Minimizing our carbon footprints with 3Rs

Climate change is not just a concern of a few or confined to certain regions of the Earth. Rather, it is a serious threat that affects all mankind.  Each of us, citizens of the Earth, has contributed to the accumulation of carbon footprints.  And so, let us do something to restore and repair the damage that you and I have caused.  Let’s start from home and our immediate surroundings by at least minimizing our waste.

When we speak of waste, we refer to those materials that have lost their values in our lives and have no more economic values.  In other words, they are the things that we most likely would want to discard.

There are actually different types of waste, namely: bio-medical waste, hazardous waste, special hazardous waste.

Biomedical waste are those trash resulting from clinical activities, such as from the medical, dental, nursing, pharmaceutical, skin penetration, and other similar enterprises.

Hazardous waste, meanwhile, refers to trash that poses threat to human health and the environment.

I am rather interested to talk about municipal waste because it is something that you and I commonly produce everyday at home.

Minding the 3Rs: Recycle, Re-use, and Reduce  

Municipal waste includes our household trash , commercial garbage, and demolition junk. I seriously urge everyone to participate in managing our household waste by recycling materials, and re-using those things that can still be utilized for other purposes in order that we may reduce the amount of garbage at landfills.

Many of us may be wondering just how biodegradable or non-biodegradable are the products we commonly use at home.  For this reason, I decided to share what researchers have discovered regarding the decomposition time of the products we use everyday.

Plastic bags
Plastic bags: 200 to 1,000 years
Monofilament fishing line
Monofilament fishing line: 600 years
Disposable diapers: 550 years
Aluminum cans
Aluminum cans: 200 to 500 years
Plastic bottles
Plastic bottles: 450 years
Plastic containers: 50 to 80 years
Rubber-boot soles
Rubber-boot soles: 50 to 80 years
Foamed plastic cups
Foamed plastic cups: 50 years
Tinned steel cans
Tinned steel cans: 50 years
Leather shoes
Leather shoes: 25 to 40 years
Cigarette butts
Cigarette butts: 10 to 12 years
Milk cartons
Milk cartons: 5 years
Wool socks
Wool socks: 1 to 5 years
Plywood: 1 to 3 years
Orange peels
Orange peels:  6 months
Cotton gloves
Cotton gloves: 3 months
Cardboard: 2 months
Apple core
Apple core: 2 months
Newspapers: 1.5 months
Paper bags: 1 month
Banana peels
Banana peels: 3 to 4 weeks
Paper towels
Paper towels: 2 to 4 weeks

Plastic bags, the commonest and most ubiquitous items in every household, are very popular among consumers and retailers because they are cheap, strong, functional, lightweight, and convenient to carry. But beyond its usefulness is its apparent danger and threat to human health, other living organisms, and the environment.  Since these materials take a very long time to decompose (in fact, we don’t get to live long enough to witness its decomposition), plastics tend to pile up in landfills once they are used.

Each year, an alarmingly increasing number of used plastic bags find their way into parks, streets, beaches, waterways, and finally, into oceans.  Some people even try to get rid of these plastic bags by burning them, consequently infusing toxic fumes into the atmosphere.  

Studies show that plastic bags that get to the oceans are responsible for killing around 100,000 animals such as dolphins, whales, turtles, other fishes, and penguins every year through suffocation and ingestion, as they mistake these materials for food.  It was even found that the ingested plastic bags remain intact inside the animal’s body even when the latter has long died and decomposed. Besides, production of plastic bags requires around 60 to 100 million barrels of oil each year.

Oil and other petroleum products are non-renewable resources and they are already alarmingly diminishing and costly by the day. Therefore, it is now imperative – and I’m urging everyone – to minimize our use of these non-biodegradable containers.  While governments and some shop owners have implemented a ban on the use of plastic bags, we, as individual consumers, can also do our share of reducing the amount of plastic bags in landfills and saving our environment by using environmentally friendly alternative packets.

Let’s start making it a habit to bring along a tote bag or eco-green bag each time we buy our groceries and other goods. Did you know that an environmentally friendly bag can be reused for more than a hundred times?  That means a lot to help reduce the amount of plastic bags in landfills.

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