Reduce and Reuse: Taking a closer look at two of the three R’s of sustainability

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Reduce and reuse (along with recycle) are widely recognizable and well understood principles commonly referred to as the 3 R’s of sustainability. The role that consumers play in this (we hope!) should be rather obvious:

  • REDUCE the use of plastics by chosing products with minimal amounts of plastic packaging
  • REUSE items when possible or return them for reuse at designated collecting points, and
  • RECYCLE when the product’s life has come to an end.

Plastic is certainly one of the most infamous materials when we talk about overall environmental care. You only have to look at the way they are made (99% from petroleum), to the way we use them (very often for one-time only), to how we dispose them. These are all causing significant climate and pollution damage to the future of our planet.

Getting rid of all plastics is idealistic (and impossible) but reusing them would be ideal. This is already happening with PET bottles, with crates used in retail, and increasingly with shopping bags. The EU is steering towards increased plastics reuse by the proposal in June 2018 to start banning certain single use plastics from 2021.[1] But what is next?

Today, many innovation and technology companies are focusing efforts on discovering new ways of making plastics from renewable sources (with improved qualities). Novel plastics with better properties could allow cheap, hot washing, while hard plastics with increased scratch resistance would be fit for many cycles of use[2]. Additionally, advanced sensing will allow discarding bottles with undesired contaminations[3].

For me, REDUCE and REUSE are very much linked. What if we could reuse every bottle that we buy in the supermarkets just 10 times? This would reduce our plastics and feedstock consumption by a staggering 90%[4]!

Sounds doable, doesn’t it? Why don’t you set yourself a goal today to start to reduce the amount of plastics you use, and when you do use them, reuse them again… and again!






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