National Reuse Month – Repair Remake Reimagine
We often hear the phrase “waste? Oh we have that sorted; we’re at 95% recycling!” It’s true that Irish businesses for the most part have embraced recycling and the days of everybody having a bin under their desk is gone. But have we got waste sorted? The answer to that is most definitely NO! Recycling, while playing an important part in sustainable waste management is in the middle of the well-known waste hierarchy and there is still a lot of work to be done to ‘crack’ reduce and reuse.
October is National Reuse Month, a new waste prevention initiative to raise awareness about the economic and environmental benefits of reusing everyday items and materials that would otherwise go to waste. We are encouraging all businesses to take steps to integrate reuse activities into their waste management strategies. Reuse reduces the volume of waste being discarded while also conserving natural resources, energy and water. It also offers significant economic benefits by creating jobs and boosting local economies.
Throughout October, there will be local and regional workshops and events all over Ireland to promote ways for businesses, families and communities to reuse. For more information on what’s happening in your area check out the waste region websites: Southern, Eastern-Midlands, Connacht-Ulster. The Community Reuse Network (CRNI) is also holding an international conference on 12th October to explore how Ireland can adopt innovative new business models to realise the full potential of the sector. A range of experts from Ireland, the US, Belgium, the UK and the Netherlands will come together to discuss leasing, sharing and social enterprise models and look at how these will evolve with Europe’s ambition through the Circular Economy package. More information here.
What can businesses do?
- Start with design: Designing your products and/or services so that components and materials keep circulating and contributing to the economy is perhaps the most significant way that businesses can contribute to a reuse economy. For many businesses this will require a re-think about processes, life-cycle of product and customer interaction. This is a fundamental principle of the Circular Economy. See the Ellen MacArthur Foundation for more information on the concept, principles and characteristics of the Circular Economy.
- Set a reuse target – Setting a reuse target will give you something to work towards and developing an action plan to achieve this will embed reuse as part of your waste management strategy. Assess your waste streams to see if items can be reused by you or others – get your employees to make suggestions. There are a number or organisations (see list below) that can either take your ‘waste’ items to use directly or can facilitate their exchange with other businesses, groups or individuals.
- Work with your suppliers – talk to your suppliers to see if you can collaborate to build reuse into your supply chain and deliveries. Many businesses find opportunities around packaging which benefit both the business and the supplier.
- Encourage your employees: Facilitate and encourage your employees to embrace reuse at work and in their personal lives. Upcycling has become trendy in recent years and many employees will be interested in sharing their own ideas and passions. Host a reuse or upcycling fair as part of an environment event (talk to some of the organisations below).
Organisations that can help
There are a number or organisations working in the ‘Reuse’ space in Ireland that can provide services and/or advice to businesses to facilitate greater reuse:
- SMILE Resource Exchange – a FREE service for businesses that encourages the exchanging of resources between its members in order to save money, reduce wastegoing to landfill and to develop new business opportunities.
- FoodCloud – connects businesses that have too much food to charities in their communities that have too little.
- Recreate – a national social enterprise that takes end of line and surplus stock from businesses and reuses them as arts materials
- ie – a free online reuse service which allows its users to pass on unwanted items for free.
- Rediscovery Centre – a social enterprise dedicated to providing community employment and training via innovative reuse enterprises which use waste and unwanted materials as a resource and raw material for new product design.
- Community Reuse Network – all Island representative body for community based reuse, recycling and waste prevention organisations.
To discuss reuse options in more detail, members should contact Lorraine Fitzgerald, CSR adviser (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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