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January 9, 2009

Reuse or recycle

GLOBAL – Since writing the other day about recycling in India, and alternative ways to recycle in the UK, I’ve been a bit bothered about the whole issue (confusion?) between recycling and reusing old and unwanted products. First, to clear something up. The survey that was done last year related to recycling. As commenter Ripal pointed out, reuse is already a big deal in India, and is perhaps why people aren’t bothered about recycling (more on the differences later). Equally, in the second article on recycling, the first port of call for many of the still working devices that land on mobile recycler’s desks is reuse, either as a second hand device in the local market, or to be exported abroad.

So, what’s the difference between recycling and reusing? Aren’t they both the same? As I define them, no, they’re not*. Recycling a product, to me at least, is breaking down it’s constituent parts and using those to create either new products (did you know Nokia holds the patent on breaking a device down so that the parts can be reused in things like calculators? It’s an open patent, available to any company that wishes to use it) or creating recycled materials (ever see the pen’s that have “I used to be a CD case, written down the side?).

Reusing, on the other hand, is the simple process of taking a still working device, giving it (or selling it) to someone else, them putting a sim card in and using it.

Both processes have plenty of plusses. The key to either is getting old devices out of cupboards.

But yet, in all of this, the recurring problem still abounds – how do we get the products out of people’s houses and into the next stage of their lifecycle (be it reused, or recycled)?

*The folks who work on the environment and sustainability at Nokia will know and understand this much better than I do. Check out their work at where you can find out actually why recycling is frequently a better, and safer, option than reusing along with the benefits, if they’re not obvious enough already.