Waste Reduction Week

Written by Dave
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wastereductionweekThe Brussels region handles, each year, an average of 500 kilograms of waste per resident. This means over 500 million kilograms of waste all together. Itís an astounding number, and when we consider that much of that waste isnít recycled and that this has been going on for years Ė it becomes clear that waste reduction is an urgent environmental need. Fortunately, the Brussels Institute of the Environment (IBGE) and the European Commission are on the case Ė and the year 2009 marked the first official European Waste Reduction Week.

The idea began in 2008, with a pilot program that brought together 77,000 participants. This year, the IBGE offers a series of events on not only how to reduce waste, but how to re-use items instead of throwing them out and how to avoid creating waste in the first place. That said, even beyond Waste Reduction Week, there is a lot we can all do on our own to reduce the impact of our waste products.

One of the best, is composting organic matter. Leaves, kitchen scraps, non-bleached paper and lots of other products can be turned into rich garden mulch without ever leaving our own property. Composting can reduce the amount of garbage that winds up in the bags on the sidewalk (and so the number of trucks running around the street to collect it all), while nourishing the yard or home garden.

Another great way to save on waste is by buying second-hand. In her film The Story of Stuff, Annie Leonard notes that for every bag of trash we throw out, seven bags are produced in the production of a new item. By re-using old clothes, we reduce the clothes which wind up in the trash, and we also cut back on the trash needed in the production process.

Easier maybe than all these options though is just paying more attention when we shop. So often we are confronted with products which are similar in quality, price, and design, and yet which have enormously different amounts of packaging involved. Usually we donít think twice about things like that, though, and we just toss one into the basket. But to reduce our waste, we should let packaging become a purchasing decision, and start to think more carefully about which products we buy. Do I need the water filters that are sold in the plastic bag inside the box inside the box inside plastic covering Ė or might the ones in the box be enough? Leave the overabundant packaging at the shop as a clear signal and let them take care of it. And at checkout Ė do I really need another plastic bag to carry all that home? With simple steps, with little to no sacrifice,we can all make a contribution to reducing our waste Ė and to keeping our planet healthy and clean.

The original version of this article was published in the November 2009 edition of the Sunbeams Newsletter.

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