Indonesia has one of the most visited beach sites in the world. An archipelago of over 10,000 islands, it perhaps has the longest coastline in the world. This also makes Indonesia amongst the least connected (physically) countries. The remoteness of the outlying island cities and villages, can make exchange of goods and services challenging. This also means that the islanders are bound to live within the means of available on the island itself and adopt a lifestyle which is âgreenâ.
This example from Indonesia is true for most remote communities where people naturally learn to live within their means. This sustainable lifestyle is fast changing with increasing connectivity and need for new products. More and more products, once a luxury, are now becoming essential to power and run our daily lives and of course, Indonesia, is not an exception. This increasing consumerism could include anything from a beauty cream to a smart phone. Though the products themselves serve a positive purpose for its consumer, the discarded packaging has negative impacts on the environment. The consumer typically gets so engrossed in enjoying the product, that he is completely unaware of Â all the packaging and discards it as a useless biodegradable product. Waste management systems may exist in cities but in remote location they are non-existent. Some of these locations may never even get them due to their small populations and low scale of economic potential.
Traditionally, most waste produced in remote locations has been organic. It is either thrown outside the village perimeter or into the sea/ river where it self-decomposes over time. With plastic, Styrofoam and other synthetic materials becoming key ingredient of the attractive new age packaging, they retain their industrial forms for decades and do not go back to the earth. Adding to this is the issue of e-waste. What does one do when the computer or iPod has lived its life and will not work anymore? Even a world class city of 4million inhabitants such as Singapore lacks proper systems to manage this waste, how long will it take for them to reach the far corners of the world is anybodyâs guess. We have heard about the highest garbage dump on Mount Everest, a garbage island in the pacific or even the extra-terrestrial space waste. Cradle to cradle, a book by McDonough and Braungart aptly states, âThere is no need for shampoo bottles, toothpaste tubes, juice containers, etc. to last decades or even centuries, longer that what came inside themâ. If we are not going to install waste management system in a remote community so they can safely dispose their waste, then we must reconsider the system and begin to use only âworry freeâ packaging.
With so much garbage thrown around the entire planet and beyond, what can we do to decrease the environmental impacts of this increasing trash? Here are a few suggestions:
- To buy less and consume what is necessary. Be aware that marketing is trying to make you consume more.
- Design âworry freeâ packaging that is essential for the products to reach safely and without damage or do not overdesign.
- Product manufacturers should be responsible for collecting all hazardous waste and responsibly disposing it. Needless to say, they should also take back the products when they are no more usable. All products should therefore be returnable to the companies who manufacture them.
- Make all packaging self-degradable so it becomes a part of the biological cycle.
- Design packages with alternative uses after the product has been consumed or that can be reused for the same purpose again and again. Where are those glass milk bottles we had to send back to the milkshop?
- Products and their packages should carry a label stating their environmental effects. All packaging which is non-biodegradable should have a clean label stating this.
- Spread awareness in local communities about the environmental impacts of harmful waste and potential of recycling
Â The image of a wonderful beach buried under plastic bags was taken by Paula, a GUASL founder, on her recent visit to Indonesia.