Author: Nicholas Clark
Winter is coming, I need a new coat… Where to?
Damn, my washing machine is broken…Where to?
Phone screen cracked…Where to?
Wonderful new house, need some furniture…Where to?
I imagine most of us have a similar answer. Some big high street store, which is cheap, convenient, familiar, and even satisfying to go have a look around and get what we need, or most likely, more than we need.
Likewise, I’m sure some of us may also get an uneasy feeling if we buy from these mega-stores. The sensation that you know you’re doing something wrong, but not really sure what it is.
A Linear Economy
We must ask ourselves, what is the impact of this convenience? Clothes shrink, machines break, phones need upgrades and until now, we simply throw these items in the trash. This typical process of extract (materials to make products), use, throw away and repeat is referred to as the Linear Economy, and is very often a false economy.
All too often these resources come from finite resources that are running out. This requires ever more intensive extraction of the raw materials (wood, metals, rocks, plants, Phosphorus, water…) puts ever more pressure on our already stressed planet – Materials and products need to be transported further to their final destination (our homes), using more fuel adding to the climate crisis. The shear scale of production creates terrible conditions of workers even infringing on human rights. The land area needed for extracting materials expands, destroying natural resources like rainforest to mine precious metals to use in our phones and batteries, not to mention plastic!
Additionally, throwing these away in landfill sites not only takes space (almost a third of some MS waste ends in landfill ) they can end up causing terrible issues in the sea and cause environmental damage as toxic chemicals runoff into our freshwater sources. More than that, it is also a terrible waste! It has been estimated that 1.2 million items that are potentially reusable are going to waste in a country the size of Ireland alone.
A Guilty Unease
Some might recognize that feeling of contrite shame when we throw something away, knowing there might be something better we can be doing with our waste. Can somebody use our superfluous clothes? If our cast-out items basically work, maybe there is a better option than the rubbish dump? It can’t be just me who has a collection of old phones completely useless to me, but will likely end up in the bin when I next move house?
Circular and Social Economy Solutions
If this is you, there is an alternative. It is not just a dream, but very much a reality! It is called the circular economy and RREUSE is an organisation that can help us achieve it!
The general idea is that one person’s waste, is another’s gold. Re-use centers which can repair and extend the life-cycle of our products, help our environment and save money in the long run! It also provides more inclusive employment opportunities:
Re-use centres aim to avoid the linear economy where things have a short life cycle and encourage employment across a community
Encouragingly, the new EU Green Deal from Commissioner Von de Leyen provides an action plan to boost the efficient use of resources by moving to a clean, circular economy! This is excellent news but what does it look like in our daily lives, and how can we, as individuals be more responsible with our items?
Real Social Economy Solutions - Meet RREUSE
RREUSE (Reuse and Recycling European Union Social Enterprises) is an NGO which is working hard to promote the circular economy in Europe especially through Re-use, repair, redesign and recycling. For nearly 20 years they have been exploring new business models like product service rental models which promote respecting the whole life cycle of items. RREUSE encourage us to consider the quality of materials items are made from, the origin of the resources (which usually come from another product), the whole production process in order to ensuring as little waste as possible. Their members for example, work for a future where repairing our items can become more affordable by reducing VAT on repairing in Austria. They are also working on a new APP for all of Europe – Stay tuned to find solutions and initiatives all in one place.
Below are useful tools and resources to help you find where you can take old items, repair your items, buy second hand items and re-use items in your area.
Activities to help you RREUSE
APPROVED RE-USE CENTRES – These centres can be distinguished from elicit or illegal centres to ensure high quality. They follow specific guidelines and regulations to guarantee quality under the waste framework directive. RREUSE have published their principles that all Approved Re-use Centres should abide by.
An interactive map where people can donate and find re-use shops
LES PETITS RIENS
Social enterprise helping vulnerable populations find shelters and jobs in collection, sorting, re-use, repair and secondhand sales.
LPR collect 8.000 tons of material, with textiles representing 80% of the total volume. The remaining 20% of the collections consist of furniture, household items, electric and electronics appliances, books, toys,… Read more
Community Resources Network Ireland – Recently produced a “How to guide” on what to do with bulky waste items that can actually be re-used . Additionally CRNI will have a series of ‘how and where to reuse almost everything at home and work and at play‘, as part of reuse month in October
Tchibo, the German coffee, textiles and household products retailer have joined forces with RepaNet to raise awareness on the re-use of textiles and social enterprise collection of used clothing. The new platform www.sachspenden.at launched by RepaNet is the go-to guide for citizens wishing to donate textiles to social enterprise
Community Resources Network in Scottland. They refurbish IT equipment and had an important response during the COVID lock downs
TRAPEROS DE EMAÚS NAVARRA
Traperos de Emaús Navarra, in Pamplona who have a fix it yourself/ Do it yourself space to repair your own household products, with volunteers are athand to help
There are countless more initiatives. Get in touch to tell us of more initiatives like this firstname.lastname@example.org
Let’s spread the word and help to create similar campaigns in your country!
Check out RREUSE on Social Media
Keenly interested in human & social affairs and issues of sustainability. Having recently studied Human Ecology and worked in education for more than a decade, his writings revolve around how we can improve conditions and livelihoods for local communities through policy and action.