by Michael Smith (Veshengro)
June 16 to June 22, 2014 saw another National Recycle Week in the UK. Not that the majority of the population would have known about it, however, as most of the media did not even rate it a single column, nay, not even a single paragraph.
While the idea of a National Recycle Week is a good one for sure to some extent our focus, however, seems to be far too much preoccupied with just recycling rather than any of the other two components that make up the “Three Rs” of waste management. Thus the message being drummed out relentlessly all the time appears to be “recycle, recycle more and then recycle more still”. Reduce is almost not mentioned anymore – bar as to food waste – and reuse has become a stepchild not to be spoken of at all.
Recycling, however, is when we have lost and have failed in our efforts of managing our waste effectively and is not, cannot, and must not be, the first step and thought. Recycle is the last thing.
Reduce is the first step but reduction of the main culprit, namely packaging waste, is not something that we, as ordinary folks, can do much about except for demanding that industry reduce the amount of packaging and when shopping for some stuff we choose to go unpackaged.
Reuse, however, is something that we all can do but it first and foremost requires the acquisition of the right kind of mindset and of seeing the reuse potential in this or that item of waste.
The reason that reduce and reuse have almost been obliterated from the message is, and we must be very clear about this, and why especially reuse is not promoted, that local authorities and governments in general cannot make money out of reduce and reuse. Recyclables, on the other hand, bring in revenue.
Reuse, repurposing and upcycling, however, are good for us, financially, and for the Planet on a different level, and that really is what counts, and therefore reuse has to come well before recycling. Recycling still uses a great deal of energy though it is better than to make things from new materials.
The problem, though, as far as glass, as an example, is concerned is that in most cases it is not recycled into new glass bottles, jars, etc., but into a kind of building sand and that, in my opinion, rather defeats the object.
As far as glass bottles, and glass jars even, are concerned they do not belong into the recycling bin as long as they are not broken or damaged. They should go back to the bottling plants to be refilled, as it used to be, and a deposit, as use to be the case with bottles not even that long ago in Britain and elsewhere (in Europe), should be levied. Glass jars too, during World War Two were treated in about the same way and no one can tell me that we could not do that again. We also do not need, as some politicians have claimed, first some pilot projects and studies to see whether it would work. It does work and it did until not so long ago. And if there is a refundable deposit on every bottle (and jar) then those will be returned to the stores. If not by the person who initially has bought it – if they are too lazy – then certainly by someone else. That was the way us children made much of our pocket money in days gone by.
In the meantime, until we get some reuse back into industry and governments, we have to do the best that we can by rediscovering the reuse ways of our grandparents and their parents. If it could just remotely be reused it was not tossed out and we all should get to that stage again. And if we can't immediately and directly use it someone else more than likely can. We are not talking rocket science here or brain surgery though looking at what is going on all around us we could be forgiven to believe that we are talking about those sciences.
Therefore, as recycling is not and must not be number one on the agenda I propose a National and even International Reuse Week.