Monday, April 14, 2008
Creating a culture of reuseReuse is the forgotten R of the three R's.
We currently have a materials chain that goes something like this: harvest resource, manufacture, distribute, use, dispose.
Recycling adds an extra step where things are collected during disposal and reintroduced into the manufacturing stage as raw materials. There are two things about recycling that need to be noted:
- Many materials are unsuitable to be recycled into the same thing. Plastics are probably the best example. They are either used to supplement the virgin (new) feedstock, or made into entirely different products (e.g. PET from drinking bottles is recycled into clothes, insulation, credit cards, etc.)
- Recycling often involves breaking down the product into something as close as possible to the original feedstock. This means that all the energy that went into it is lost. Glass is a good example.
The things that I have read about reuse have all been focussed on reusing items in the home and giving or selling them to other people who can use them (which are both important).
I want to see industry take responsibility and start collecting items for reuse, rather than recycling (wherever possible). We have seen this happening our whole lives: glass soda bottles. Every time you took a glass soda bottle back to the store and had your deposit paid back you were putting a bottle into the reuse chain.
The reuse chain works like this: instead of disposing of something it is taken back to the distributor (the store it was bought from). When the manufacturer makes deliveries they also collect the items for reuse. At the factory the items are inspected and cleaned. Any items that are unsuitable for reuse are recycled, and the rest is reused.
This means far less energy is expended on recycling and manufacturing new items which could have been reused. The easiest thing to imagine this working with is glass bottles and jars of any type, but why not expand this to everything? Why not start designing reuse into our products?
There would be huge savings for manufacturers, as they would not need to keep buying new materials. The only costs are the collection and logistics, which are already in place for the distribution of the product.
Packaging is a great example. If packaging can be made durable enough to be reused multiple times then consumers could just keep returning that packaging until it reached the end of its life cycle.
It does require a rethink of how we design, package and distribute things, but the benefits would be great for everyone – both manufacturers and consumers.
Get the latest posts immediately
or enter your email address:
About this blog
About Engineer Simplicity
Engineer Simplicity specialises in the design and development of electronic products.
We are in the middle of an energy crisis and each of us need to make some dramatic changes to ensure that we have electricity, and that the ...
The advert ends with the line, "The walls between art and engineering exist only in our minds." There are a couple of ways to i...
As engineers we spend a lot of time solving problems. A customer has a problem and it needs to be fixed. The electronic boards you have just...
Electronic design automation tools like OrCAD , PADS and Altium Designer are part of an electronic engineer's day–to–day life. We need...
I was pondering processes while making some tea today. Most of my process pondering these days is inspired by what Sig is doing . I think o...
eWaste is a particularly difficult issue to deal with as it contains many different materials and lots of extremely hazardous substances. I...
Load shedding and Eskom have been on the lips of many South Africans over the past few weeks. We have had some of our worst electrical outag...
Every time information is duplicated there is the possiblity of an error. Let me say that again, every time information is duplicated there ...
Mercury in compact fluorescent tubes (CFLs) is a health hazard and therefore we should not use CFLs....at least that is the false message b...
I am an advocate of making sure that every device consumes as little power as possible at all times. Indicator lights should be off, process...
- November (3)
- October (5)
- September (1)
- August (2)
- July (3)
- June (4)
- May (3)
- March (2)
- February (4)
- January (1)