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What's old is new (and helps us grow)

Ever thought of getting a smartphone for only half the price?

 
Recycling reduces the need for raw materials, many of which are already in scarce supply. (c) European Commission

Recycling reduces the need for raw materials, many of which are already in scarce supply.

Connie Hedegaard, EU Commissioner for Climate Action
Minimising waste provides added value to us all and encourages resource-efficient growth.
Commissioner Connie Hedegaard

Second-hand shopping, an integral part of re-use and recycling, makes good sense. It is kind on the wallet and makes an important contribution to climate protection. By contrast, dumping waste in landfill sites can cause lasting damage to water and soil, can pollute the surrounding areas and can emit high levels of CO2 and methane into the atmosphere. It is often a pointless waste of valuable materials.

Recycling and recovery has emerged as a key industry to protect our environment, encourage innovation and boost our economy. Across Europe, state-of-the-art treatment facilities that transform waste into compost or Solid Recovered Fuel (SRF) are being built.

Modern recycling plants can be found all across the EU. (c) European Commission

Modern recycling plants can be found all across the EU.

In the cement industry, one of the highest CO2-producing sectors, sustainable ideas are being introduced that enable energy and materials to be recovered from waste and later used as a substitute for primary fuel and raw materials. Even our body heat can be reused.

Hanna Svensson, Train commuter whose body heat is used as an energy source
I'm surprised that so little can do so much. But I'm happy to do my part to help the environment.
Hanna Svensson, Train commuter whose body heat is used as an energy source

Innovative ideas have been encouraged by the legislation and policies introduced by the European Commission. In the EUpdf there has been a significant increase in the share of municipal waste recycled or composted − from 18% in 1995 to 42% in 2012.

A few enterprising ideas

Smarter choices with a lasting impact won’t require major adjustments to our daily routine:

  • Every year we use up to 190 different plastic bags which will take as long as 1,000 years to break down in a landfill dump. Taking a reusable carrier bag when you go shopping will cut down on this waste and stop plastic bags from littering the streets.
  • Choosing goods with less packaging at the supermarket will ease the burden on our landfills, while re-thinking the need to print at the office will curb deforestation. This is how we can reduce our individual contribution of six tonnes of waste each per year.
  • Bringing used glass to the bottle bank and sorting paper, cardboard, plastics and cans from the rest of your waste can save enormous amounts of CO2.

For more re-use and recycling tips, check out the European Commission's Resource Efficiency campaign and the European Environment Agency’s ‘Green Tips’.

How you can help

Given that even the most effective recycling and waste management processes generate greenhouse gases, the key strategy is to prevent waste in the first place. That’s where you can help make a difference in shaping a desirable future for us all.

Have you given a second life to clothes or electronic devices? Tell us about your low-carbon tricks on Facebook.

 

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