The 3R Peoples Party


REDUCE, REUSE and RECYCLE (The 3R’s) are at the heart of the ‘Go Green’ global movement. All of us, whether a public organisation, private enterprise or individuals, we need to manage resources more sustainably. The world’s resources are not infinite. It is worrisome and scary to note that people in 2050 will only have 25% of the resources per capita that people in 1950 had! Therefore, the only way we can support future populations is by using our resources more efficiently TODAY.

My Professor Friend invited me for a party hosted by “the 3R people” last weekend. “Come and meet some of the spirited folks whom you haven’t yet met and who genuinely care for this Planet. These are the People who not just believe in sustainability but put sustainability in practice”. While saying this he had a smirk on his face (at least that’s what I thought) as he knew that I only preached and never practiced sustainability. Luckily, I knew that I was not the only one – and there were millions like me.

The venue of the party was non-descript and the food served was frugal. But there was no coherence in the food menu – as it had some elements of Punjabi, some shades of South Indian and some Maharashtrian items. Later I was told that for all 3R parties, food is sourced from an NGO who collects all the excess food from the wedding halls in Mumbai. I thought that this was a great concept and I wish this idea is adopted by CIIs and FICCIs and the like who specialize in holding meetings, seminars and workshops where the main plenaries are often the “gala” lunches and dinners. Technical sessions are generally given less priority.

When we entered the venue, we were greeted and taken to a registration desk. There were three types of Tee shirts offered to each delegate. These Tee shirts were all in bright red color with slogans such as REDUCE, REUSE and RECYCLE. Depending on your interest, affinity, conviction or capability, you could pick up any kind of Tee shirt out of the three. I was offered a plain Red Tee shirt with nothing written as the organizers knew that I was a new comer and they knew nothing about me or my expertise.

The Tee shirts had one line explanation on each of the “R”s. Tee shirt with REDUCE had a bye line – buy less and use less. REUSE Tee shirt sported text “Use discarded item again” and the RECYCLE Tee shirt had a signature note “Make new products from materials that are discarded”.

I liked these simple explanations. I wish this is how we communicated the concept of 3Rs rather than using words that you would generally find in the technical journals that are read only by few.

I was curious to see “which R” dominated the party. A quick scan indicated that there were more Tee shirt people with RECYCLE followed by REUSE and relatively few people were sporting the REDUCE Tee shirts. I therefore thought of meeting first some of the REDUCE Tee shirt people.

The first person I met with REDUCE Tee shirt was wearing shorts and a half sleeves shirt. When asked, he said that he is telling everybody to wear shorts and half sleeves shirts and not full trousers and full shirts. That was his campaign. He said that if this practice was followed by everyone then it could mean saving 1 billion meters of cloth each year. Assuming that average 30 % of cotton is used then it would amount saving nearly 4 billion m3 of water each year[1]. He had even more such interesting statistics on savings of earth resources (especially land), reducing waste release (like fertilizers and pesticides) and emissions etc. but thankfully a REDUCE Tee shirt good looking woman standing next to him interjected and said “and not to forget the advantage of shorts and half sleeves shirts – exposing your skin to the sunlight and getting D Vitamin to your body in the natural form. Do you know that in India more than 69% of adults have D Vitamin deficiency”?  To impress her I said ” this would mean  we won’t need to produce D Vitamin artificially and this will amount to further saving of resources such as water, minerals, protecting biodiversity and reducing emissions”.  And the woman was indeed impressed. She said that I made a good point she had missed.

“Do you really need this spot light”? A tall man with REDUCE Tee shirt asked me and without waiting for my response dimmed the light.  “Do you know if we follow strictly the minimum illumination guidelines (e.g. 500 lumen/m2 for office and 40 lumen/m2 for public areas)[2] , 1 million MW of electricity will be saved each year and so will be a reduction in the coal combusted to greatly reduce GHG emissions. (I was wondering how the Tall man arrived at these estimates – but looking at his face with passion as well as conviction – I did not dare to ask. These are rare skills generally vested with reputed environmental NGOs).  I could see in his eyes his dimly lit house, equally dim lane where he lived and the dim headlights of his car that could lead to road accidents. But jokes apart but I thought the Tall man made a sense. We many times celebrate illumination without any reasons.

I thought of meeting now some REUSE folks. I saw that most of the REUSE people had assembled together for a kind of ceremony. This was a ceremony where the children “handed over” their used mobile phones to parents. Apparently, this clan of REUSE believed that mobile phones should be reused as much to an extent possible and all within the family. A great concept.

Here, the children got first the best smart phone and once the mobile phone was found outdated or if a better phone was available in the market, then the children bought the new phone and passed on the old mobile phone to their parents or the seniors. Parents and the seniors always used the “secondhand phones”. The life cycle of the mobile phone was thus increased leading to saving on the costs and of course reduction in resource consumption and damage to the environment. I was really impressed.

