Re-use beats Re-cycle
Reduce, Re-use, Re-cycle. In that order. Reduce beats Re-use. Re-use beats Re-cycle.
There is a lot of press regarding the merits of recycling, almost to the point where it has become a bit of an article of faith for a lot of people. This is in some ways a good thing, but in other ways not so much. Wherever possible, it is better to re-use than recycle. It is in every way far more efficient.
Love the environment? Then re-cycling is the LAST thing that you should do! First Reduce, then Re-use, then Re-cycle.
This is a point that seems to have been lost from public debate recently. It needs to come back.
Recycling requires energy to do. Consider what happens to a standard 2L milk jug:
The milk is used and the jug is placed into the re-cycling bin.
- Scenario 1. The jug is collected and because of some reason (the bin holding mixed recycling rather than just plastic; or, the council not having the facilities or the funding to do the job properly) the jug is not recycled at all and goes to landfill. Not a good outcome.
- Scenario 2. The jug is collected and taken to a sorting facility. (Journey 1)
- The jug is sorted. (Process 1)
- The sorted jugs are sent to a plastic recycling plant. (Journey 2)
- The jug is melted down to be made into something else. (Process 2)
- The new object is transported to whatever factory needs to use it. (Journey 3)
So, for recycling, at least 2 processes and 3 journeys before the plastic can be useful again.
Compare that to the process that we use with our re-usable bottles and tubs:
- The milk is used and the bottles or tubs are left out for collection by the driver.
- The driver collects all the empty bottles and tubs while they are completing the same journey as the deliveries. i.e. no additional miles are traveled to pick up the empty containers.
- The empty containers are returned to the washroom on the same site as the Milk Production and sterilised to be used again. (Process 1)
That’s it. 1 Process vs. 3 Processes and 2 Journeys.
Re-using is by definition different to re-cycling. It requires different behaviours and different habits. In our case, it might mean putting bottles back on the doorstep rather than into the recycling bin. It means doing things differently. But doing the same thing and expecting a different result, well, there’s a name for that.