We have a religious obligation to be more conscious of our consumption and to take care of the earth's resources, writes Najma Mohamed.
Tips on cutting down on your waste
Reduce the amount of waste that you generate:
- buy only what you need
- select products with less packaging
- print on both sides of paper
- buy in bulk
- use filtered tap water rather than buying bottled water
Re-use and revitalise products:
- re-use shopping bags
- choose refillable containers when buying products
- use containers that cannot be recycled for storage purposes
- re-use envelopes and scrap paper
- donate whatever you are not using to welfare and charity organisations
Finally, recycle what
you cannot use by sorting, separating and taking your waste to a recycling
depot or make use of curbside recycling collection schemes. Where
possible, try to buy recycled goods.
(Source: Waste Wise)
Learning about waste
How to compost
The story of stuff
One of the most challenging environmental issues across the world is the management of the copious amounts of waste generated by our consumption-driven lifestyles. The menagerie of gadgets, utensils and products which we regard as essential today, come at a heavy price.
When we no longer want or need something, we simply dispose of it with little thought as to where it goes. When we throw something away, we lose the natural resources such as water, plants and minerals that went into producing it; as well as the energy and time used in the manufacturing process. We are also placing tremendous pressure on the environment by storing our waste in landfill sites, many of which are filling up fast.
While a large proportion of waste has the potential to be recycled or composted, many of us still have some way to go in shifting our mindset about the waste that we produce. We need to think about how to use fewer resources, how to make products last longer and to consider waste as a resource. This is where we start talking about recycling.
Recycling is about much more than throwing your waste into different coloured bins. Before we even get to the point of recycling, we need to take the following steps. First, we must reduce the amount of waste we produce or as one writer notes, we need to start precycling or limiting the amount of waste we produce. When making the decision to buy a product, consider whether you really need it. Remember, if you use less, you spend less.
Secondly, we need to re-use whatever we are able to. Re-use materials, repair them or give them to others who can make use of them. For example, re-use containers and jars, buy refillable containers for cleaning products and save gift wrap. Once you have tried to minimise your waste production and re-use or revitalise what you can, only then you will recycle what you cannot use.
Recycling is therefore about changing our mindset and the way in which we live our lives, what we buy, what we eat and what we throw away. It involves careful management of our buying and consumption patterns.
Once you make the decision to start recycling, you have to know your waste and understand the meaning of the various recycling labels and symbols. Some of the common materials that can be recycled include paper, organic waste (including garden waste and wood), motor oil, glass, plastic and increasingly, electronic waste such as batteries and computers.
Some of us are lucky to have a collection system for our recyclable waste, but others need to do the sorting and separating themselves and thus need to know the language of recycling. Plastics for example are made from different types of polymers and containers would carry a symbol that shows what it is made of. Some recycling depots are only able to accept certain plastics such as products made from polyethylene terephthalate, indicated by the acronym PET.
Kitchen and garden waste often forms the bulk of our household waste and can easily be composted. Recycling depots, garden centres or the backyard is the place where you will find the facilities to compost organic waste. If your space is limited, inquire at your local nursery about composting bins which work just as well as making your own compost heap in the backyard.
We also need to know the products that we are not able to recycle such as aerosol cans which contain flammable material and are not made of the same metal as soda cans. Another product which is still too common in most of our households is Tetra-Pak cartons used to package fruit juices and milk. These cartons are made from a mixture of plastic and paper and cannot be recycled.
When making use of a recycling bank, take careful note of the items that need to be placed in the particular bank.
As Muslims, the core message of recycling, which is essentially about living simply and not indulging in excessive consumption and wastage, lies close to our hearts. It is a part of faith to remove something harmful from the road and many scholars have inferred that this includes removing waste. We also find in the simple life of Prophet Muhammad (S) the perfect expression of the Qur’anic message regarding wastefulness. His (S) life abounds with examples of how we should be careful of the impact we have on all creation as he (S) forewarned his companions that we would be held accountable for everything in our care. Let us take note of his warning and fulfill the obligation that rests on all of us to take the lead in fighting the culture of wastage, consumption and extravagance.
"…But waste not by extravegance for Allah does not love those who waste"
Najma Mohamed is an environmental researcher and writer based in Cape Town, South Africa.
While a large proportion of waste has the potential to be recycled or composted, many of us still have some way to go in shifting our mindset about the waste that we produce. We need to think about how to use fewer resources, how to make products last longer and to consider waste as a resource.
This article was first published in SISTERS, the magazine for fabulous Muslim women. Visit the SISTERS website at www.sisters-magazine.com to read more articles - and download a complimentary issue!