Refuse what you do not need

Lizet column #4

On Texel the average person produces 700 kilograms of waste each year. That is ten times the weight of a person, or 70 times a wastebag of 60 liters. Only half of it will be recycled. But the average doesn’t say much about the individual; the picture above shows the waste produced by Bea Johnson and her family in the past year.

The jar includes the cover of an expired passport (the pages were recyclable), checked luggage labels, some stickers (cheese labels, a warning label from a secondhand light), two laminated cards, straps of a secondhand synthetic sandal, old bike gloves that felt apart, photo holiday cards, a bubble gum and some other assembled small products. This jar is ofcourse not from an average household: Bea Johnson (link: zerowastehome) is the writer of the book ‘Zero waste home’ and participates in media and speaking engagements to share her story. Her lifestyle can be summarized in 5Rs: Refuse what you do not need, Reduce what you do need, Reuse what you consume, Recycle what you cannot Refuse, Reduce of Reuse, and Rot (Compost) the rest.

I think the focus of Johnson on ‘Refusing’ is really logical but also differs from the common approach of sustainable waste management. Most articles in the news about sustaineble waste management focus on recycling and re-use Link:afval meer scheiden and getting energy out of all that waste (link:afval bestaat niet). The focus of the government is also on the recycle and re-use part of the waste cycle. Municipalities are encouraged by State Secretary Mansveld to improve their recycling and re-use of waste. While the government is claiming to work for a clean and sustainable country, the most important aspect of the cycle (Refuse) seems forgotten. Let's refuse a bit more!

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