One major environmental issue Malaysia faces is solid waste. Currently, there are over 23,000 tonnes of waste produced each day in Malaysia. However, this amount is expected to rise to 30,000 tonnes by the year 2020. The amount of waste generated continues to increase due to the increasing population and development, and only less than 5% of the waste is being recycled.

We grew up learning about the “three R’s” of managing waste – reduce, reuse, and recycle. But in recent times, two more R’s – “refuse” and “repurpose”, have been added to the list of best practices to fight environmental pollution. That makes a total of five R’s we have to pay attention to. We all can reduce the environmental impact by practicing the 5 R’s at our homes and work. We can reduce our carbon footprints with only minimal efforts. Here are some basics about waste management and a few ways that you can start going green.

1. Refuse
“Refuse” goes hand in hand with “Reduce” because you can easily reduce your plastic usage by refusing to accept certain types of plastic products. We can first start by refusing single use plastics such as plastic bags and straws. Usually, these items are only used once and then discarded, hence it is regarded as single-use plastics. The next time you are offered a plastic straw or a plastic shopping bag for an item you can carry with your own bag, remember to refuse it politely. The positive impact might seem small, but if people are more aware of this, it will add up over time and produce results of a better environment.

2. Reduce
As mentioned before, refuse goes hand in hand with reduce. By refusing to use certain types of plastic, you are also reducing the amount of plastic you use daily. Reduce plastic bags while shopping and use your reusable grocery bags instead. This greatly contributes to reducing your carbon footprints. Reduce your purchase of goods wrapped in plastic. Go for goods that are packaged in glasses instead, because glasses can be washed and reused. If it will leave behind plastic trash, don’t buy it. Furthermore, the remaining “R’s” become easier because there is less plastic to address down the line.

3. Reuse
Instead of throwing things away, you can reuse materials in their original form or pass those materials on to others who could use them too. This way, you get to save money when you are not buying something new. The residual contents left in your shampoo bottles or face cream jars cannot be cleaned efficiently, thus it is less likely to be recycled. We need to make a habit of reusing them because it would be a waste not to. Some companies have already started producing refill packs so that consumers will be able to reuse their empty bottles. Ditch the disposable for reusable.

4. Repurpose
Here is a situation everyone can related to: we tend to keep stuff around the house that no longer serves any purpose, because we think that it might come in handy one day. Instead of waiting for a time that you will actually need the stuff you kept lying around, why not start repurposing them? Repurposing helps the environment by reducing the amount of waste that is put into landfills.

This is a significant trend that is taking off. You can repurpose simply by taking something you are no longer using and alter it for another more practical use. A real simple example would be taking an old shirt and turning it into a pyjamas. If you have an empty jar, tie a ribbon around it and fill it up with your pens and stationeries. Think about the things you have lying around the house, and get creative to repurpose it.

5. Recycle
Recycling is important in today’s world if we want to leave this planet for our future generations. One thing everyone should know about extracting and processing raw resources to make usable materials is that it requires a lot of energy. Recycling often saves energy because the products being recycled usually require much less processing to turn them into usable materials.

Recycling reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills and incinerators. Each time we recycle, we are doing our part in conserving our natural resources. Anything made from metal, wood, plastics, or papers are all likely to have a recycling option. Recycling is what you should do when you are unable to reduce, refuse or reuse your plastic products.

We hope you will join us on our journey of saving the environment. Remember the “five R’s” outlined above and be sure to incorporate these best practices in your daily routine to make a meaningful difference.