Sunday, 22 March 2009

Is 'Reduce' the hardest R?

Reduce, reuse, recycle, the 3 Rs. How well we know them. Most school children can recite them by heart. Now, I can recycle, God knows I can. Every fortnight I put out two bags, full to bursting, for the recycling lorry.

I've recently recovered from a cold. I swore I'd never again take the use of both nostrils for granted. But a week later I don't think twice about it. Recycling came late to Denbighshire (don't laugh Surrey), it's only a few months since we've been able to put out huge bags of plastic, cardboard and glass. But now I don't think twice about it. A month ago it was my daughter's birthday, and as I was stomping on the 10th mound of cardboard packaging from a battery-filled plastic import to squeeze it into another blue bag it occurred to me, did we always put this much refuse out? Where does it all go? And how are we going to stop consuming so much?

So I can recycle. I can reuse to an extent. I haven't bought new socks for ages. But can I reduce? Well this is harder. Kids' toys, books, the latest gadget, this is all too desirable. And there's too much packaging. But is a change on the way? Easter is coming and egg manufacturers are starting to respond to our concerns. Computer manufacturers are starting to tout products with fewer toxins and greater recyclability. So maybe less is the new more. If the market responds to our desires, the trick will be to desire fewer, better things. In smaller boxes.

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