For consumers with a passion for do-it-yourself projects, and the boards on Pinterest to prove it, upcycling has taken root. Some ideas are as simple as investing in a set of sharpies to transform ordinary cabinetry knobs into one-of-a-kind home accessories. Others require more time, as in creating a working chandelier from white plastic spoons. It’s a small step considering that Americans throw out enough disposable dinnerware to circle the equator 300 times, according to www.earth911.com.
The Internet is littered with statistics estimating when our landfills will reach a tipping point. Other stats concentrate on the fact that trash must travel farther to meet its fate, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, individual states continue to consider putting in place stricter regulations for commercial businesses in order to save landfill space.
In answer to the call for smarter manufacturing practices, many brands have found ways to reduce their contribution to landfills. For instance, fashion brand H&M recently announced its partnership with I:Collect. H&M customers may donate any article of clothing from any brand to any H&M retailer worldwide in exchange for a store voucher.
Collect then repurposes the donated clothing. Since The Council of Textile Recycling reports that the average American throws away 70 pounds of clothing each year, this is yet another small dent in keeping usable materials out of landfills.
Another example is upcycling pioneer, Nike. Its Reuse-a-Shoe program launched in 1990, with more than 1.5 million pairs of post-consumer shoes now collected annually. Today, the company transforms those recycled shoes into Nike Grind, an ingredient used in making rubber flooring for gyms and weight rooms, along with running tracks and playground surfaces.
For some, finding meaning in waste, especially when it comes to manufacturing, may be a new idea. However, many companies have been out in front of this trend long before it became fashionable. For instance, ECORE is North America’s largest consumer of recycled scrap-tire rubber, reusing over 80 million pounds of material each year. Rubber is engineered to never degrade, decompose or deteriorate. This is a great quality, except when tires are left to decompose in a landfill. The company partners with Nike and uses Nike Grind as an ingredient in its recycled rubber flooring.
“At ECORE, we don’t just follow best practices – instead we develop smarter processes and systems to make best practices better,” says ECORE chairman and CEO, Arthur Dodge III. “It’s how we produce 2.6 million pounds of waste a year, but send only 1.3 percent of it to the landfill.”
Recycling rubber might be too high of a commitment when at home, but there are a few easy steps people can take to keep reusable waste out of landfills:
Separate trash: If you don’t already, separate your trash over the course of a week or two. In doing so, you’ll gain an understanding for exactly what you throw away. Once you know what you have, find the right recycling centers in your community. And when it comes to food, consider composting.
Research alternatives: A certain segment of do-it-yourselfers already appreciate that one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure. Think about all the ways you can use, and reuse, materials in your home.
Buy smart: A little consideration in advance can go a long way in making your purchasing decisions. That may mean investing in products that are higher in quality, but enjoy a longer lifespan.