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Juana Fernández Rodríguez, Professor of Environmental Sciences, University of Navarra, Spain Degree

DIY (Do it yourself): Do it for yourself and the environment

Thu, 17 May 2018 10:35:00 +0000 Published in Navarra Newspaper


Juana FernándezOn the occasion of the World Recycling DayIn addition, it is worth recovering a rule that you may have heard of. It is the 3Rs rule: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. This "compass to take care of the environment" proposes to REDUCE the amount of waste generated, REUSE as much as possible in the format in which it is generated and, finally, RECYCLE; that is, give a new life to waste by using it for other purposes.

To these 3 "R's" has been added (and advanced) a "P" for PREVENTION, which comes to put before all the above, the idea that the best waste is the one that is not generated.

However, and although our goal is not to generate waste, the current pace of life makes it very difficult to achieve this. What we can do is to give these objects, leftovers, etc., a new opportunity, transforming them into new goods with a added value and, at the same time, reducing the consumption of new raw materials.

In this context, creativity comes into play, which has become a rising value in today's society. Currents such as DIY- Do it yourself- highlight this trend, which is already a movement that brings together different sectors and aims, among other objectives, to seek sustainable development thinking about the environment.

At the DIY framework , people have taken up traditional habits, such as making their own clothes at home, making their own bread or repairing household appliances. However, one of the DIYs that makes the most sense for the day we commemorate today is to use materials that are going to be recycled. For example, we can make a seat using plastic bottles or pallets, make soap from used cooking oil or use an old shirt to make a cushion. On this basis, a world of possibilities opens up to give a new life to what we previously considered just waste.

Focusing, for example, on the oil used in households, it is worth remembering that it can create serious environmental conflicts when it is not well managed. If it is deposited in the sink or toilet, it forms an emulsion with the water, so that when it reaches the wastewater treatment plant it requires a great deal of energy to separate it from the water. On the other hand, if the wastewater is not treated, the oil remains on the surface of the rivers, where it causes serious environmental problems. Among them is the decrease in the quality of the remaining natural water, which directly affects the biodiversity of the ecosystem.

This is the reason why the residual oil must be taken to the clean points enabled for it by the different associations in Navarre. However, we can also take advantage of it to use it at home. The elaboration of soap is an activity that usually pleases both adults and children. It is a saponification reaction achieved by mixing filtered cooking oil (0.5 L) with caustic soda (100g dissolved in 0.4 L of water). The mixture of soda and water should be done with gloves and outdoors, or near a window because of the vapors it generates. All this under the supervision of an adult. At the end, to facilitate the mixture, 0.1L of alcohol is added. If desired, essences or colorants can be added.

The way to check when the reaction is finished is simple. Just look at the consistency of the mixture, which should be similar to that of mayonnaise. At this point, the mixture is placed in an open container to dry for at least two weeks. When it has hardened, rinse the surface with water and the soap is ready to use, whether for washing hands, floors or clothes.

In this way, a waste that is potentially hazardous to the environment is transformed into a new product that is very useful in every home, such as soap.

It is worth looking around us, because it is very likely that we can think of a thousand objects to which we can give a second life, lend a hand to the environment and to the family Economics and educate in values to the little ones. Today, and every day: #YoReciclo!