We Need A Reuse Revolution

Sir David Attenborough has succeeded where many of us have failed: he’s managed to get the whole world talking about recycling.

His Blue Planet II, which showed incredible scenes of natural wonders beneath the sea, shocked policy-makers into talking tough about plastic pollution, and got them thinking more carefully about how we manage and dispose of our waste.

We in the waste sector welcome this willingness to debate with open arms. We, too, want a cleaner, healthier planet. However, we fear that recent developments will place unprecedented pressure on our waste management systems and ultimately hamper us from achieving this aim. In case it passed you by, China recently announced that it would no longer accept imports of low-grade plastic for processing from the UK. Given that we currently export more than 500,000 tonnes of plastic for recycling to China every year, we will need innovative thinking to address this impasse. Which leads me to wonder – why should we break down items that are in a perfectly usable condition – at great economic and environmental cost – when they could be used again?

For most people, ‘reuse’ and ‘recycle’ are one and the same. However the two are fundamentally different. Recycling is a process which breaks down used products into their raw state so that they can be made into new products. Reuse is about using something again, whether for its original purpose or to fulfil a different function.

The concept of reusing is not new. Just one example is ‘Make Do And Mend’, which encouraged people to make their clothes last longer, and which became one of the most memorable straplines of World War II. But what is new is the need to start differentiating between reuse and recycling – both for environmental and political reasons.

Reuse covers everything from buying and selling used goods and repairing items rather than discarding them, to renovating and “upcycling”. In recent years, it has become associated with buying items from vintage outlets and charity shops and gifting hand-me-downs to others. Fundamentally, though, reuse means challenging a “throwaway culture” and showing a little more care for the things we already own and a little more imagination about how we could use them again.

At FCC Environment, we operate reuse schemes throughout the UK. This includes a number of reuse stores, where items which have been thrown away at local household recycling centres by the public but could be

Source:: The Huffington Post – UK Entertainment


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