I started by leaving the items to be recycled, just next to the main door.

A weakness of mine has always been the “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” mentality. That has, in the past, led to me making many resolutions with great enthusiasm, and then later, failing miserably to keep them. Other seemingly more important tasks would always come along and edge aside my latest resolve until it became lost in some remote corner of my mind.

That was why the cleaned recyclable plastic items were just by the main door. In that way, I reckoned, I would be reminded to bring them to the recycling bin whenever I left the house.

Those initial weeks of getting into a recycling routine were not comfortable nor easy.

For one, I’m not someone who can easily rah-rah others into solidarity and action. When I first made my resolution to ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’, I told my family that “We should do more recycling.” That was me — to the point, and no effort made to get their buy-in.

No surprise then, that I was alone in the chore of identifying recyclable plastics, cleaning them, and then toting the unwieldly bundles downstairs to the recycling bin. No fun doing all that alone.

Also, the development of my green conscience created an eyesore in the house. Mineral water and drink bottles, takeaway containers, disposable cutlery, ‘reusable’ bags  — these had to be sorted and then either discarded or taken to the recycling bin… they seemed to grow in quantity. Even if these were neatly stacked by the side of the front door, hurrying or clumsy feet in and out of the house would knock them into disarray.

I had to put up with the occasional “aiyahs” and “aiyohs” whenever family members laid eyes on the pile of clean trash. They were considerate enough not to say it, but I knew they considered my actions wacky.

After a few weeks, I transferred my recycling activities to an obscure corner of the kitchen. Not because anyone complained, but because I had gotten into the swing of things — I could sort, clean, stack, and then deposit the week’s load of plastics at the recycling bin, without too much ado.

I had established a routine! Maybe not such a big deal to many, but an achievement, a ‘conquest’, albeit a tiny one, for me. I had overcome a personal mindset which held the defeatist view that an endeavour is not worthwhile if there is no immediate significant or conspicuous impact.

If I am to criticise my own efforts, there will be plenty — you are still using plastics; you are not recycling all plastics that you use; only six per cent of plastics in Singapore is being recycled, so most of your efforts are wasted; what about recycling paper, metals and glass? You are not doing enough … But I take comfort in the words of St Teresa of Calcutta,

God has not called me to be successful; he has called me to be faithful.

So I will continue to be faithful to my resolution, and evolve and extend my efforts. Sure, what I am doing may seem to be creating only a microscopic crack in this seemingly insurmountable global problem of unsustainable consumption and increasing waste.

Nevertheless, I am hoping that alongside those who are making a big impact, there will be more and more people like me who are chipping away, creating cracks. For there is no telling which unnoticeable crack of ours may grow to become a force of its own.

In these times, every crack of a chance is needed to break mindsets and create breakthroughs, to help God’s Creation recuperate and rejuvenate.

Nuncio Marek shares his thoughts about the culture of using disposable plastic items
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