Four simple reasons why reusing should be the new recycling
For years now, governments, charities and green living enthusiasts alike have been encouraging the public to recycle as much as they can. This is a step in the right direction. But is recycling truly the best way to dispose of unwanted items?
Often the greener route is not disposing of these items at all, but reusing them, or upcycling them into something better. Here are five reasons that should convince you that reusing is the new recycling.
Reusing saves energy and raw materials
Recycling is obviously better than adding to landfill, but the process of recycling itself requires a lot of energy that could easily be saved. When they are recycled, items have to be transported to and processed in a recycling plant.
Many studies (summarised in this survey) have proven that recycling is more energy efficient than manufacturing new items from raw materials. But simply reusing items will save even more energy.
For example, the cost of making a jar from recycled glass may be less than making a new one from raw materials. What costs even less, though, is just reusing the same glass jar, or upcycling it into something else.
Ultimately, if we reuse more, we can save the energy and raw materials that go into producing new items.
Reusing saves you money
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that reusing is cheaper than shelling out for brand new stuff. If you’re throwing out a ladder but could do with a bookcase, why not try and kill two birds with one stone?
Other great examples of this kind of upcycling include turning junk mail into paper plates. But the possibilities are endless. Many people have come up with great ways of upcycling everything from milk cartons, pill bottles and glass jars to wine corks in useful and creative ways.
Aside from upcycling, there are other ways reusing can save you money. If you don’t need or want to repurpose your old stuff but need to get it shifted, some clearance companies will take away your old things and donate them for reuse. This means that it’s cheaper than you might think to get rid of your old things. It also means your unwanted belongings may even help desperate communities who rely on donations.
Reusing creates art
Many artists have made a career of creating great works of art by reusing objects. Ptolemy Elrington makes animals from abandoned hubcaps, and Tim Noble and Sue Webster make piles of rubbish that, when lit correctly, create exquisitely detailed shadows.
These artists show that reusing doesn’t have to be about practicality. Reuse can create a greener and more beautiful environment.
Even if you don’t think you have Noble and Webster’s skills, there’s nothing stopping you doing this at home on a smaller scale. People have made art from plastic bottles, scrap metal, bottle caps, and other simple things in their own homes. There’s nothing stopping you from doing the same.
You can reuse non-recyclables
No matter how badly you want to, there are some things that you just can’t recycle. Pizza boxes are too oily to be turned into new paper, most juice cartons contain too much plastic to be recycled as paper, and too much paper to be recycled as plastic. But that doesn’t mean you have to throw them away.
It is much better to find some way of reusing or upcycling these things to make sure they don’t end up ruining the environment. Modify the mugs, bend the hangers into artworks and turn your pizza boxes into laptop stands, wall hangings or a table football pitch.
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