What is Reuse?
We have talked about recycling. You are probably wondering what 'reuse' means and how it can affect you and your community.
Reuse is very different from recycling. Instead of carefully discarding items that can be recycled to make new products, reuse involves using the items in another way, when their primary use is finished.
This reuse extends the life cycle of an item, which may eventually be discarded, but in the meantime, is useful and remains in circulation instead of gracing the top of a garbage pile in a landfill.
Here's an example. If an old automobile tire is recycled, it might become raw material for road surfacing.
A glass canning jar might become raw material for 'glassphalt' (asphalt glass incorporated into the material).
If you were to reuse these items, the tire might become a tire swing hanging from a rope tied to the old oak tree in the backyard, or a painted planter in the front yard.
A glass canning jar might become a small planter for a window sill, or a 'sand art' container, or even a decorative container to hold colored marbles.
Other methods of reuse include things like contributing that old car to a charity, where the parts will be salvaged and sold to those who need them.
In return, the charity will receive much-needed income for its non-profit business.
Remember, reuse does not necessarily mean that YOU reuse the item. It can mean that someone else gets to benefit from its use or sale.
Selling old household items on eBay or another auction site, can be considered reuse as well.
If you are finished using the item and you DO NOT throw it away or recycle it – it can be reused by you or someone else.
It doesn't matter, as long as it is reused!
You may wonder why reuse is so important.
First and foremost, reuse reduces waste and decreases or postpones the garbage going into our landfills.
At the same time, it gives you or someone else the opportunity to use an item productively and save the expensive of buying something else to satisfy your need.
Here are some other great reasons to consider reuse:
- It extends the life cycle of an item and the initial time and effort that went into manufacturing the item.
- It does not take dedicated skill and energy to produce a new item so these skills can be used to manufacture other, more important products.
- It reduces the amount of manpower and pollutants that would be required to make a new item or recycle old material.
- It reduces the materials and chemicals that must be recycled and those that might otherwise damage or impact our environment.
- It costs less than purchasing a new product or disposing of an old one.
- It can generate new business models and business opportunities.
- It supports crucial charitable work and can provide additional money to fund this work.
The overarching benefits to reuse, include:
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers the reduction of waste a crucial means of reducing the environmental impact of global warming and greenhouse gases.
Community reuse programs are a natural evolution because they require less energy and less labor than recycling, and they help to reduce pollution of air, water and soil.
If your community is like most in the U.S., you have an underprivileged population that can benefit from a reuse program.
With a structured organization in place to collect and distribute items for reuse, the less fortunate members of your community can use:
- Donated clothes
- Food products
- Building materials
- Medical devices or supplies
Donate your old cell phone. Cell phone manufacturers, and some local charitable organizations will take your donation and reprogram the phone for 911 use by battered women and families in need.
You may get a tax write-off just for bringing in that old cell phone, charger and battery.
Local educational programs can use old cars and other items to help train underprivileged or handicapped workers so that they can seek gainful employment and become constructive members of the community.
National and Local Economy
Reuse puts a smaller burden on the economy. It inserts office equipment, furniture, appliances, rugs, telephones and many other used products back into the economic stream.
These products, equipment and parts allow small business owners and individuals to make money, and put that money back into the economy!
Here's another thought!
Before you discard or give away that treasured item, you may want to consider repair.
Repairing an older item can be less expensive than buying a replacement and it is a great way to practice reuse.