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I was watching the animation movie, Wall-E few days back and it seriously made me think about the life mankind would have in the future in case the current abuse of nature and earth goes on. For people who think that such a situation for earth and mankind is remote, think again. The recent floods in Chennai and Tamil Nadu should be a wake-up call for each of us to tread a new path and shun our existing ways of destroying nature.

The title that came to my mind when I thought about this topic is the time-old classic movie – Back to the Future that fascinated us with the concept of time travel. I realized that time travel is the need of the hour in case we need to save the earth from further destruction but a different version of traveling back in time, called Precycling. With the public voice getting louder in support of the 3 R’s – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle for saving nature, the one that could be more effective compared to 3 R’s is Precycle.

So what is Precycling? According to Wikipedia, “Precycling is the practice of reducing waste by attempting to avoid bringing items which will generate waste into home or business”. To better understand the concept of Precycling, I would like to take you back (20 years before) in time. I still remember taking a wired basket containing empty bottle, empty egg tray while going to a grocery shop and the shop keeper would fill in the empty bottle with oil, egg tray with eggs and pack pulses/cereals/masala items in a paper. I would also carry a separate bowl and gunny bag to get milk from my milk vendor and rice from ration shops. Except paper (which is bio-degradable), nothing else is wasted as I could reuse it again until they get damaged. Today, when I go to a supermarket, I get everything in a packed form that I end up bringing a lot of waste in the form of plastic bags, bottles, covers, and pouches. Even though I sell it to a recycler and the materials are recycled, still a portion of non-recyclables end in the dust bins, finally making its way to the landfills. So precycling eliminates the need for a particular product (like plastic covers/ bottles in the above example) so that you don’t need the 3 R’s – reduced usage/ reuse/ recycle of the product.

After some serious thinking, I decided to bring back this old habit to mine to life. During my recent visit to the supermarket, I found that there were options to buy pulses/cereals/rice in unpackaged form (colloquially known as loose) and so carried my own bags to buy these separately. I know this is not possible with all the products that you buy from the shops, but a simple change with the easier products could help us to find a solution for the difficult ones in the future.

As I was thinking about Precycling, I came across a website which promotes a similar concept known as Refilling. Again traveling back in time, the word refill brought back memories of drinking Goli soda in refillable glass bottles. I know that we still get soft drinks and soda in refill bottles, but their usage is coming down, thanks to the popularity of PET bottles. Even though the concept of refilling raises questions about hygiene and cleanliness, a lot of startups and big corporations in India have taken a liking to solve this problem. While traveling to my office, I noticed coke refill machines installed in front of various places such as supermarkets and petrol bunks, but the sad part is that not many seem to use it. I got to know about a company called Amruth Dhara, based in Pondicherry, which is working on installing water refill machines in public places to tackle the problem of bottled water pollution. It is important that the public support such initiatives so that this concept soon catches on.

Another product that I found interesting and innovative is the Mitti cool fridge which is made of clay and used to store fruits, vegetables, and water. Do you remember that before electric fridges became popular, people used to store water and edible items in earthen pots to keep them fresh and chill? Well, the Mitti cool fridge works on the same principle and has found many takers for it. I still see people in villages and few in cities use earthen pots for storage and cooking purposes, but their growth seems to be on a downward trend. I haven’t seen/ used the Mitti cool fridge yet but would like to try it in the near future.

I know a change like this (going back to our old ways of living) might not be easy but the best thing is to experience it firsthand and later share your experience with your friends and family so that such concepts like Precycle, Refill catches up with people and gets imbibed into their everyday life. In case you are wondering whether a change like this could help in combating climate change, think again, because I have read somewhere that “small things make a BIG difference”. Pray to god this happens.

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