Reuse and recycling are at the heart of the Circular Economy, the European strategy aimed at maintaining the value of products, materials and resources within the economy for as long as possible, and to minimise the generation of waste. Reuse and recycling contribute to this vision by extending the lifespan of products and materials respectively.
By 2030 the European Commission expects reuse, recycling and other measures to save the European economy €600 billion per year. According to environmental services company Veolia, adopting a circular economy could create €1.65 billion of GDP in Ireland.
Reuse and recycling are also critical to the UN Sustainable Development Goal #12 (see here), which aims to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
Reuse ensures that goods – like clothing, appliances or furniture – stay in our economy for as long as possible. It includes trading or swapping (e.g. in charity shops, second hand stores or online), repairing, borrowing, leasing and upcycling. For example, if you buy a second hand bicycle or repair your laptop instead of throwing it away, you are reusing.
Reuse is the preferred environmental option for managing our resources because it prevents a product from becoming waste and reduces demand for new products. About 40% of a country’s greenhouse gas emissions are associated with the manufacture and distribution of products, so by reusing more we can reduce our climate impact.
Nearly all of the reuse activity in Ireland is considered to be on the waste prevention tier of the waste hierarchy. Preparation for reuse, on the second tier of the hierarchy, only takes place if something is discarded and therefore is considered to be a waste.
CRN members are involved in reuse by facilitating the exchange of goods for reuse (online or in retail stores) and by refurbishing or upcycling IT equipment, furniture, textiles, bicycles and much more.
Recycling ensures that the material in products – such as paper, plastic or aluminium – is circulated in our economy for longer. This means that new materials do not have to be extracted from natural resources in order to replace them and the material is prevented from going for recovery or disposal.
CRNI members are involved in recycling materials that cannot otherwise be reused, including mattresses, electrical and electronic goods, textiles, paper and card.
Many reuse and recycling companies operate as social enterprises that provide sustainable and meaningful employment for people who might not otherwise have access to it.
This means that they are contributing to the environment, the economy and to the needs of our society and community, or the “triple bottom line” – as wonderfully illustrated in the video “Inclusive Communities at Work” here.
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