What you can do

Everyone can contribute to the sustaining of Malawi’s beauty. It’s not as hard as it seems – it’s a matter of mindset, and of willingness to change your habits. A much used approach speaks about the 3 R’s, the 4 R’s, the 5 R’s, or even the 6 R’s. In 2010 Malawi adopted the 4 R’s approach to waste management which calls everyone to Refuse, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle waste:

Refusing or avoiding waste involves preventing and minimizing waste production in production systems. This can be achieved by use of less material in production and designing long lasting products.

Reducing is characterized by minimizing waste production through behavior change. This includes transaction to more paperless systems, avoiding consumption of water from plastic bottle and banning of thin plastics.

Reusing mainly focuses on use of already used materials to prevent introduction of new waste. Examples are reusing carrier bags or beverage bottles. Reusing implies another ‘R’ as well: repairing. Malawians are known to be inventive in repairing what is broken and reusing is the second nature of many. Of course you can argue that most of them have no choice, because they just lack the money to buy new products. This does not alter the fact that practices of repairing and reusing contribute to sustaining the beauty of Malawi. They should be encouraged!

Recycling which is sometimes referred to as recovery promotes a culture of processing used commodities or waste materials into new resources or commodities. Some of the processes under this include use of animal dung to produce biogas, processing used plastic shoes and utensils into new ones, processing used paper into usable paper and use of food and green waste to produce compost.

In particular in Malawi it could be useful to mention the latter element separately as a fifth “R”: Rotting.

Rotting or composting seeks to process green waste into an organic fertilizer. Much of what grows on the fields and is usually considered to be waste that you get rid of by burning it, could be used very well to make fertile manure. People who learn to make and use manure themselves, can save a lot on fertilizer: they simply need less or, in the end, even no fertilizer at all. In Malawi several organisations promote sustainable agriculture, and train and teach people to farm in a sustainable way. Composting is an important part of it. Information and resources are for example to be found on the website www.foundationsforfarming.org and www.farming-gods-way.org.