Our mounting squander problem lies in a obtain-and-throw-away lifestyle. In the midst of affluence, asks To Kien, can we treatment more than enough to repair, reinvent and reuse our ‘old’ items?
SINGAPORE: The other working day I requested my son, a Key four student at a local public college: “Do you master and do lower-reuse-recycle jobs at college?” “Mostly recycling, daddy. We only do some recyclables gathering competitions,” he responded, to my surprise.
Amid the three ‘R’s, considerably far more focus is paid out to recycling. It is important, but not paramount.
This year, we continue to create far more squander and at the very same time, the recycling charge has dropped. If this trend persists, the Semakau landfill will be total by close to 2035.
So how can the Federal government inform and educate people well, when some of us – such as the elderly, younger small children or maids – don’t generally use the laptop or computer, surf the internet, look at tv or go through the newspapers?
Instead than recycling as a cure for this problem, we need to have to concentrate far more on squander prevention and on slicing off far more at the resource, by practising what I call the Big Lower.
The Big Lower has 5Rs.
Lower Variety one: REFUSE, OR Chorus.
Let us refuse unwanted features refrain from supplying in to our desires, and try out to stick to our requires.
We can be considerate in even slight items, such as when we are about to modify a spoon and plate through a catered meal, get an further straw, or acquire get-away foam bins or plastic bags.
The “buy three get one free” marketing is one of a lot of marketing tactics that encourage bulk invest in, fairly than buying what we need to have. (Photo: To Kien)
As a researcher and educator in a design and style college, I like observing and figuring out difficulties close to us. In some cases, they spark a variety of design and style suggestions and answers. I’ll share some of these to offer food items for assumed.
For instance, to enable “refuse” our desires, application designers could generate a simple application for searching that reminds us what we need to have to obtain, and warns us about what we really don’t need to have by prompting our pre-recorded stock of all equivalent things saved at property.
Lower Variety 2: WHEN WE Just cannot REFUSE OR Chorus, Let us Lower.
A person of the To start with World difficulties is excessive consumerism and the “abundance society”. Quite a few of us have far more footwear, bags, home furnishings or gadgets at property than we need to have and actually use.
There are growing indicators, even so, that such mass consumerism is slowing due to demographic aging, economic slowdown, source shortage and so on and it is step by step being changed by the rise of the sharing financial state and do-it-your self (Diy) generation.
When we bring property a ton, then issue in storage room, we will realise we are actually shelling out a ton, especially in the high-priced context of housing in Singapore.
Invest in considerably less, and inside designers can design and style far more resourceful hybrid home furnishings – such as sofa-mattress storage – for far more compact properties. This aids lower home furnishings purchases and, eventually, cumbersome trash.
In some cases, we conclusion up throwing away expired food items for the reason that we bought it in bulk. France recently passed a legislation that orders supermarkets to donate unconsumed food items approaching best-in advance of dates to charity. Singapore can master from this.
Watch: IT Figures on Meals Waste
When I was reading about the 3Rs on the Countrywide Environment Agency’s web page, one suggestion to lower squander bothered me: “Purchase things in bulk quantities”. I counsel examining it.
As for how to spur Singaporeans to lower squander? A program of “pay as you throw” proposed by the NEA could operate.
Spotted on the NEA’s web page
Lower Variety three: REUSE.
A person man’s squander, they say, is a different man’s treasure. Rather of throwing away items that are continue to usable, we could maintain garage profits or give away things no more time needed to other individuals who need to have them.
I bear in mind my childhood in Vietnam, when a lot of “đồng nát” (junk-purchasers, equivalent to Singapore’s karung guni gentlemen) frequently patrolled the metropolis to obtain or acquire almost every thing unused from homes. You could hear them coming with their melodic profits chants and horns.
It is not only in reduce-profits countries, but also in some bigger-profits kinds, that people practise this “reuse” lifestyle. Germany and Japan, in which I studied, are examples.
A person of my weekend pastimes in Germany was to check out flea markets. There I could locate not only remarkably fantastic bargains, but also a lot of gorgeous and scarce residence things from close to the entire world to satisfy my gathering passion.
