Our mounting waste trouble lies in a acquire-and-toss-absent lifestyle. In the midst of affluence, asks To Kien, can we care ample to repair service, reinvent and reuse our ‘old’ things?
SINGAPORE: The other working day I questioned my son, a Major four student at a local public school: “Do you find out and do decrease-reuse-recycle assignments at school?” “Mostly recycling, daddy. We only do some recyclables amassing competitions,” he responded, to my surprise.
Amongst the 3 ‘R’s, significantly more notice is compensated to recycling. It is crucial, but not paramount.
This yr, we go on to generate more waste and at the identical time, the recycling price has dropped. If this development persists, the Semakau landfill will be comprehensive by around 2035.
So how can the Governing administration notify and teach individuals nicely, when some of us – such as the elderly, younger youngsters or maids – really don’t ordinarily use the pc, surf the net, watch television or browse the newspapers?
Fairly than recycling as a heal for this condition, we require to aim more on waste prevention and on chopping off more at the resource, by practising what I call the Massive Minimize.
The Massive Minimize has 5Rs.
Minimize Number one: REFUSE, OR Refrain.
Let’s refuse pointless features refrain from supplying in to our wishes, and consider to stick to our requires.
We can be considerate in even minor things, such as when we are about to improve a spoon and plate for the duration of a catered food, choose an more straw, or acquire choose-absent foam bins or plastic luggage.
The “buy 3 get one free” advertising is just one of several internet marketing tactics that persuade bulk order, alternatively than obtaining what we require. (Image: To Kien)
As a researcher and educator in a layout university, I like observing and pinpointing difficulties around us. Sometimes, they spark several layout thoughts and options. I’ll share some of these to supply food items for thought.
For instance, to support “refuse” our wishes, app designers could compose a basic app for buying that reminds us what we require to acquire, and warns us about what we do not require by prompting our pre-recorded inventory of all comparable merchandise stored at property.
Minimize Number two: WHEN WE Simply cannot REFUSE OR Refrain, Let’s Lower.
A person of the 1st Entire world difficulties is excessive consumerism and the “abundance society”. Several of us have more footwear, luggage, household furniture or devices at property than we require and in fact use.
There are increasing indications, nevertheless, that such mass consumerism is slowing because of to demographic growing older, economic slowdown, resource shortage and so on and it is little by little remaining replaced by the rise of the sharing financial system and do-it-on your own (Diy) manufacturing.
When we provide property a ton, then component in storage house, we will realise we are in fact paying a ton, primarily in the high priced context of housing in Singapore.
Obtain much less, and inside designers can layout more inventive hybrid household furniture – such as couch-bed storage – for more compact households. This helps decrease household furniture buys and, ultimately, bulky trash.
Sometimes, we finish up throwing absent expired food items because we purchased it in bulk. France not long ago passed a legislation that orders supermarkets to donate unconsumed food items approaching greatest-just before dates to charity. Singapore can find out from this.
View: IT Figures on Food items Waste
When I was looking at about the 3Rs on the Nationwide Setting Agency’s site, just one suggestion to decrease waste bothered me: “Purchase merchandise in bulk quantities”. I advise examining it.
As for how to spur Singaporeans to decrease waste? A procedure of “pay as you throw” proposed by the NEA may operate.
Spotted on the NEA’s site
Minimize Number 3: REUSE.
A person man’s waste, they say, is one more man’s treasure. As a substitute of throwing absent things that are nonetheless usable, we could hold garage profits or give absent merchandise no for a longer time needed to others who require them.
I don’t forget my childhood in Vietnam, when several “đồng nát” (junk-purchasers, comparable to Singapore’s karung guni gentlemen) frequently patrolled the metropolis to acquire or collect pretty much every little thing unused from households. You could listen to them coming with their melodic profits chants and horns.
It is not only in lessen-profits nations around the world, but also in some increased-profits kinds, that individuals practise this “reuse” lifestyle. Germany and Japan, where by I researched, are examples.
A person of my weekend pastimes in Germany was to stop by flea marketplaces. There I could come across not only shockingly great bargains, but also several beautiful and scarce household merchandise from around the environment to satisfy my amassing hobby.
