficient air conditioners and switching from incandescent bulbs to LED lighting.

Look for the Energy Star seal to find out which ones are the most efficient.

Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

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Opt for renewable energy.

If you have the option, switch your electricity service to a company that generates at least half of its energy through renewable sources, or one that has the Green-e Energy certification.

Credit: Alfredo ESTRELLA / AFP via Getty Images

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Find out and spread the word.

Several organizations have educational resources so you can be active within your community and help create change.

For example, the Earth Day organization has several online resources.

Credit: Hector Vivas/Getty Images


One sentence perfectly sums up what reduction means in this context: the best waste is the one that is not generated.

Reducing, as UN-Habitat explains, is "avoiding the consumption of products that are really not necessary and that also carry elements that will become garbage in a very short time."

This practice must be understood in the context of two key figures: 11,200 tons of solid waste are collected each year, according to the UN;

and the disintegration of its organic fraction is responsible for about 5% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

The logic of reducing consumption, by the way, goes beyond products that will later become waste and applies, for example, to resources such as water and energy.

  • The 7 tips you need to save water from home


Reuse, as UN-Habitat explains, consists of "giving a second use to those products that are no longer useful for the task for which they were acquired or repairing them so that they can continue to fulfill their function".

Reuse is making its way into many industries, including fashion — the world's second-polluting industry, producing more carbon emissions than all international flights and shipping combined, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development. —, where second-hand clothing sales have grown steadily and are expected to reach $64 billion in sales by 2024, according to a report by ThredUp and GlobalData.

  • Sustainable fashion: how to consume clothes more consciously


Recycling, meanwhile, involves treating the waste for use in other products.

This process requires the intervention of several parties: in households, waste must be correctly classified based on the systems of each city, then deposited in the corresponding places, from there it is transferred to recycling plants and, finally, the matter that comes out after the process that is carried out in other products is used.

This allows, in conclusion, to extend the useful life of the waste.

From Japanese paper to English ashes, some milestones in the history of reuse and recycling

There is a belief that recycling as we now conceive it originated in Japan, according to WWF Chile in this article.

There, they explain, around the year 1030 "began the first reuse of discarded paper of which there is a record".

Until then, the materials to make the paper came from plants such as hemp (with one caveat: it seems certain that the Chinese already used paper recovery beforehand), says WWF).

In England the first "professional recyclers" emerged in the Victorian era: they collected dust and ashes from house fires.

What was it used for?

The expansion of London, they explain, caused there to be a great demand for coal ashes to make bricks, while in the agricultural industries they were used as fertilizers.

A third milestone in the history of recycling took place in the United States' fight for independence, where metals, fabrics, and other materials were reused to "support military efforts."

It was in the United States, precisely in Chicago and Cleveland, where around 1900 the first aluminum recycling facilities began to operate.

Pandemic helps improve recycling habits in the US 3:08

Is recycling the solution to the pollution problem?

Recycling is one of the actions promoted, for decades, at multiple levels ranging from international organizations to local governments.

However, many wonder if it can really solve the problem of pollution caused by waste.

Let's take a specific case: plastic, which represents 85% of the waste that ends up in the oceans, according to a key report published by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in October 2021, and whose presence in the seas will almost triple by 2040 according to forecasts.

For that year (which is closer than we think) there will be the equivalent of 50 kg of plastic per meter of coastline.

That report emphasizes that, to tackle the problem, what is necessary is a "drastic reduction of unnecessary, avoidable and problematic plastic", according to the UN.

Reduction: that's the key word.

The authors of the study, says the agency, "reject that recycling is the way out", pointing to the low rates of this practice.

  • Only 20 companies produce half of the single-use plastic waste

The report states that the problem will not be solved with a strategy, but that the bet must be on "multiple synergistic interventions in the initial and final phases of the production and use of plastic".

In this framework, he points to actions that are already underway in different countries such as policies that promote circularity, "the gradual elimination of unnecessary, avoidable and problematic products and polymers", the use of fiscal tools such as taxes, the end to potentially harmful subsidies and the development of less polluting materials.

Humans, about to ingest plastic in our diet?


Where are we in this framework?

We need to generate, says the UN, a greater awareness as consumers to make the most responsible decisions aimed at reduction.

Greenpeace Spain, in a 2019 report that analyzes the difficulties in managing plastic packaging in the country and in which it concludes that recycling is not enough, explains it very clearly: we must reduce, reuse and, if there is no another option, to really recycle.

This is essential if we do not want our world to be covered in single-use plastic.


Source: cnnespanol

All news articles on 2022-05-17

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