The beauty of the term “Sarawak First” is that it can be used for many positive actions which can benefit all Sarawakians.

The practice of 5R is one such positive action.

5R! You might ask?

Well, it is the updated version of 3R (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) which I am sure most of us are familiar with.

So, what does the term 5R stand for?

There are various versions, but let us stick to this version, Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle.

Photo source:

When I informed a friend about 5R, he said we have not even mastered 3R and now there is 5R.

He has a point, but 5R has introduced additional elements that can help to reduce waste in our society.

Publicising this 5R concept also helps to refocus the critical need in our society to significantly cut down on the huge amount of waste we are generating.

However, in order to understand the 5R concept we need at least some basic details or explanations about what each one of the R actually means.

In this version of 5R the correct order of each ‘R’, Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, and Recycle is also very important.

It means, if you practise the “R” that is first in the ranking order, you will make a better positive impact on our environment in Sarawak.

Let us start with the first R, Refuse. This encourages us to decline items that are environmentally harmful.

As an example, we should reject non-biodegradable items, such as drinks in plastic bottles and plastic straws.

I have tried this. It works, but there are times when it is difficult to apply.

As we all know, the weather is really hot now. I was at an outdoor event for several hours. The only quick source of water was in plastic bottles and I drank it.

By right, we should practise ‘Refuse’ in such situations.

There were 3,000 people at the event and that means 3,000 plastic bottles will end up in a landfill.

It can be challenging to practise ‘Refuse’ but try we must.

There are solutions, perhaps we can request people to bring their own water to such outdoor events in reusable bottles and at indoor events not to distribute drinking water in plastic bottles.

‘Refuse’ is the most effective way to drastically cut down on waste.

Therefore, it is important we take committed action and make efforts not to buy or accept items that can harm you and harm our environment in Sarawak.

Now moving on to the next most effective ‘R’ is, Reduce, meaning to use less or reduce your consumption.

This can be as easy as reducing the use of electricity and saves you money in the process.

Many of us make impulse purchases and later either never use the product or stop using it after a few times, such as clothing. It all goes to waste. Reducing such purchases and the quantity of items helps in practising this ‘R’.

The next down the line is ‘Reuse’, meaning to use an item again after it has been used.

An example would be to reuse printer cartridges by refilling them.

You could slowly replace many of your single-use items with reusable ones such as reusable water bottles.

Let’s move on to ‘Repurpose’ meaning to take anything and use it for something else.

The most common action here many of us can relate to is to repurpose scrap paper for taking notes and using various types of containers like flower pots.

Here your creativity can come into play and I am sure you could apply it to many items around your home.

Last but not least is a familiar ‘R’ to you – Recycle. This is the process of making new products from another product that has already served its original purpose.

There are some NGOs which are active in managing 3R Centres (hopefully they rename themselves as 5R) as many items such as paper, plastic, metal, fabric and electronics can all be recycled.

A good practice would be to recycle your food waste by composting it. It is heartening to see that there are more people practicing this.

Miri City Council via their Local Agenda and Community Development initiatives has an active, ongoing composting demonstration programme conducted on a weekly basis to encourage households to practice composting.

The examples given about the 5R are just a few and I would urge you to find out more.

Personally, I think, if there is one immediate action you can take please reduce your use of plastics.

You can see plastic waste pervading all aspects of our lives. It’s on the streets, drains, beaches and seas.

Based on a recent research, micro plastics even exist in our so-called clean bottled drinking water.

It would be ideal if the Sarawak government can come up with laws to prohibit the sale of plastic bags. This one action would immediately reduce the amount of plastics in our environment.

There are many other viable products that can be used as alternatives to plastic bags.

Ultimately, “Just Say No” to all actions which are harmful. Take the first few steps. Then keep trying and each of us as individuals can really make a difference.

Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle – these are the five important actions that we can take to make ourselves better custodians of our environment.

It is all in our hands. We cannot blame Malayans on this issue.

All of us can practise 5R to “Safeguard Sarawak” and keep the environmental interest of “Sarawak First”.

I hope you can apply and share the actions of 5R with your family and friends. Sharing is Caring


The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.