Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle, Rot, Rethink
The 7Rs of renewability begin with “Refusing” plastics, which means completely cutting plastics out of our lives and forgoing the convenience that plastic brings. However, with everything made with or wrapped with plastics, “Reducing” plastics becomes the most realistic path of renewability. Living out these actions require adopting an expensive lifestyle committed to purchasing more expensive non-plastic alternatives and bearing the inconvenience themselves by bringing their containers and tote bags whenever they go out. This lifestyle also requires creativity in finding ways to reduce plastic waste, such as opting for an ice cream to be served on a cone instead of in a dish.
The next option, “Reuse,” encourages consumers to creatively reuse products longer than their presumed lifespan. For example, single-use plastics could be rebelliously used several times before disposal, or car tires could be converted into shoes. Similarly, the lifetime of products should be extended through “Repair” at local makerspaces, which provide the tools and expertise to repair any items. Moreover, as a society, we must shift our mentality from the current “buy and throw away” mindset to one that seeks to repair damaged belongings for us to see widespread change.
The next factors, “Rot” and “Recycling,” work in tandem as organic material needs to be cleaned from plastics to get it ready for recycling. By doing our part to separate degradable material from plastics, we simultaneously improve the recyclability of plastic and enhance the quality of the degradable composts for fertilizers. Lastly, we must “Rethink” and redesign our plastic use for the future. Scientists must work together with industries to design bioplastics that can degrade and work on the standardization of plastic items to make consumer products more compatible with one another, and most importantly, products must be built and designed to be upcycled for a circular economy to take place.