Whenever I think about the three R’s I think of Jack Johnson's song: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Classic tune. But seriously if we’re going to do our bit to save the environment we have to keep these things in mind especially as this week is Recycling week.
Throughout this blog post, I’m going to explain the key differences between reuse or what we like to call ‘repurpose’ and recycling. People often think they mean the same thing, however, they are in fact quite different and have vast differences when it comes to the processing and it’s sustainable outcomes.
First off what’s repurposing? According to Oxford dictionary, it’s to ‘adapt for use in a different purpose.’ What this means is that there are minimal processes involved to turn a used item into something else. Take paper for an example, what we do at Misprint is collect already used and printed on paper. More often than not this paper would have been either recycled or in some cases gone to landfill, where the paper breaks down and emits methane gas. What we do to this paper is pretty simple, we turn this half used paper into a notebook! Yes, the paper we repurpose still has the function to be written on it just contains already printed information on it. The paper we repurpose was originally made for use in a printer, but we’ve added value to this printer paper by combining it with other sheets of paper. These stacks are then bound together with a good-looking cover on it to create a notebook.
During our process of repurposing, we don’t physically change the raw materials we collect. This means we don’t use chemicals such as bleach or water and carbon in our paper process. Eliminating these processes ultimately makes repurposing a more sustainable option than recycling. Repurposing existing products is simple to do however, it usually takes a bit more effort and can be quite time-consuming. If you make preserves, for example, you might reuse old jam jars from previous jam purchases. Or you may reuse takeout containers as lunch boxes or to store other items in.
Recycling, on the other hand, has a few more steps involved. Most of us would have the yellow bins for plastics, cans, and papers at home as well as maybe the green crate for glass recycling. But what happens when the recycling trucks come by to pick it all up? Well, some of the recycling is taken to a recycling plant, this is where it’s sorted and either sold to Asia or to some New Zealand companies to be recycled and turned into other products. In New Zealand however, we don’t have the capacity to process all the waste we create. We can recycle glass and some paper but not all plastic.
To recycle a product takes a lot of energy and resources to do so. In regards to paper, a lot is sent overseas which uses carbon for shipping, then it has to be mulched using water to break the paper down. This paper is further mixed with virgin paper, this means using the fibres from trees to create new recycled paper. During this process, chemicals are used such as bleach to make the paper white again. This is a big process to ultimately turn paper into paper again. As we have found from running Misprint there is a lot of unused paper which would have needlessly been recycled even though it’s never been used. Therefore it makes sense to be able to reduce and reuse what we can before the paper is eventually recycled. If you are unable to reuse or repurpose something first then recycling is your next best option. It’s way better for your waste to be recycled into something else than it ending up in landfill where it will take years to break down and emit greenhouse gases in the process.
As you can see repurposing and recycling are very different in their processes but are both very important practices to help the environment. I hope you feel inspired to repurpose and reuse some of your waste before it’s recycled. If you have any single sided paper lying around that you’d like to repurpose or maybe your office is looking to repurpose their waste paper please get in touch with us at Misprint.