Employed clothes, guides, chairs and even washing equipment at a flea sector in Geneva, Switzerland. (Image: To Kien)
In Japan, our form host ran a campus bazaar to assist international pupils like my wife and me. When we had little ones, we ended up heartened when she gave us some of her children’s pleasant old clothes that she had prudently kept – for 15 yrs.
2nd-hand retailers are well known – and as Japanese individuals use and hold their stuff quite thoroughly, just one can generally come across quite great pre-loved stuff in wonderful wide range, and for a genuine bargain.
The retailers ordinarily have a tiny workshop at the back where by staff acquire utilised stuff and then thoroughly clean, overhaul or beautify them on the spot. I don’t forget just one shop’s slogan: “We acquire and sell practically every little thing, besides airplanes.”
A second-hand store in Japan, where by just one can come across pretty much just about anything at a bargain. (Image: To Kien)
Singapore does not have several second-hand flea marketplaces. The most famed just one at Sungei Highway will before long near.
While some neighbourhood kinds are organised now and then by grassroots groups, we could set up for more of them on vacant pieces of lands or under-utilised pockets of house, and persuade households to take part.
We could give second-hand retailers a prospect as well, like people run by the Salvation Military and the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations. Meanwhile, on the internet listings like Gumtree and groups such as SgFreecycle or Singapore Seriously Seriously Free of charge Market place are handy. They link like-minded individuals and market a sharing and pooling lifestyle.
Bought at Sungei Road’s Thieves’ sector. (Pictures: Ooi Ebook Keong)
Minimize Number four: Mend.
Fixing discourages our throwaway lifestyle and can make us value what we have.
Several old merchandise, such as offers or souvenirs, carry reminiscences. We want to make use of them until they are really unusable.
It is generally because getting an item repaired could charge just about as significantly as obtaining a brand name-new variation, that several of us make a decision to choose the second possibility. This is why in Sweden, the govt is now proposing tax breaks on repairs to every little thing from footwear to washing equipment, so that it can make economic sense to get broken things fastened.
My spouse and children cycles every day, and I ordinarily repair service our loyal “two-wheeled friends”. But I have observed several bicycles thrown absent just because of minor faults, such as an internal tube puncture.
I fix my possess bicycles, right here on my patio. (Image: To Kien)
It is great if somebody in the spouse and children can fix things. The pleasure we get when we realize success in creatively restoring anything on our possess is great. But if no just one in the spouse and children has the abilities, it would be wonderful if we could choose the stuff to a nearby “fix hub”.
My thought is to have just one in just about every precinct, located in a group club or centre. This community could website link up with the emerging makerspace motion in Singapore, so that individuals can share their abilities and methods such as house, instruments and extra elements.
At a recent workshop that I convened as component of a analysis project in Jurong East, some people expressed that they would like to have a Diy workshop or maker house (for restoring things) as nicely as weekend bazaars (to trade merchandise for reuse) in their neighbourhood.
Each individual school in Singapore could set up a “fix lab”, as well.
View: Mend Kopitiam helps you find out how to fix stuff
Ultimately, Minimize Number 5: REMAKE.
When anything just cannot be fastened regardless of our endeavours, we can dismantle it and repurpose the pieces to make anything new, or even repair service anything else that is broken.
I do subject surveys extensively for operate. In several acquiring nations around the world, I’m generally stunned to see individuals restoring and remaking things so creatively and broadly.
There is a phrase, reverse innovation, which refers to an innovation observed to start with (or likely to be utilised to start with) in the acquiring environment just before spreading to the industrialised environment. Fixing and remaking foster such improvements.
I had a spoilt enthusiast, and I kept its heavy base to make the base of a yard parasol (the major component, which I purchased from IKEA, in shape beautifully). I also had a coat stand no for a longer time in use, and I repurposed it to dangle planters on my patio.
The repurposed enthusiast base and coat stand. My little ones also remade a utilised plastic container into a watering can. (Image: To Kien)
To remake things, we may require frequent “banks” of re-usable pieces. Let’s layout and supply shelves at HDB void decks or condominium amenity hubs, with 3 labels: ‘Fully reusable’, ‘Reusable but requires fixing’, and ‘Parts only’.
