The curtains of the World Social Forum (WSF) came down on the 11th of February at the Cheikh Anta Diop university of Dakar after a week-long opportunity for Civil
society, religious groups, and other NGOs to network, create partnerships and most of all tell the world of their mission.
Looking back at the all that happened during the forum, I realise how aware I have become of my own responsibilities to the environment. Although there was so
much going on at the world social forum, one thing in particular has stuck in my mind -- and it was completely unrelated to the WSF itself.
Throughout my participation at the forum I could not help but notice these women visited the stands and searched through dozens of rubbish bins looking for empty water containers. No need to say water was in high demand during the forum and litter of empty bottled water grew fast. Fortunately these women would not go a day without stopping-by to pick up all they could find.
I didn't ask why they were picking up the empty plastic containers because I knew it was the empty bottles they were searching through the rubbish bin for, and it reminded me of my childhood in Cameroon. I probably grew up at a time when there was a general awareness to reuse: either for financial reasons or as a means to reduce the amount of the earth’s resources that we were using.
Today, in South Africa where I live, much being said about the three Rs
(reduce, reuse and recycle ). Here, 'reduce' refers to lessening the amount
of items or resources that are consumed, using only the amount that is
needed, and looking for alternatives that will lessen our use. 'Reuse' means
extending the 'life' or repurposing an item rather than discarding or throwing it
away. And 'Recycle' means transforming the material into something new.
Current research still shows that a majority of middle and upper class do not
recycle enough and throw everything that they consider ‘rubbish’ into their
ordinary bin. Between 50% and 80% of this waste can be recycled and should be disposed of separately to general household waste.
The truth is, most of the upper and middle class families do not need the money that could be generated from selling empty containers as will be the case for the women collecting in Senegal, and do not lack the money to buy alternative containers if required.
But the question is, can we all 'reuse' more, if only for the sake of reducing the amount of waste that goes into the environment regardless of our financial status? If there is a chance that we could reuse some of the things we dispose of, then
maybe it is time to answer the question: What is in my rubbish bin?
You can start making that difference now by playing your part in reducing, reusing and recycling.