Used outfits, books, chairs and even washing equipment at a flea current market in Geneva, Switzerland. (Photo: To Kien)
In Japan, our kind host ran a campus bazaar to assist overseas learners like my spouse and me. When we experienced children, we were heartened when she gave us some of her children’s pleasant old outfits that she experienced prudently retained – for fifteen decades.
Next-hand retailers are well known – and as Japanese people use and keep their stuff extremely cautiously, one can often locate extremely fantastic pre-loved stuff in fantastic variety, and for a true bargain.
The retailers generally have a very little workshop at the back in which workers obtain utilized stuff and then clean, overhaul or beautify them on the spot. I bear in mind one shop’s slogan: “We obtain and promote practically every thing, besides airplanes.”
A next-hand store in Japan, in which one can locate almost anything at a bargain. (Photo: To Kien)
Singapore doesn’t have a lot of next-hand flea markets. The most well-known one at Sungei Highway will quickly near.
Although some neighbourhood kinds are organised now and then by grassroots teams, we could set up for far more of them on vacant items of lands or below-utilized pockets of room, and encourage households to participate.
We could give next-hand retailers a opportunity far too, like those people run by the Salvation Military and the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations. In the meantime, online listings like Gumtree and teams such as SgFreecycle or Singapore Truly Truly Free of charge Industry are valuable. They link like-minded people and endorse a sharing and pooling lifestyle.
Marketed at Sungei Road’s Thieves’ current market. (Images: Ooi Ebook Keong)
Lower Variety four: Restore.
Repairing discourages our throwaway lifestyle and would make us value what we have.
Quite a few old things, such as offers or souvenirs, carry reminiscences. We want to make use of them until they are genuinely unusable.
It is typically for the reason that finding an item fixed could price virtually as considerably as buying a brand name-new edition, that a lot of of us make your mind up to get the next solution. This is why in Sweden, the federal government is now proposing tax breaks on repairs to every thing from footwear to washing equipment, so that it would make economic sense to get damaged items fastened.
My household cycles everyday, and I generally repair our loyal “two-wheeled friends”. But I have noticed a lot of bicycles thrown away just for the reason that of slight faults, such as an internal tube puncture.
I deal with my possess bicycles, here on my patio. (Photo: To Kien)
It is fantastic if a person in the household can deal with items. The pleasure we get when we triumph in creatively repairing a thing on our possess is large. But if no one in the household has the expertise, it would be fantastic if we could get the stuff to a close by “fix hub”.
My thought is to have one in each individual precinct, located in a group club or centre. This network could website link up with the rising makerspace movement in Singapore, so that individuals can share their expertise and assets such as room, applications and excess components.
At a latest workshop that I convened as portion of a study task in Jurong East, some citizens expressed that they would like to have a Diy workshop or maker room (for repairing items) as well as weekend bazaars (to exchange things for reuse) in their neighbourhood.
Each college in Singapore could set up a “fix lab”, far too.
Watch: Restore Kopitiam aids you master how to deal with stuff
Lastly, Lower Variety five: REMAKE.
When a thing just can’t be fastened even with our initiatives, we can dismantle it and repurpose the pieces to make a thing new, or even repair a thing else that is damaged.
I do industry surveys extensively for operate. In a lot of developing countries, I’m often astonished to see people repairing and remaking items so creatively and widely.
There is a expression, reverse innovation, which refers to an innovation noticed very first (or probably to be utilized very first) in the developing entire world in advance of spreading to the industrialised entire world. Repairing and remaking foster such improvements.
I experienced a spoilt fan, and I retained its hefty foundation to make the foundation of a garden parasol (the key portion, which I bought from IKEA, in good shape perfectly). I also experienced a coat stand no more time in use, and I repurposed it to dangle planters on my patio.
The repurposed fan foundation and coat stand. My children also remade a utilized plastic container into a watering can. (Photo: To Kien)
To remake items, we might need to have widespread “banks” of re-usable pieces. Let us design and style and offer shelves at HDB void decks or condominium amenity hubs, with three labels: ‘Fully reusable’, ‘Reusable but needs fixing’, and ‘Parts only’.
