4Rs Tip for 08.12.2022 – How A Reuse Economy Can Save Us

Zero waste is not only doable but will lead us into an economic boom. A new economy based on reuse. So what does that mean?

  • It means circularity of materials that comes with living responsibly and with zero waste. 
  • It happens when manufacturers are held responsible for how they make single-use products, and how we dispose of them so they can be reused or recycled. 
  • It means building an industry around reusable single-use packaging.

A reuse economy means breaking the
one-way road into the planet that our waste currently travels.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

The circularity of single-use items is the only way to prevent the growth of our waste. There are many ways this will be accomplished. Some have effectively been going on for a while but need to be expanded and improved upon.

  • Disposables have to be made with materials that can and will be used to make more. 
    • This can currently happen with single-use glass and metal but does not happen with most plastics because there are so many different types.
    • Mail-in programs for recycling disposable razors, toothbrushes, batteries, and similar items are now available. 
      • People need to be made aware of these and the programs need to be expanded on.
    • Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) laws for disposables require manufacturers to bear the financial burden for the reuse and recycling of what they make. 
      • A number of countries have these laws in place for packaging.
      • Some states in the US have similar producer responsibility laws, but not many address packaging.
      • In the US, the expense of dealing with disposables is shouldered by taxpayers. 
        • Manufacturers have no incentive to make responsible packaging.
        • US municipalities spend more money on waste management than they do on schools, fire protection, libraries, and parks combined.
    • EPR laws exist in many countries and are in five Canadian provinces.
      • A number of US states are proposing EPR laws.
      • If you live in the US, tell your representatives to support EPR laws.
  • Refillable programs for beverage containers.
    • Bottle deposit laws are a critical first step toward reusing and refilling our beverage containers. We need to tell our politicians that we need more and better programs.
      • Only ten US states have these and less than half of those are really effective. Some states, like California, do not require that stores take back containers for beverages that people pay a deposit on. This makes it difficult for many people, like elderly and disabled individuals, to return these. 
    • Refillable beverage container programs have been successfully happening in countries like Germany for a while now. 
      • Progressive areas in the US, like Seattle, WA, are moving forward with reuse programs that can be a model for others. Visit ReuseSeattle.org to learn more.
  • Reusable carry-out containers and packaging are the way of the future.
    • Upstream Solutions is working with restaurants on pilot programs that make to-go containers circular.
    • They have a goal to develop zero waste onsite dining in restaurants.
    • Upstream is the organization behind The Reusies. An award show that recognizes the most significant efforts by individuals and companies toward building a reuse economy.
    • Learn more about how Upstream Solutions is moving us toward a reuse economy in this Waste 360 interview with the CEO, Matt Prindiville
  • Critical to reaching 100% reusable packaging is the development of Reusable Packaging System Design Standards. Check out the link and see what PR3 is doing to make this happen.

Imagine if every material you bring into your home is turned into another item or reused when you’re done with it. Now think about how many jobs it can create those systems and make those durable reusable items.

  • Workers are needed to handle curbside collection and sorting of the materials.
  • Reusable carry-out containers save restaurants money which can equal more jobs and higher pay.
  • Infrastructure for these new processes needs to be built which equals more jobs.

The goal is that eventually single-use packaging will all be reusable and recycling will no longer be needed. This will reduce the emissions associated with recycling. 

  • We need to push our governments and companies to make the reuse economy happen.
  • The bottom line, we need these things to happen now. 

Why It’s Important

You don’t need to have a Ph.D. to see that the economic and environmental benefits of a reuse economy can be huge.

  • A lot of workers are needed for this transition.
  • We have no choice as to the packaging our products come in, yet we have to pay the price for the damage it causes to our planet and our lives. How is that fair?

The price of using plastics is a lot more than we may think. It goes beyond the purchase price. It is the cost of cleaning up our planet, and its in increased health care costs due to poor air quality and poisons in our food and water supply.

With Much Gratitude

That’s it for this bi-weekly issue of the 4Rs.

If you like this post, please forward it to every earth-friendly human you know. 

If you like this blog and find it helpful, please consider supporting my continued work here.

Drop me a line anytime if you have questions or comments. I love hearing from you.

Thank you for reading these tips and subscribing.

Pat yourself on the back for doing your part. Remember, everything helps.

We’ve got this!

All my best,

Sign-up to receive these weekly 4Rs posts

Success! You're on the list.