Then, persuade individuals to location their unwelcome merchandise on the suited shelf for others to choose freely.
I generally train my son how to repair service or remake things as an critical lifestyle ability. A person working day, when his sister sat on his cherished soccer ball and accidentally exploded it, he was upset and his pals told him to toss it absent.
He reported, “No, I’ll fix it.”
In the evening, he and I examined the torn ball. Even though the internal bladder could not be mended, we remade the ball by obtaining a S$two Daiso rubber ball to set within, pumped it up, sewed back the include – and voilà! Completely ready for kick-off.
View: How we fastened my son’s ball
The journey to a lower-waste foreseeable future is bumpy. There are several frequent prejudices to defeat.
1st, the pondering that “it’s the authorities’ job”.
The authorities can improve waste assortment and management systems, set up new fix-hubs, improve guidelines and improve public consciousness. But to improve people’s habits, mindsets, behaviours and steps, it’s up to all of us.
2nd: “I really don’t see where by my trash ends up, so I really don’t care”.
Let’s get in the deal with of trash throwers. Confront them with pics and graphics exhibited on the sides of refuse chutes or bins, displaying where by their trash ends up. In public spaces, demonstrate visuals of the Semakau landfill filling up about time, with genuine-time figures up to date periodically.
The Semakau landfill. (Currently file picture)
3rd: “Other individuals really don’t apply this. Why really should I?”
Properly, if just one by just one all people begins practising the Massive Minimize, we’ll see several tiny alterations, and finally a huge transformation will occur.
Fourth: “Second-hand? Mend? We are not that bad, we have our delight!”
Substance standing is crucial in recently affluent societies, and Singaporeans have been no much less wrapped up in the 5Cs – cash, credit history card, motor vehicle, apartment, state club.
Yet, as societies progress and mature, mindsets, value systems and judging indicators start to change in direction of a new set of Cs – creativity, collaboration, contribution, compassion and confidence. It will become no for a longer time about pounds and cents, but about caring for our earth.
Anyone A Champion
And as mindsets improve, permit each just one of us start championing the Massive Minimize. Let’s demonstrate our households and neighbors how it’s performed, and we can do it progressively.
1st, start off in our property.
I taught my son by doing a tiny social experiment. He had a toy motor vehicle in great affliction that he no for a longer time performed with. He and I needed to give it to somebody but we didn’t know who would require it.
I advised, “Let’s provide it to the playground, depart it there and see what occurs.” And he did so excitedly.
View: Who would want an old toy motor vehicle?
When we arrived back on distinct days and at several occasions, we witnessed distinct youngsters participating in cheerfully with the toy and even scrambling for it. “Are you delighted to see your neighbours’ pals delighted?” I questioned. My son smiled and nodded.
Following, our neighbourhood.
I suggest location up, in just about every neighbourhood, a tiny library of at times-utilised instruments such as mechanical sets, drillers and plumbing tools, with a small cost per use. Such a shared library can support neighbours bond, and it can be related with fix-hubs.
For now, all people can do as I did – build an inventory list of instruments applying Google Documents, for sharing amid pals. This helps each member hold track of who has what instruments that they can borrow.
A MacBook Pro battery substitution celebration. (Image: Facebook.com/RepairKopitiam)
Then, educational facilities and universities.
They can provide as design mini-societies, championing the Massive Minimize amid the future generation. I have co-mentored a number of student assignments on the 3Rs, and it is inspiring to see younger Singaporeans demonstrate their creativity in their sense of accountability for the setting.
Ultimately, island-large communities.
I’ve stated a few in this report, but there are others rallying against the throwaway lifestyle by urging individuals to provide their possess containers, to repair service alternatively than toss absent, and to Diy.
Our endeavours to refuse, decrease, reuse, repair service and remake in several tiny ways necessarily mean we conserve huge at the finish of the working day. We will all collectively assure a far better setting for ourselves, our loved kinds and foreseeable future generations.
Dr To Kien is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Singapore University of Technological innovation and Structure (SUTD). He is a accredited architect, researcher and educator in City Setting up, Social Architecture and Sustainable Structure. He has been a Useful resource Human being on the Singapore Institute of Architects’ Sustainability Committee because 2013.