Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

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The waste hierarchy refers to the "3 Rs&q...

People often focus on a single section of the ‘reduce, reuse & recycle’ motto.  However I think it is important that we try to remember it as a whole.  From an energy and resources point of view it can make a big difference. It is also important to try and remember to apply this concept at work, school, college, university etc.

 

It’s also important to remember that in the modern world we all have busy lives and we often need speed and convenience, but I think we can make a difference without having to give up our everyday creature comforts.

 

Reduce

 

Reducing our consumption can have the largest impact on our use of materials and energy.  If we simply don’t  consume something then it obviously never needed resources to produce.

 

Examples

 

  • Napkins and handkerchief – something as simple as switching back to traditional fabric napkins and hankies which can be washed and reused rather than using paper disposable ones. 
  • Reusable Bags – When you are shopping try to take reusable shopping bags with you.  If you really had to take one of the supermarket bags, try to make sure you take it back with you and use it again in the future.
  • If you are doing a one off DIY job, ask friends if you can borrow power tools etc. or hire them rather than buying something that will hardly ever be used.
  • Why buying, try to buy products with as little packaging as possible for example loose apples rather than the shrink wrapped multi-pack where the apples are on a card, plastic or foam tray.
  • Composting – I had trouble deciding if this should go into Reduce or Reuse as it really is a little of both, maybe even all three.  If you compost garden and household organic waste you can reduce your general waste and reduce the amount of store bought compost and fertilisers  you need for your garden.
  • Avoid using single use batteries.  Where possible use rechargeable.  Some modern ones are referred to as ‘low self discharge’ meaning they store better without going flat and are often ready to use from the package without needing to be charged first.  This gives you the convenience of disposable batteries with the added bonus of being reuseable.
  • Its not just when out shopping you can reduce.  Simple things can make a difference too, such as :
    • Only taking one square of kitchen towel, and getting a second or third if needed.
    • Putting full loads in the washing machine or dishwasher means fewer cycles, extending the life of the appliance and reducing the use of energy and water.
    • This article wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention simply turning things off when they are not in use.

Reuse / Upcycling / Freecycling

 

Reuse of an item is great from both a resource and energy point of view, requiring no additional virgin resources to be extracted and often minimal to no energy input. Reuse can also save money and reduce landfill requirements

 

Examples

 

  • Glass Jars – If you buy jam or pickles they normally come in a glass jar, you can refill these with your home made produce after washing and sterilising.  If you can’t make use of them, wash them offer them to a friend or through a freecycling site.  If you have an attractive bottle from something you have used it can be turned into a vase or with a  small purchase of a pouring spout can be reused for cooking oils or cordials.
  • Household electrical & digital devices – These days so many items have a lifespan of 12 months or less before they are deems obsolete, it’s such a shame as many of these devices still perform the task they were designed for perfectly well.   When you are done with something, why not consider offering it to someone else through an online reuse community or offer it to a friend etc. but whatever you do, don’t throw it away or leaving it languishing in a drawer.
  • Spectacles –  Did you know you can donate these to charities, where they get used around the world in places where their availability is limited.  See http://www.vao.org.uk for an example.
  • Printer cartridges – Many brands of ink cartridge can be refilled, often many times over and some manufacturers offer schemes when you can send back your empties.  Local schools and charities also often have schemes in association with local refilling companies as a way of raising fund too.
  • Traditional glass milk bottles are a great example of reuse, now hardly seen having been replaced with plastic or waxed card cartons.  These bottles were collected by the dairy in various ways, sterilised and put back into service.  The energy and resources required to use these bottles again is negligible compared to recycling or new. Once at the end of their life, damaged/broken ones would be recycled.
  • Furniture – Either when moving house or through redecorating a room, we often end up with items of furniture we not longer need.  There are so many ways that these can reused or adapted.
    • Kitchen units from a refit or chests of drawers could be put into a shed or garage for additional storage.
    • Offer them to friends or the community at large through one of the various reuse / freecycling sites.
    • Sell it either via online auctions or local classifieds.
    • Offer them to local charity organisations or shops.
    • As a last resort you could take them to a recycling centre where they can often be broken down to raw materials and recycled.

