Rethinking waste

Waste as resource not as recyclables

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

We must begin, also at home and at work, to see “waste” not as something to be thrown away because there is no away and we must see “waste” as a resource for reuse and upcycling.

So-called recycling, which best should be referred to as “downcycling”, does not cut it, to be very honest, and we must seriously rethink how we handle and what we do with the waste that we generate, and we generate far too much of it.

The first step in our waste management efforts, no doubt, has to be reduction but more often than not us mere mortals have little to no influence, bar changing our buying habits, and by, maybe, demanding that industry change its ways.

As long as that those changes are not forthcoming, however, and they do appear to be still a very long way off, we have to apply the reuse and upcycling mode to reduce the amount that we throw out. Remember, you can't throw anything away as there is no away.

We must change our attitude and come to see waste – at least most of it – as a resource from which to fashion things and not as so-called recyclables.

I know that this statement is not going to endear me to the waste (management) industry, but so be it.

So-called “recyclables” are, in the main, “downcycled” and that at a high cost in the form of energy and there is a much better way. But this is not one that can be tackled commercially and thus is not of, nor in, the interest of the industry and those “in power”.

When it comes to glass bottles and glass jars those should never ever go into the waste stream not even as “recyclables” but instead should “return to sender”, so to speak, to be refilled and reused. Only when they finally break then it is time to recycle them, but into new glass.

On the other hand glass jar, which you, after all, have paid for in the purchase price of the product that you bought in them, have many uses around the home, etc., and should only be returned, or sent for recycling, if all the reuse and upcycling potential for them has been exhausted.

Wood, including and especially pallets, is a valuable resource that to destroy it and send it to landfill is (almost) a crime, and let us not even mention old furniture and such.

Pallet wood and leftover wood from construction sites – often destined for landfill – can be used in so many ways and many an old piece of furniture, with a little TLC, can live on for many decades and more to come.

Food waste too is a resource though ideally of that there should be as little as at all possible though peelings and such are almost unavoidable. This makes great compost for your garden. Therefore, if you have a garden don't give it to the municipal collection but use it yourself to feed your garden instead.

There are many other items of waste and categories that although “recyclable” or “downcyclable” are candidates for reuse and upcycling. The only problem today is that resourcefulness in that department is sadly lacking with so many of our contemporaries, and that even includes many who claim to be environmentally conscious. It all is destined, in the main, for the recycling bin rather than thinking of a reuse possibility.

Even many plastic containers and such have great reuse and upcycling capacities but many people just cannot see them and see the items only as waste to be thrown (away), not understanding that there is no such place as away. Daily we can see such reusable containers being tossed thoughtlessly into the trash bins simply because either people have no idea about reuse or they simply could not care. But when they require a box to store something in will pop to the nearest suitable store and pay good money for such a container. Sometimes one can but despair about today's society.

© 2015