Our mounting waste challenge lies in a buy-and-throw-away lifestyle. In the midst of affluence, asks To Kien, can we treatment ample to restore, reinvent and reuse our ‘old’ items?
SINGAPORE: The other working day I asked my son, a Major four student at a local community university: “Do you find out and do lower-reuse-recycle projects at university?” “Mostly recycling, daddy. We only do some recyclables collecting competitions,” he responded, to my shock.
Among the the a few ‘R’s, substantially extra focus is paid to recycling. It is vital, but not paramount.
This 12 months, we keep on to develop extra waste and at the exact time, the recycling charge has dropped. If this pattern persists, the Semakau landfill will be total by all around 2035.
So how can the Governing administration tell and teach individuals nicely, when some of us – these types of as the aged, youthful kids or maids – really don’t commonly use the pc, surf the internet, enjoy television or study the newspapers?
Fairly than recycling as a remedy for this predicament, we need to have to focus extra on waste avoidance and on chopping off extra at the resource, by practising what I get in touch with the Large Reduce.
The Large Reduce has 5Rs.
Reduce Variety 1: REFUSE, OR Chorus.
Let us refuse unnecessary gives chorus from providing in to our desires, and try to adhere to our requires.
We can be considerate in even small items, these types of as when we are about to improve a spoon and plate all through a catered food, take an extra straw, or obtain take-away foam boxes or plastic baggage.
The “buy 3 get 1 free” marketing is one of quite a few marketing techniques that motivate bulk acquire, fairly than obtaining what we need to have. (Image: To Kien)
As a researcher and educator in a design university, I like observing and pinpointing complications all around us. Sometimes, they spark numerous design ideas and options. I’ll share some of these to give food for believed.
For instance, to assist “refuse” our desires, app designers could produce a easy app for shopping that reminds us what we need to have to buy, and warns us about what we do not need to have by prompting our pre-recorded stock of all very similar products stored at home.
Reduce Variety two: WHEN WE Can’t REFUSE OR Chorus, Let us Reduce.
One particular of the Very first World complications is excessive consumerism and the “abundance society”. Numerous of us have extra shoes, baggage, home furniture or gadgets at home than we need to have and truly use.
There are developing signs, even so, that these types of mass consumerism is slowing thanks to demographic aging, economic slowdown, resource scarcity and so on and it is progressively becoming changed by the increase of the sharing economic climate and do-it-yourself (Diy) creation.
When we provide home a whole lot, then element in storage room, we will realise we are truly spending a whole lot, specially in the costly context of housing in Singapore.
Get a lot less, and inside designers can design extra inventive hybrid home furniture – these types of as sofa-mattress storage – for extra compact houses. This helps lower home furniture buys and, in the long run, cumbersome trash.
Sometimes, we close up throwing away expired food since we acquired it in bulk. France a short while ago handed a regulation that orders supermarkets to donate unconsumed food approaching greatest-just before dates to charity. Singapore can find out from this.
Watch: IT Figures on Meals Squander
When I was studying about the 3Rs on the Nationwide Ecosystem Agency’s web-site, one suggestion to lower waste bothered me: “Purchase products in bulk quantities”. I propose reviewing it.
As for how to spur Singaporeans to lower waste? A procedure of “pay as you throw” proposed by the NEA could work.
Noticed on the NEA’s web-site
Reduce Variety 3: REUSE.
One particular man’s waste, they say, is a different man’s treasure. In its place of throwing away items that are however usable, we could maintain garage revenue or give away products no extended wished to some others who need to have them.
I recall my childhood in Vietnam, when quite a few “đồng nát” (junk-customers, very similar to Singapore’s karung guni adult males) commonly patrolled the city to buy or accumulate just about every thing unused from households. You could listen to them coming with their melodic revenue chants and horns.
It is not only in decrease-income international locations, but also in some larger-income ones, that individuals practise this “reuse” lifestyle. Germany and Japan, wherever I examined, are examples.
One particular of my weekend pastimes in Germany was to check out flea markets. There I could locate not only incredibly fantastic bargains, but also quite a few beautiful and scarce family products from all around the earth to fulfill my collecting passion.
