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[Feature] [20 Must-know GEI] 11. How can we save our valuable resources?

by Eco Generation | 19-08-2016 16:24 Comments 0 recommendations 0

20 Must know issue title

How can we save our valuable resources?

20 Must know issue 11-1

1. Where do new things come from? Where do old things go?
What did you buy today? Do you remember what new things you bought this month? many clothes did you buy this year? If you think about your daily life, you will realize how many new things are bought, used and thrown away. It goes the same for our surrounding environment ad banners and signs in shopping districts and ?brand-new? products displayed in show windows are changed weekly or monthly. Where are those new things coming from and old things going?

2. How many things are made and thrown away?
As there are many things in the world, it is hard to see what and how many things are made and thrown away. Let?s think about things we usually encounter. According to a survey in the UK—a country with four seasons like Korea—one person buys and throws away about 170 pieces of clothing a year. The recent boom of ?fast fashion? has accelerated the rate of purchase and disposal of clothes companies in the fast fashion industry have been rolling out new items twice each week. Paper cups are one frequently-used thing in our everyday lives. It is said that Koreans use 23 billion paper cups a year, which means one person uses more than one paper cup a day. Most of them, however, are disposed of without being recycled. What about paper? A whopping 9 million tons of paper a year is used by Koreans, including both at school and public organizations.

3. What is the problem?
  Why those buying and disposing of things are regarded as a problem? First of all, hose behaviors can deplete the resources of environment.. For instance, if you translate ?the 9 million tons of paper a year used by Koreans? into ?the number of trees,? that means one Korean cuts down 3 trees a year. As we use more trees than we plant, forests might disappear. Moreover, if we exhaust mineral resources or fossil fuels that take decades or millions of years to be created again (or never), we will not be able to make really ?necessary? products any more. Second, a great amount of energy is spent in the process of making and disposing of things. Collecting, transporting and processing resources, as well as delivering, selling, using and disposing of the products does not happen by itself energy generated from fossil fuels or electricity is required throughout the whole process. This energy consumption causes climate change by emitting greenhouse gases. Lastly, disposed things cause pollution. Not only the product itself, but its packages, disposable stuff, and bills turn into ?waste.? Some can be recycled, but those unrecycled are mostly landfilled (buried in the ground) or incinerated (burned). Synthetic fiber-based clothes are mostly made from petrochemical substances if they are buried in the ground, they will stay for a long time causing water and soil pollution and have negative impacts on the environment. In addition, environmental hormones such as dioxins, which are very harmful to the human body, and various types of dust causing particulate matter in the incineration process should be managed properly in order to prevent environmental and health problems.

4. What can we do?
What can we do? Many people have suggested 3R for this problem. 3R means ?reduce? using fewer resources in the first place, ?reuse,? reusing disposed things without too many changes, and ?recycle,? remaking them into usable products through certain physiochemical processes. Recycling and reusing is much more beneficial to the environment than landfills and incineration. By reusing disposed products, energy spent and greenhouse gas emitted in the process of producing new products and collecting, extracting and transporting resources can be reduced. The Korean government has encouraged waste sorting for easier recycling, charges 100 KRW for a disposable plastic bag and has implemented a volume-based waste fee system for waste to be incinerated or landfilled in order to reduce consumer waste.
However, 3R is not a ?special thing? or a ?government?s task.? It has been happening thanks to many stores that sell recycled products or help recycling in our everyday life. Some stores enable exchange and barter, and sell secondhand products at reasonable prices after cleaning. You can donate unnecessary items to those stores. Flea markets with various attractions are also held in different places. There is a Korean version of 3R movement called ?Anabada.? By using these stores and events, you can participate in 3R naturally.
Recently a more interesting 3R has appeared: ?upcycling.? Upcycling is a compound word from ?upgrading? and ?recycling,? which means adding designs to disposed resources or useless products to increase their original values and qualities. Disposed ad banners are transformed into bags, and expired ad signs in subway stations or at bus stops are turned into wallets. Moreover, disposed leather sofas are remade into nice leather wallets or leather pencil cases, and waste newspapers, waste fire hoses, and waste tires are converted into shoes and bags.

5. What can I do?
So, what can individual citizens or all of us do together? First, we need to restrain unnecessary purchases. When buying products, we can avoid over-packaged products and choose recycled or upcycled products. We can give other people or foundations such as Beautiful Fund those things we do not need. We can also sell them at flea markets so that people who need them can get them at affordable prices and reduce new resources being spent on making new products. You can sort waste properly to make recycling easier. The most important thing, however, is to think about if the product is ?really? necessary to you. Why don?t you start from using existing things properly for a long time and restraining from using disposable products?

20 Must know issue 12-2

Script by : Prof. Yoon, Sun-jin's Environment & Energy Lab
                Seoul National University
Illustration by : Kim, Jeong-kyeom


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