I have had this on my mind for may years now. Something about “reduce, reuse, recycle and repurpose” just hadn’t gelled for me. Don’t get me wrong – I believe recycling is a great thing. It wasn’t until I took a cob building workshop with Ianto Evans of the Cob Cottage Company, that I began to see what wasn’t right. It still took me several months before I saw it clearly.
My girl friend and I started studying alternative building methods a few years back and one of the methods that really stood out was the Earthship made partly out of old, unused tires. My girl friend really loved the building concept but I was more impressed with the actual design and how they have integrated water catchment, solar energy (passive and active), grey water and the ability to grow vegetables in a single structure. I can see a few modifications that would make the entire concept a bit more efficient, but that is for another article.
Using tires in the Earthship started getting my attention about what was wrong with the 4 R’s. What I learned during the workshop thinned the haze and Blog Action Day about Poverty along with FRONTLINEs’ HEAT and the Story of Stuff made it crystal clear. Reducing, Reusing, Recycling and Repurposing will not, in fact cannot, even begin to put a dent in the amount of waste that is produced in the name of keeping our economy alive as it is today.
It cannot, that is, until we change our expectations and demands upon the companies and corporations that produce the products that we consume. Just doing the 4 R’s doesn’t eliminate what is coming through the pipelines for us. We need to demand that these companies reduce the packaging, stop using plastics whenever possible and they must, whenever introducing a new product, also develop a methodology for recycling the products constituent parts rendering the remains of the product harmless and reusable. In other words they need to close the loop for the products they want us to use.
If we do that, the “reduce, reuse, recycle and repurpose” will work better, a lot better.