Made use of garments, textbooks, chairs and even washing devices at a flea sector in Geneva, Switzerland. (Image: To Kien)
In Japan, our kind host ran a campus bazaar to help overseas students like my spouse and me. When we experienced young ones, we ended up heartened when she gave us some of her children’s nice outdated garments that she experienced prudently saved – for fifteen decades.
2nd-hand outlets are well known – and as Japanese individuals use and hold their things incredibly cautiously, one can generally locate incredibly fantastic pre-beloved things in great wide range, and for a authentic cut price.
The outlets commonly have a minor workshop at the back wherever staff members buy utilised things and then cleanse, overhaul or beautify them on the spot. I recall one shop’s slogan: “We buy and market virtually every thing, apart from airplanes.”
A second-hand store in Japan, wherever one can locate just about something at a cut price. (Image: To Kien)
Singapore doesn’t have quite a few second-hand flea markets. The most well known one at Sungei Road will before long near.
When some neighbourhood ones are organised now and then by grassroots groups, we could prepare for extra of them on vacant items of lands or beneath-utilised pockets of room, and motivate people to participate.
We could give second-hand outlets a prospect much too, like those operate by the Salvation Army and the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations. Meanwhile, on the net listings like Gumtree and groups these types of as SgFreecycle or Singapore Actually Actually Free Market are helpful. They connect like-minded individuals and endorse a sharing and pooling lifestyle.
Marketed at Sungei Road’s Thieves’ sector. (Images: Ooi E book Keong)
Reduce Variety four: Repair service.
Restoring discourages our throwaway lifestyle and would make us benefit what we have.
Numerous outdated products, these types of as provides or souvenirs, carry reminiscences. We want to make use of them till they are actually unusable.
It is primarily since acquiring an product fixed could charge just about as substantially as obtaining a model-new version, that quite a few of us determine to take the second choice. This is why in Sweden, the authorities is now proposing tax breaks on repairs to every thing from shoes to washing devices, so that it would make economic sense to get broken items mounted.
My household cycles each day, and I commonly restore our loyal “two-wheeled friends”. But I have seen quite a few bicycles thrown away just since of small faults, these types of as an interior tube puncture.
I repair my personal bicycles, here on my patio. (Image: To Kien)
It is fantastic if anyone in the household can repair items. The pleasure we get when we thrive in creatively repairing one thing on our personal is great. But if no one in the household has the competencies, it would be great if we could take the things to a nearby “fix hub”.
My idea is to have one in each individual precinct, found in a neighborhood club or centre. This network could hyperlink up with the emerging makerspace motion in Singapore, so that men and women can share their competencies and assets these types of as room, resources and surplus resources.
At a the latest workshop that I convened as component of a investigation challenge in Jurong East, some inhabitants expressed that they would like to have a Diy workshop or maker room (for repairing items) as nicely as weekend bazaars (to trade products for reuse) in their neighbourhood.
Each individual university in Singapore could set up a “fix lab”, much too.
Watch: Repair service Kopitiam helps you find out how to repair things
Last but not least, Reduce Variety five: REMAKE.
When one thing just are unable to be mounted despite our attempts, we can dismantle it and repurpose the parts to make one thing new, or even restore one thing else that is broken.
I do area surveys extensively for work. In quite a few creating international locations, I’m generally astonished to see individuals repairing and remaking items so creatively and extensively.
There is a term, reverse innovation, which refers to an innovation seen initial (or most likely to be utilised initial) in the creating earth just before spreading to the industrialised earth. Restoring and remaking foster these types of improvements.
I experienced a spoilt enthusiast, and I saved its large base to make the base of a back garden parasol (the major component, which I acquired from IKEA, in good shape perfectly). I also experienced a coat stand no extended in use, and I repurposed it to cling planters on my patio.
The repurposed enthusiast base and coat stand. My young ones also remade a utilised plastic container into a watering can. (Image: To Kien)
To remake items, we may well need to have widespread “banks” of re-usable parts. Let us design and give shelves at HDB void decks or condominium amenity hubs, with a few labels: ‘Fully reusable’, ‘Reusable but involves fixing’, and ‘Parts only’.
