Tuesday, 27 May 2008


Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

I like alliteration as much as the next man, but this is harder than it seems. Recycling, despite its reputation is not a magic bullet, reducing and reusing may be the better of the three. This is mainly because recycling tends to use a lot of energy, for example melting down cans to make new cans.

Reuse can acheived in one of two ways: by the consumer; and by the retailer/manufacturer. The reuse of carrier bags is a good example of the former, whilst collected reused milk bottles illustrates the latter.

Methods of reuse

Imagine we had a set of stand sized containers for things. We could refill these containers at shops (for things that don't go off like shampoo) or give the containers back to the shops so they could wash them and reuse them (for things like fruit juice).

Alternatively the shop could come to the people: a lorry could pull up outside a group of houses and people could go in a refill their containers. The problem with this would be timing it for all the people.

Another possibility is that when a supermarket home delivers, it takes away all the empty containers to clean and reuse.


The styling of containers is used by companies to differentiate products.

There is an energy (and environmental) cost of cleaning the containers (however I can only guess that, on a industrial scale, this should be able to acheived fairly efficiently).

Damaged containers would need to be recycled.

Ultimate solution

As much of the waste that households generate is food related, much could be saved if we all ate as restaurants, which cook on a larger scale and hence more efficiently (both in terms of the cooking and the packaging).

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