Waste management especially littering becomes a challenge during festive seasons such as Christmas and New Year celebrations. In the festive season, people are often on a celebration mood which results in the purchasing of many food items and beverages wrapped and packaged in plastic bags, bottles, tins (cans), and paper. Celebrations are often carried out in spots such as those in the outdoors near rivers, lagoons, gardens and associated open areas even at protected areas such as Moremi Game Reserve. Some people fail to observe approved waste disposal practices. Poor waste management or littering is an environmental hazard which should be voided by all of us to maintain a healthy environment.
As we enter the festive season, we should observe the 4Rs of waste management, these are: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Reclaim (or Recover). The 4Rs are an important part of sustainable living, as they help to cut down on the amount of waste we must throw away. The 4 Rs can help us to find better ways to manage our litter. The 4Rs can be summed as follows:
1. Reduce – reduce or cut down the amount of litter we produce. We can do this by buying products in bulk that are made from recycled material. We can also use canvas bags instead of plastic packets for shopping. This means we should reduce all the activities that generate of solid waste into the environment. We should reduce the solid waste in our community by changing our habits. For example, using washable clothes, napkins instead of napkins paper, using washable containers for lunches instead of the former packs, using sacks instead of using non-reusable plastic bags, buying recycled products, using cotton bags for shopping etc.
2. Reuse – we can reuse materials we would normally throw away. For example, we can reuse plastic or glass bottles instead of new ones which use up more raw materials. Reuse increases the life of waste and reduces the production of waste so that it preserves the environment. Reusing products not only contributes to the protection of nature but also saves our money. We can reuse solid waste by considering the following points: Use reusable plastic bags or cotton bags for shopping and use plastic bottles/containers to store water and oil.
3. Recycle – We can recycle the rubbish that cannot be reused. That is, we can collect all our rubbish, sort it into its different categories (paper, glass, metal, plastic etc.), and then put it in the correct recycle bins or take it to a buy-back centre. In this regard, we can make new products. For example, aluminum from used beverages cans can be recycled to make other aluminum products. Recycle therefore means re-covering a previously used object and giving it a second life. The use of waste by processing and modifying it into another form reduces the amount of waste that may accumulate in the environment.
4. Recover/Reclaim – we convert waste into resources usable resources (such as heat, and fuel) from paper. Most of the materials thrown in the garbage can be used and be processed in ways other than being destroyed. Such a process is called recovering. For example, plastic waste or paper can be burnt to produce energy or heat.
During the coming festive season, we should avoid poor waste disposal practices especially littering. We should observe the 4R principle because it makes us reuse waste materials, maintain environmental health, minimize land, and water pollution and promote the use of degradable products. I wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy 2023.