Then, motivate individuals to put their undesirable products on the acceptable shelf for some others to take freely.
I generally educate my son how to restore or remake items as an essential everyday living talent. One particular working day, when his sister sat on his cherished soccer ball and accidentally exploded it, he was upset and his close friends explained to him to throw it away.
He mentioned, “No, I’ll repair it.”
In the night, he and I examined the torn ball. Though the interior bladder could not be mended, we remade the ball by obtaining a S$two Daiso rubber ball to put inside of, pumped it up, sewed back the cover – and voilà! All set for kick-off.
Watch: How we mounted my son’s ball
The journey to a small-waste long term is bumpy. There are numerous widespread prejudices to triumph over.
Very first, the contemplating that “it’s the authorities’ job”.
The authorities can strengthen waste selection and administration systems, set up new repair-hubs, strengthen guidelines and enrich community recognition. But to improve people’s patterns, mindsets, behaviours and actions, it is up to all of us.
2nd: “I really don’t see wherever my trash ends up, so I really don’t care”.
Let us get in the deal with of trash throwers. Confront them with photographs and graphics displayed on the sides of refuse chutes or bins, demonstrating wherever their trash ends up. In community spaces, present illustrations or photos of the Semakau landfill filling up in excess of time, with authentic-time figures up to date periodically.
The Semakau landfill. (Nowadays file photo)
Third: “Other individuals really don’t observe this. Why really should I?”
Well, if one by one all people starts practising the Large Reduce, we’ll see quite a few minor variations, and inevitably a massive transformation will take place.
Fourth: “Second-hand? Repair service? We aren’t that bad, we have our pleasure!”
Materials status is vital in freshly affluent societies, and Singaporeans have been no a lot less wrapped up in the 5Cs – income, credit score card, automobile, condominium, region club.
However, as societies progress and mature, mindsets, benefit systems and judging indicators start off to change towards a new set of Cs – creativity, collaboration, contribution, compassion and self confidence. It gets no extended about bucks and cents, but about caring for our earth.
Everyone A Winner
And as mindsets improve, allow every one of us start off championing the Large Reduce. Let us present our people and neighbors how it is accomplished, and we can do it progressively.
Very first, start off in our home.
I taught my son by performing a minor social experiment. He experienced a toy automobile in fantastic problem that he no extended played with. He and I wished to give it to anyone but we did not know who would need to have it.
I suggested, “Let’s provide it to the playground, leave it there and see what happens.” And he did so excitedly.
Watch: Who would want an outdated toy automobile?
When we arrived back on distinct days and at numerous moments, we witnessed distinct kids taking part in cheerfully with the toy and even scrambling for it. “Are you joyful to see your neighbours’ close friends joyful?” I asked. My son smiled and nodded.
Future, our neighbourhood.
I suggest setting up, in each individual neighbourhood, a tiny library of sometimes-utilised resources these types of as mechanical sets, drillers and plumbing devices, with a minimal fee for each use. This kind of a shared library can assist neighbours bond, and it can be linked with repair-hubs.
For now, everybody can do as I did – produce an stock listing of resources utilizing Google Documents, for sharing among close friends. This helps every member hold observe of who has what resources that they can borrow.
A MacBook Pro battery substitute get together. (Image: Fb.com/RepairKopitiam)
Then, educational institutions and universities.
They can provide as design mini-societies, championing the Large Reduce among the upcoming generation. I have co-mentored quite a few student projects on the 3Rs, and it is inspiring to see youthful Singaporeans present their creativity in their sense of accountability for the setting.
Last but not least, island-large communities.
I have described a handful of in this report, but there are some others rallying versus the throwaway lifestyle by urging individuals to provide their personal containers, to restore fairly than throw away, and to Diy.
Our attempts to refuse, lower, reuse, restore and remake in quite a few tiny techniques mean we help you save massive at the close of the working day. We will all collectively be certain a superior setting for ourselves, our beloved ones and long term generations.
Dr To Kien is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Singapore College of Technology and Layout (SUTD). He is a accredited architect, researcher and educator in City Organizing, Social Architecture and Sustainable Layout. He has been a Resource Particular person on the Singapore Institute of Architects’ Sustainability Committee since 2013.