Recycle

 

Recycling is one area that gets lots of attention, most local authorities now do household recycling collection. You can also take items to recycling points at many retail locations etc. So rather than explain all the different ways you can recycle I thought I would include a few snippets of information about various materials to help guide your future efforts and purchases.

 

Materials

 

Glass

 

  • Glass thrown in to household general waste often ends up in landfill and never decomposes.
  • Glass is classed 100% recyclable, meaning it can be used over and over again.

Metal

 

  • Aluminium and Steel from cans etc. can be recycled and ready be reused in just a few weeks.
  • Recycling aluminium cans saves up to 95% of the energy used to make one from new material.
  • Recycling steel saves up to 75% of the energy when compared to making it from virgin material.

Paper

 

  • Up to 50% less energy is require to recycle paper when compared to using virgin materials from trees.
  • Recycling 1 short ton of paper can save around 17 average trees and around 3 cubic metres of landfill.

Plastics

 

  • Plastics can take several hundred years to decompose.

Links

 

I have included a few links to sites that we use for recycling info from time to time and where some of the facts and figures used in this post were obtained.

 

 

 

If you have more ideas, examples or comments related to this post let us know in the comments below.

 

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How are we different to Freecycle or Freegle?

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A few people have asked about this over the last few weeks, so I thought it might be a good idea to try and explain a little about how we are different from some of the other sites such as Freecycle and Freegle etc.

Instant Access

Firstly, you dont need to be a member to view what is currently on offer via the site, if you see something you are interested in or you want to list something, you can join in just a few minutes, you don’t have to wait for anyone to activate your account etc. either, when you sign up to AGTY, you will get an automated email with a link to validate your account, it’s that simple.

Simplicity

Some of you will suffer from a similar problem to us I am sure.  Where we live, we don’t have one Freecycle or Freegle groups which covers us, we live between groups, meaning we need to subscribe to several to cover our ‘area’, this has the unfortunate side effect of flooding our in-boxes with listings from a wide geographic area which we couldn’t really justify travelling to. The AGTY solution to this, don’t split things up by town or district. We offer one site with one signup with the aim of saving the one planet that we all share.  You can specify how far from your location you are willing to travel and we will show you the things which are in that area.  If you are visiting friends, you can just change your area whilst you are away and will see everything around you, no need to search for a new group, no need to signup or unsubscribe when you return home, just change your location again.  This applies when you move home too, which leads me to my next  point nicely…

Reputation

Because you are not changing from one group to another, if you move house for example, your reputation on the site stays with you.  People in the community will be able to see that you have been with us for a long time etc.

Clearer Inbox

You don’t get an inbox full of stuff your not interested in, or as many would call it ‘spam’.  With many of the area groups on Freecycle and Freegle everythings arrives in your inbox.  We try to make our listings available to you in as many ways as possible, but in ways that leave you in control.  The primary way to access listings at the moment is via our website.  We also have XML feeds (known as RSS feeds in some apps) which you can subscribe to, there are many appplications to access these and many modern email applications allow you to subscribe to them too and you can choose which categories you want details from.  We are constantly looking for other ways to make our listings available and will keep you up-to-date on new ways here and on the site.

What’s gone, what’s not.

Unlike the email group based sites, you don’t have to hunt through your email to see if something has gone or not.  Because our listings are managed by the site, when you visit one you will see straight away if it is still offered or gone.

The AGTY way

We know that some people have had problems with moderators on other sites, we are in the process of building our ‘Community Moderators’ section of the site at the moment, which will be different to our staff moderator system.  A community moderator wont see who the listing is from (which means they can’t be biased against any specific user), they will also be seen by two moderators before going live to reduce the chance of  ‘spam’ listings making it through to you.

I hope this goes some way to answering the questions people have been asking,  if not or you have feedback you can let us know using the Contact Us details from the site.

Regards

The AGTY Team

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