As a child, my mother would say this regularly. This may not be surprising as she was born in 1930 and so was a toddler during the Great Depression years and endured the shortages associated with the Second World War. That her mother was Scottish may also have had an impact on her belief in that phrase. Although it is nearly 50 years since I first heard my mother say “waste not, want not”, it seems to me that the phrase has even more importance in our throw-away culture of today.
We often hear part of the waste hierarchy mantra – “reduce, reuse, recycle”. What we don’t commonly hear or understand is that this is a hierarchy. Reducing your use of our natural resources, or indeed, avoiding it is the best thing you can do. This simply means asking yourself the question – “do I really need this item?”. If you do, the next best thing you can contemplate is whether or not you can reuse the item. A reusable cup or mug is a great example of this. If you’ve forgotten to bring your reusable mug to the coffee shop maybe you could ask for one and drink it there where the mug will be washed and reused. Failing that, your only other option is a disposable cup (but do you really need that coffee right now or can you wait until you go and get your reusable mug?).
Now that you have your disposable cup, which bin will you dispose of it in? Most people will say the recycle bin because, after all, that lid has the recycle symbol on it and so does the cup. Sadly, that isn’t the reality in our region as the facilities to recycle it don’t yet exist here (although that may change soon). And if you put that mug in the recycle bin you’re effectively contaminating the recyclable materials inside and the whole lot will then go to landfill!! The other thing to note about recycling is that it can be more costly from a water and energy point of view to recycle materials than to take yet more of our natural resources and put them in landfill.
You can so easily live lightly by thinking about waste – do you really need it, can I reuse it if I do and how do I dispose of it correctly if I feel I had no other choice than to purchase something disposable?