Sunday, 20 June 2010

It's Recycle Week!

Apparently, this coming week (21st-27th June) is Recycle Week – and since this blog is evidently well thought-of, I’ve been approached by a PR company to write something about recycling.

This year, they are focussing on recycling electrical goods – working on the premise that we get too attached to toasters and TVs etc to throw them out when they fail: “our modern reliance on electrical goods and the emotional bonds we form with them prevent people from recycling unused items”. Personally, it’s more a combination of laziness and the strictures of the WEEE directive that stops me from getting rid of electrical goods.
I see the County Council will accept electrical goods at their ‘household waste recovery centres’ and there are lots of charities (eg British Heart Foundation) which will take working electrical goods for re-use.

However, I really don’t like the loose way the term ‘recycling’ is used – true recycling, which is breaking something down into its component materials for re-use is (for me) the lowest level acceptable way to dispose of waste. Electrical goods do contain valuable metals and semi-metals that are worth recovering. But, I’d far rather see more use being made of local repair and refurbishment facilities – creating local jobs and keeping money in the local economy, than wholesale scrap work. And I’ve written several times before about the excellent Free Cycle system, which allows people to give away unwanted stuff, while eBay and Amazon have really rehabilitated the secondhand goods market.

So – before we think about recycling: what about re-sale and re-use, then adaptation and refurbishment, then repair and cannibalisation – and only as a last resort scrapping for component materials.
Of course, it does mean that we need to get the designers to work on adaptability, refurbishment and most importantly design for repair – so that you don’t have to throw away eg whole car headlamp units for want of a lightbulb.
Built-in obsolescence is so 20th century, we need to base 21st century economics on re-use and repair.

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