The 5R rule: Reduce, Refuse, Reuse, Recycle, and Remove

April 28th, New Indian Express: ECOLOGIC- Pavitra Sriprakash, the Chief Designer and Director of Shilpa Architects writes on how to eradicate pollution caused by plastic.


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April 22 was World Earth Day. The largest Environmental Movement on the planet was launched by the Earth Day Network as an effort to end plastic pollution. The website of Earth Day Network says, they are, ‘dedicated to providing information and inspiration to fundamentally change human attitude and behavior about plastics’. The website is armed with toolkits, action plans, and calculators all aimed at one single goal — to end plastic pollution. It helps each of us understand how many plastic items we consume in a year, and make a pledge to reduce that amount significantly.

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ecologic 28th aprilIt was reported last week that scientists have created a mutant enzyme that breaks down plastic bottles — by accident. The breakthrough could help solve the global plastic pollution crisis by enabling, for the first time, the full recycling of bottles, which could slash the need to produce new plastic. “Currently about 300 million tons of plastic are produced each year to make bags, bottles, packages, and other commodities for people all over the world. Unfortunately, only about ten percent of this plastic is properly recycled and reused.

The rest ends up as waste in landfills or as litter in our natural environment, where it leaches dangerous chemicals into the nearby soil and water, endangering humans and wildlife alike”. (Source: Of countries ranked for mismanaged plastic waste, India ranks 12th, wasting about 0.6 Million Metric Tons of plastic into the oceans. All countries from 1 to 12 are Asian or African pointing to the geography where plastic waste in oceans is a mounting concern.

The first step (LEARN), in undertaking behavioural change is to understand current patterns. A plastic pollution footprint calculator estimates plastic consumption and that also helps tracks progress. Social media is next utilised to (ACT) share photos and stories of efforts to end plastic pollution all year round. By tagging Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram posts with the #EarthDay2018 #EndPlasticPollution, it is possible to create the groundswell, so others take similar small steps. The last step (ENGAGE) is to get the word out and inspire people’s participation. Events registered in, such as public pledges to fight plastic pollution, is a great way to get more people interested in joining the cause.

The ‘Action Toolkit’ also encourages people to adopt the 5Rs when it comes to ending plastic pollution. Reduce, Refuse, Reuse, Recycle, and Remove. The newer additions to these Rs are Refuse and Remove. As a conscious campaigner against plastic pollution, it is important, whenever possible, to refuse plastic. Much of the most frequently discarded plastic items, with the shortest life cycles, are those given to us for free. Make a habit of refusing plastic straws, grocery bags, plastic utensils, plates, and cups. ‘Remove existing plastic’ through organised plastic/litter clean-ups.

They are a great community event idea which makes like-minded people meet while cleaning up the community at the same time.So, let us all take on this responsibility this year and help promote the Earth Day effort of reducing Plastic Pollution in 2018. Learn, Act and Engage for yourself, your family, your organization, your neighborhood, your city — for the world!

About the authorPavitra Sriprakash (@pavisriprakash), the Director and Chief Designer of Shilpa Architects, is an Architectt, Urban Designer, Dancer and Artist. She writes a weekly sustainability column for The New Indian Express titled ECOLOGIC.