“I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it”
…and I throw it.
That’s the modern culture we live in right now.
Technology and the industry has made making things so fast and easy.
Marketing has made us want things so fast and easy.
And we discard things just as fast and easy without much accountability.
I’m just beginning to understand how we’ve come to this point.
How did reusing items become out of fashion?
How did burying plastics and rubbish into the ground become acceptable?
I may not know the answer, but I can wager that it has lots to do with money and power.
Whatever or whoever that started this has made us all living on 1.75 Earths right now.
Except that we’ve only got ONE earth…
We’re using up resources like crazy and it’s taking a toll on dear ol’ Mother Natch (as @pattiegonia puts it).
And it’s getting harder to replenish — if that’s what we intend to do.
LINEAR VS CIRCULAR ECONOMY
The way we live now as a society is linear — we make something, we use it and we throw it.
Although public sentiment about this unsustainable model is growing, the system has yet to catch up, partly due to lack of proper technology and money.
Well, I’d say it’s not lack of money but a lack of want to invest in such technology because people are used to fossil fuels and the old method of doing things.
People dislike change.
But the way we should go about things is how our ancestors had perhaps done it before — in a circular manner.
Say a thing is made and then we use it. But after using it, we repurpose it. Either we use it again until its unusable or we change it to a different form.
In other words, upcycling and recycling.
Here’s a concise definition of a circular economy:
A circular economy is an alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose) in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life.
The animated video below explains simply and clearly what circular economy is:
- an alternative to today’s commonly practised Linear Economy (take, make, use and dispose) model.
- an economy that is regenerative and restorative by design.
- based on how nature works.
It’s a simple concept. But it seems that we still can’t grasp it.
OUR DESIRE FOR NEW, MORE & DIFFERENT
This is where the marketing industry with support from big corporations comes into play.
Knowing that we humans are so fickle and gullible, they play on our emotions and make us want to buy stuff we don’t actually need.
They make us want to buy another butterfly clip when we already have ten.
They make us want to buy another pair of stilettos when we barely use the one we have.
You get the drill.
Unless it’s actually necessary, there’s really no need to buy new or more.
But we’ve somehow bought the culture of keeping up with trends that if we don’t own something new or different, we are not accepted in society.
And that’s really sad.
GETTING BACK IN TOUCH
It’s great to see the sustainable movement gaining traction.
But it’s still at its infancy and just stepping out of your house, you can still see how the majority are not actually living sustainably.
Most people know that straws are bad for the turtles and meat is bad for the climate.
Yet they still keep using straws and eating meat.
I’m not saying it’s entirely their fault because the system is at fault as well. Plus I know how hard it is to un-learn and change one’s habits that they’ve lived with for years.
But it’s not impossible to change one’s lifestyle.
I’ve done that too.
And I’m constantly improving.
You see, change is dynamic. It’s not a one-off thing like disposable coffee cups and menstrual pads. It’s a process.
And with any process, there needs to be some effort.
As an individual consumer, you can:
- REFUSE to buy more items — ask yourself whether you really need it.
- REUSE the items that you already have, if possible, or you could send to an organisation that does upcycling work like Biji-biji.
- RECYCLE items that can be recycled — know where ther nearest recycling centre/bins are.
Of course, this problem may be bigger than any individual but I do believe in the power of one person and the compounding effect when practised by many.
However, I’d also hope that companies would discard their hunger for profit just a tiny bit and adopt a more circular economy model.
COMPANIES THAT ARE ADOPTING THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY MODEL
When I attended the Zero Waste Fest Malaysia back in June, there was a talk by Nicholas Sheum, Head of Design for Biji-biji Initiative. He explained about circular economy and showed some companies that are adopting the model.
An Indonesian company that makes biodegradable and edible packaging from seaweed. One of their products are the Ello Jello Cups which seems like a great replacement to paper or plastic cups at parties.
An all-paper disposable cup inspired by the origami method so that it can close without needing a plastic lid. It’s spill-resistant too. Although disposables are not a solution especially if they ended up going to landfills instead of the compost bin or area, I’d say this is a good transition away from the current “paper cups” with plastic lining at coffee shops.
This is a project that turns soya waste from the river into biofuel and tanned leather. It’s led by XXLab which is “an open collective to empower women and transgender on art, science and free technologies while tackling environmental issues”.
WE NEED SUPPORT, CONTINUOUS DISCUSSION & ACTION
While researching on this topic, I found out about the Ellen MacArthur Foundation which seems to support circular economy endeavours.
Their message is simple:
- Design out waste and pollution
- Keep products and materials in use
- Regenerate natural systems
We need more support like this so that we can put this regenerative concept into practice and make this closed-loop system a norm in our daily lives.
And as much as governments and policymakers have roles to play, we as individuals should also be held responsible for our consumption habits.