Then, encourage people to location their unwanted things on the suited shelf for other individuals to get freely.
I often instruct my son how to repair or remake items as an important daily life skill. A person working day, when his sister sat on his cherished soccer ball and unintentionally exploded it, he was upset and his pals advised him to throw it away.
He said, “No, I’ll deal with it.”
In the evening, he and I examined the torn ball. Though the internal bladder could not be mended, we remade the ball by buying a S$2 Daiso rubber ball to put within, pumped it up, sewed back the cover – and voilà! Completely ready for kick-off.
Watch: How we fastened my son’s ball
The journey to a small-squander future is bumpy. There are a variety of widespread prejudices to overcome.
To start with, the contemplating that “it’s the authorities’ job”.
The authorities can enhance squander selection and administration systems, set up new deal with-hubs, enhance guidelines and increase public recognition. But to modify people’s behavior, mindsets, behaviours and actions, it is up to all of us.
Next: “I don’t see in which my trash finishes up, so I don’t care”.
Let us get in the encounter of trash throwers. Confront them with images and graphics displayed on the sides of refuse chutes or bins, displaying in which their trash finishes up. In public areas, demonstrate illustrations or photos of the Semakau landfill filling up over time, with true-time figures up-to-date periodically.
The Semakau landfill. (Today file picture)
3rd: “Other people don’t follow this. Why should I?”
Properly, if one by one everybody starts off practising the Big Lower, we’ll see a lot of very little improvements, and ultimately a major transformation will take place.
Fourth: “Second-hand? Restore? We aren’t that lousy, we have our satisfaction!”
Substance status is important in recently affluent societies, and Singaporeans have been no considerably less wrapped up in the 5Cs – money, credit card, auto, rental, state club.
But, as societies progress and mature, mindsets, value systems and judging indicators start off to shift in the direction of a new set of Cs – creative imagination, collaboration, contribution, compassion and self-confidence. It becomes no more time about dollars and cents, but about caring for our earth.
Everyone A Champion
And as mindsets modify, allow every one of us start off championing the Big Lower. Let us demonstrate our households and neighbors how it is completed, and we can do it progressively.
To start with, get started in our property.
I taught my son by undertaking a very little social experiment. He experienced a toy auto in fantastic issue that he no more time played with. He and I needed to give it to a person but we didn’t know who would need to have it.
I advised, “Let’s bring it to the playground, depart it there and see what transpires.” And he did so excitedly.
Watch: Who would want an old toy auto?
When we came back on various days and at a variety of times, we witnessed various small children taking part in cheerfully with the toy and even scrambling for it. “Are you satisfied to see your neighbours’ pals satisfied?” I requested. My son smiled and nodded.
Future, our neighbourhood.
I suggest location up, in each individual neighbourhood, a little library of once in a while-utilized applications such as mechanical sets, drillers and plumbing devices, with a minimal payment per use. These a shared library can enable neighbours bond, and it can be related with deal with-hubs.
For now, anyone can do as I did – generate an stock list of applications utilizing Google Documents, for sharing amongst pals. This aids every member keep keep track of of who has what applications that they can borrow.
A MacBook Pro battery substitute social gathering. (Photo: Fb.com/RepairKopitiam)
Then, faculties and universities.
They can serve as model mini-societies, championing the Big Lower amongst the future generation. I have co-mentored a number of student jobs on the 3Rs, and it is inspiring to see younger Singaporeans demonstrate their creative imagination in their sense of responsibility for the ecosystem.
Lastly, island-vast communities.
I’ve talked about a couple in this article, but there are other individuals rallying from the throwaway lifestyle by urging people to bring their possess containers, to repair fairly than throw away, and to Diy.
Our initiatives to refuse, lower, reuse, repair and remake in a lot of little ways mean we conserve major at the conclusion of the working day. We will all collectively guarantee a better ecosystem for ourselves, our loved kinds and future generations.
Dr To Kien is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Singapore College of Engineering and Design and style (SUTD). He is a certified architect, researcher and educator in Urban Preparing, Social Architecture and Sustainable Design and style. He has been a Source Particular person on the Singapore Institute of Architects’ Sustainability Committee given that 2013.