Reuse: More ways to reuse

Could you cut the waste you produce, or make sure it has a useful second life even before it is recycled?

In the hierarchy of the green “three Rs”, reduction is the top priority to cut waste, reuse comes next to find new uses for stuff that is still useful, and recycle is only the third ‘R’ in terms of environmental and cost benefits. So it is a great idea to take steps beyond recycling to look for ways to reuse what you no longer want and to reduce your waste before it is produced.

For example, one person’s waste can be a great donation or gift that will be valued by others, from the county’s scores of charity shops to online giveaway networks, such as the many local Freecycle and Freegle groups, or just swapping stuff among friends or at organised events.

One important channel for making the best use of household items is Somerset’s network of reuse groups, who take donations of good quality furniture, appliances and other homeware, from tools to TVs, and sell them on to those on limited incomes at low prices.

But there is an important caution here, especially for charity shops and reuse groups: all the items you donate should be in good enough condition that they can be sold, otherwise you will add to their costs in recycling or disposing of something with no value.

mobile phonesBecause of their reuse potential and residual value, many charities also offer ways to recycle mobile phones, other consumer electronics and printer cartridges, as a source of fundraising, while for use in the developing world, some charities and green social enterprises will take such items as spectacles, tools and bicycles.

Before recycing, donating or selling any electronic items or mobile phones, remove any sim cards and fully delete sensitive information.

Or keep it informal and fun by gathering friends and neighbours for a swishing or swapping party to exchange fashion outfits or anything else you and they no longer need but others can reuse.

Profiting from waste

One person’s waste can also be their profitable items for sale, with many possibilities to bring in cash from what you no longer need, such as at local car boot sales or your own garage sale.

Every local newspaper in Somerset carries small ads, as do local editions of free advertising magazines, and some even offer adverts for nothing if you are selling items below a certain value. On the web there are many sales opportunities, from auction sites like eBay and more to advert-led sales sites like the Somerset section of Gumtree. For lending and borrowing try Ecomodo. And there are so many sites offering to buy mobile phones such as envirofone  and other consumer electronics that there is even a comparison site to find the best deal. Finally, outlets such as Music Magpie, and are online websites which buy second hand CDs, DVDs, games, electronics, clothes and books.

Options and alternatives, ideas and inspiration

Once beyond charity shops, swishing parties, community swap meets and simply repairing the repairable, how can one reuse or at least recycle all those items and materials that might otherwise head for the rubbish bin, from video tapes to plastic bottle tops, garden furniture to old X-rays?

Luckily, a range of websites and blogs exist to answer exactly that question and many more, including how to reuse beverage cartons, wine corks and even silica gel. Or what about shower curtains, guitar strings and metal bottle caps? And reusing 50 common household items, such as toothpaste tubes, old computer keyboards, or your mattress.

You can find at least some of the answers by searching or browsing at Recycle This, Reduce Reuse Recycle, My Zero Waste, Planet GreeneHow and Green Eco Services.