Text and photo: Mariola Weindich-Mašek

30 March 2019

ECO = ECO series: means how to apply simple solutions, what to buy and what to do in order to live both ecologically and economically. Today in our series, we will focus on waste segregation. We will point out the benefits of waste segregation for the planet and remind you how long various materials will decompose.

How does waste segregation affect your daily life and consumer’s behaviour? Personally, I have to admit that when I have started to segregate waste for good - I have got a big shock. Why? First of all the waste segregation has shown me, how much garbage I do produce - especially plastic waste. Besides, I was able to see how often unnecessary disposable bags were used by me.

Waste segregation in the developed countries is nothing new. The best example is Switzerland, where children in kindergarten and primary school are taught about environmental education. Here everyone is recycling and no one is thinking too long about it. In each city, or even in a small town, there are containers for separate waste collection and often also large landfills where large garbage can be disposed of.

More and more often the Czechs are also paying attention to the fact that children in schools should learn through play about ecological lifestyle. In the Czech Republic you will find playgrounds combining elements of fun and education. We have already written about them here: Mirakulum,  Happy Earth
Segregate garbage and teach your children to do it. It will take not much time and effort, and you will help to save our planet.
Do you know how long different materials decompose? If not, you will be surprised, that’s for sure!

It decomposes 100-1000 years. Production of disposable bags takes seconds, literally. We use them for a short period of time-it is normally the time spent on going home from the store. Unfortunately, such an inconspicuous disposable bag decomposes nearly 450 years. In 39-million Poland, every day over 10 million bags are given, for the production of which nearly 3 thousand tonnes of oil were used, 3 million tonnes of CO2 were emitted into the atmosphere. Decomposition time of plastic bottles is twice as long, it takes about 800 years.

If you throw away a glass bottle or a jar into mixed waste, the decomposition will take about 4000 years. It is decomposition time of glass that has not been recycled. You should also remember that glass can be recycled and it can be used many times.

It decomposes from a few dozen to 100 years - depending on its chemical composition. The packages containing aluminium will need even 100 years to decompose. These include all sorts of beverage or cosmetics cans. A can thrown on the wet ground will decompose 10 years.

It decomposes from 3 to 5 months. In a humid environment, it firstly delaminates and then decomposes influenced by fungi or mould.

What can you do, apart from waste segregation, in order to reduce the amount of waste? The easiest way is to follow 3R rule in your everyday life!
• Choose products that do not have redundant packaging;
• Avoid buying goods that are unnecessarily packed in multiple layers, for example: toothpaste, where a tube is packed in a cardboard box, and then the larger box wrapped up with foil;
• Buy responsibly, that is things that you do actually need (according to research 67% of purchases are ill-considered);
• Avoid buying drinks in aluminium cans - aluminium production involves a high energy consumption, an excessive use of raw materials and produce large amounts of toxic waste;
• Avoid disposable plastic bags! Take your own linen shopping bag - a special and unique, in order never to forget about it;
• Reduce the amount of paper consumed at home and school - while printing or writing, try to use both sides of the sheet of paper;
• Try to use or buy reusable instead of disposable products, eg. rechargeable batteries instead of the disposable ones.
• Reuse purchased items - as often as possible;
• Buy drinks in returnable bottles - avoid disposable bottles, cans or cartons;
• Choose products with long life and avoid disposable ones.
• Segregate waste - more than 70% of trash content are recyclable materials which are suitable for recycling;
• Choose products in recycled packages-the ones that have been recycled;
• Avoid products in packaging that cannot be processed (e g. milk and juice in the so-called "boxes").