Lately the importance of recycling seems to have made a huge impact on the general public. It’s now uncommon for most public buildings not to have any kind of recycling receptacle; more and more environmentally friendly “green” stores are springing up with a stock made from recycled goods; there are catchy recycling slogans on billboards all around Champaign Urbana. All this enthusiasm for the Green Movement is great – recycling is incredibly important, not only to reduce toxic emissions sent into the atmosphere, but also to spare our very valuable and very finite natural resources.
But what happens when you need to throw something away that isn’t a recyclable material? If it’s not paper, glass, or a specific type of plastic or metal, your trash goes into a landfill. A home where it will stay for thousands of years, unused, yet still taking up space and money. 251 million tons of trash were thrown away in the US last year, compared to a paltry 82 million tons recycled (source). Add to this the fact that many cities offer no recycling program at all, such as Champaign. Recycling is important, but traditional recycling cannot be our best solution to improve the Earth’s health.
So what is? Well, I think we’ve found a pretty good answer. It’s called reuseanomics.
Reuseanomics is the concept of taking non-recyclable materials and transforming them in any way possible to extend their usable life and keep them out of landfills. This might amount simply to checking out a dumpster, finding a calculator in near perfect condition, and selling it on eBay. Or it could take a little more creativity, such as attaching a car seat to an office chair frame and creating the most comfortable office chair in the known universe. Seriously – I’m sitting in it right now.
Thinking reuseanomically, you don’t limit yourself to cardboard and plastic bottles. The possibilities are actually endless for what can be reused, and how it can be reused – not everything needs to be confined to its original purpose. Plus, reuseanomics is good for the wallet. Last month, I found a piece of equipment in a dumpster that sold for over $700. And buying gently used goods is always cheaper than buying something new.
Reuseanomics is the way forward. And when it takes on the same kind of enthusiasm that recycling has, then we’ll really be on our way to creating a completely sustainable world.