Reuse: The stepchild of waste management (in our homes)

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

For some peculiar reason, despite the fact that the 3Rs of waste management are “reduce, reuse, recycle” most people and even governments only seem to understand them as being “recycle, recycle, recycle” and reuse is, literally, being ignored like a poor stepchild or orphan.

It would appear that many people do not understand the difference between reuse and recycle either and will refer to, say, my glass jars that I reuse, or repurpose, if you will, as drinking glasses as to the jars having been recycled into such glasses. This is, obviously, incorrect. They are reused or, if one wants, repurposed; not recycled.

When we reuse something, albeit for a purpose slightly different to the product's original intended one, we do not change it or its structure, and thus we use no energy.

Recycling, on the other hand, uses lots of energy. Energy to collect the “recyclables”, many of which should be reused; energy to sort and get them to the recycling plant; energy to break the materials up; and then still yet more energy to make new products. In other words, recycling is a very energy intensive process.

Reuse, as we have already seen, on the other hand, requires no energy use (or very, very little) but your own and your imagination.

In addition to reuse by us as individuals a more commercial reuse should be brought back in that glass bottles and jars should be taken back by the stores for reuse for their original purpose. This used to be done with all lemonade, soda and beer bottles some decades past and is, indeed, still being done or again in some countries. Glass jars were also taken back during World War Two in Britain and in all cases there is and was a deposit on the things. It is, thus, not rocket science.

Next to reducing our, especially packaging, waste REUSE must be our priority in managing our waste; at home, at school, and at work.

Recycling is very far down on the list for, when you have to resort to and choose the last option, namely recycling, you have already lost the game.

Reuse must be, if reduce has not worked, and industry is still over packaging things, the way to go and our primary choice. We must relearn, and the great majority of people today indeed seem to need to, the thinking of our parents and grandparents and their parents and grandparents, of considering packaging waste in the form of glass jars, tin cans, and nowadays a variety of other things, as a resource. A resource for reuse and upcycling.

So, instead of throwing out a glass jar we reuse them as much and as long as possible, until such a day when we have a system in place where stores take them back. And the same, though only as far as reusing, goes for tin cans, bicuit tins, single-side printed papers, cardboard boxes, packaging card, plastic containers, etc.

They all must be candidates for reuse and upcycling and the limit as to what they can be reused for and upcycled into is only set by our imagination.

So, let's get reuse out of the orphanage and give it a loving home.

© 2012