Reduce and reuse – have we come full cycle?
London residents alone throw away 20 million tonnes of waste each year according to the London Community Resource Network, which estimates that recycling or reusing these resources could stop 150 million tonnes of annual carbon emissions.
Consumer companies are forever selling us new goods and the rise of cheap fashion in high street stores had reduced the incentive to mend old items. However, designers such as Wayne Hemingway, who has turned old cola bottles into umbrellas, and From Somewhere’s Orsola de Castro, who turned banned Speedo swimsuits into designer dresses, are making reuse more fashionable.
‘Up-cycling’ is described as the art of reusing unwanted items by converting them into something better and can now be seen on market stalls, community projects and a host of blogs and websites. It means an old pair of jeans can become a pair of summer vintage style shorts, or a jumper can be use as cushion cover.
Although recycling is great, it requires energy and resources to collect, sort and process. Reuse, such as up-cycling, is an even greener way where another use can be found for unwanted items before recycling them. Reusing means we don’t use new resources and old resources aren’t going to waste.
Attitudes are changing, with more people worried about climate change and diminishing resources. Whereas fifty years ago few people cared about these issues, today we are constantly debating what should be done about it. Large international events such as the upcoming 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games illustrate the renewed importance of reuse.
London 2012 aims to be the greenest Games in history with plans that include reusing 90 per cent of demolition waste and sending zero waste to landfill, installing a dual water system of drinking water and recycled water and cleaning 1.3 million tonnes of contaminated soil.
People are now looking to the methods of the past and reusing clothes that had been handed down by family or friends or making things themselves from the materials they have to hand. In the home, jam jars and bottles are being used to store leftover food; while DVDs, books, CDs and other electronic devices are increasingly being given to others, for example, through charity shops.
Healthy Planet believes wholeheartedly in the idea of reduce, reuse and recycle and we too are bringing reuse back to the high streets with our Books for Free stalls taking over what would otherwise be empty shops. Members of the community can donate books or take home donated books for free and since the initiative started in 2010, more than 1.6 million books have been given away, saving over 150 tonnes from going to landfill.
A spin-off community event, Stuff for Free, has enabled Londoners to swap more than 150,000 books, 80 televisions, beds, musical instruments, cameras, game consoles, toys, and clothes and more events are planned for Summer 2012.
It’s when individuals and businesses are inspired, encouraged and supported to make a difference to themselves, their children and the planet that we can begin to see real success in the battle against climate change.
Richard Bastian is a blogger for online environmental charity Healthy Planet: www.healthyplanet.orgTagged in: carbon emissions, cheap fashion, climate change, environment, green movment at 50, Healthy Planet, London 2012, London Community Resource Network, nature, olympics, Paralympic Games, recycling, Up-cycling, waste
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