One of the REUSE ladies asked me “Do you use plastic or paper or cloth bag?” I said Plastic with an honest and guilty face expecting from her a look of disgust. On the contrary the lady exclaimed “So wise of you. There are only few like you who understand. Plastic bag can be reused many times compared to paper. A cloth bag needs to be washed much more frequently and that leads to more consumption of water and detergents. I just don’t understand the anti-plastic bag campaign”. I was surprised with her analysis. “Time to revisit Life Cycle Analysis of various types of bags” I said to myself.

People with RECYCLE Tee shirts were large in number and did not mix much with REDUCE and REUSE Group. In fact, I noticed a kind of animosity in their relationship. Probably recyclers  did not want “reduction” on purchases or consumption and “reuse” of used goods and materials to happen in their own interests.

The topic of discussion was how to increase or improve recycling. Recycling builds skills on entrepreneurship – said one RECYCLE person from the private sector. Another RECYCLE person from Academia spoke about link between RECYCLING and innovation. A lady with large bindi on the forehead (a typical powerful NGO) said that RECYCLING should involve women and support their livelihoods.  All this sounded music to me.

There was a small exhibition in the foyer on recycling of plastic bottles in a creative way. This was really fascinating[3]. One RECYCLE man (short and fat) told me that in the next meeting there will be an exhibition on recycling of aluminum cans. According to him, you could operate a TV set for an estimated three hours with the energy saved by recycling just one aluminum can! He gave me his visiting card that used waste paper (one side had his name printed and the other side it had some “gibberish”) resulting from cutting magazine covers at the Printing Press. What a clever  idea I thought.


When we finished dinner with such conversations, I thanked the Professor for inviting me to the 3R Peoples Party. Professor asked me to write my impression in the suggestion book that was made out of recycled paper by women who were underprivileged.

I wrote “Why have separate Tee shirts for each R? You need integrated thinking. Print all the three Rs on each Tee shirt and the color of the Tee shirt should not be red but green.” The President (who was wearing RECYCLE Tee shirt) wasn’t pleased with suggestion on “integrated approach”. But he liked the idea on the change of color of the Tee shirt.

I stepped out of the hall with Professor. The good looking REDUCE lady in shorts and short-sleeve shirt – whom I had met earlier – saw us heading to our respective cars. “Come on friends – how come you are not following the principles of car-pooling to REDUCE the fuel consumption and the per capita emissions” She did not seem pleased with us as we were using separate cars.

“Well” Professor said “Dr Modak lives in South Delhi and I live in the North – so we cannot pool”

“Oh” she said “now I understand”

Then turning to me she asked “Then how about giving me a ride Dr Modak? I live in the South too. Can I hop in? – By the way car-pooling is also called “collaborative consumption”[4]


I readily agreed. Driving car with a good looking lady was bigger collaborative benefit I thought – apart from the environmental benefit of reducing fuel consumption and air emissions.

I most respectfully opened the door of the front seat for her to hop in.

“Let us also car pool for the next event of the 3R People Party” I said while dropping her at her residence.

[1] Do refer to the report

[2] See

[3]  Have a look at

[4] Read

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  1. Brilliant examples of 3R .Practising what we preach is helpful in reforming .I used to advocate 6 R-Recover ,Replace(smaller foot print).Refuse .well my brand as a chemical engineer was Dark Red as I was not eligible for green.

  2. Middle class Indian housewives, Kabaddi wala and yours truly have been contributing in their humble way to the 3R theory.
    I have always used second hand phones which my kids have discarded as being obsolete.
    For me, still they were “over smart.”
    Nice and entertaining blog.

  3. Thanks Prasad. I never realized that my sons have embibed spirit of at least 2 Rs. My younger son prefers bermuda or 3/4th and slippers even for business meetings and I always get chance to use relatively new mobiles and “branded cloths”.
    On serious note, what our parents taught us that we should not buy or discard things just because we can afford it all time valid lesson. In the era of small family we need to pass on this simple message.

  4. For save environment and make it to Healthy. We all have to try understand and follow the theory of 3R.

  5. Professor Modak, thank you for your another great read to us. I, with my little knowledge of 3Rs in waste management had an argument with a presenter on “Circular Economy” in a regional event held at Siem Reap, Cambodia. To me, the circular economy appeared renaming the 3Rs. The presenter, who is a Danish by nationality and currently managing a waste management project in Laos argued that Circular Economy is broader than 3Rs in application. I explained the 1st R (Reduce) through policies, laws, planning and design can be extended to raw material extraction and product manufacturing sites to reduce waste sources. The presenter was limiting the scope of 3Rs to a municipal waste management.
    Prof Modak, you would be the best person to judge and clarify this two concepts. Thanking you,

  6. Hi Prasad I’m revisiting some earlier blogs.

    This one reminded me of a survey of environmental attitudes of young people done by UNEP/UNESCO some 20 years ago. The results are likely to be still the same today.

    Young people believe passionately in recycling. Schools reinforce this message, community, NGO and activities and publicity also. To be an environmentally good person means recycling your surplus stuff.

    There was little consciousness of the better option – buying less stuff. It wasn’t part of their consciousness as an environmental actor.

    So there you have it. A whole generation lost. Probably the next one also. The education system has a lot to answer for. As for NGOs …



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