July 24, 2011

Reducing Consumer Waste

Reducing Consumer Waste…and I don’t mean just recycling.

Reducing consumer waste is an important part of sustainability. The importance of keeping waste out of our landfills is crucial to the health of our planet. It is reported that almost all landfills leak or eventually will leak as their liners decay and they leach toxins into our environment. Call it what you want, reducing, upcycling, repurposing or reusing, it is basic conservation of both raw and manmade materials, and reducing waste is crucial to our future.

Consumer Waste can be grouped into two categories:

Post Consumer Waste is generally the waste we routinely discard in our trash cans and at the dump. This is the waste that litters our highways and sidewalks. It is leftover from consumers buying products and either using them or creating waste from buying them. There are many different types of post consumer waste: paper waste like magazines and junk mail, disposable waste like batteries & tissues, broken items we no longer want, food waste, human waste, pet waste and water waste from different forms of cleaning are all considered post consumer waste.

The Wooden Bee upcycles some of our family’s post consumer waste. We reuse plastic containers for storage and organizing. We turn unwanted magazines and discarded beer cartons and cereal boxes into recycled wall art. We recycle shipping and packaging materials in our studio and in our orders. Our stain and paint rags are taken only from old tshirts & towels. Even the Sustainable Supplies section of our shop allows us to find unwanted hardware pieces a new home.

Pre Consumer Waste is a newer term to consumer waste. It is a material that was discarded before it was ready for consumer use. Pre-consumer waste is the reintroduction of manufacturing scrap (such as trimmings from paper production) back into the manufacturing process. Sometimes it is not thought of as traditional recycling, but is an important way to keep large amount of manufacturing waste out of our landfills. For example, if carpet companies can take their scraps and incorporate them back into their products, things like yarn, fiber and other natural resources will be saved from taking up landfill space.

We feel our wood, the main material we recycle, falls under both pre and post consumer waste categories. Sometimes we come across reclaimed wood that is decades old and has served another purpose like a cabinet door. It would obviously be considered post consumer waste. However, a large portion of our wood is left over from the new home construction process, and has been cut for cabinets and moldings but was never used. It comes to us raw, with no paint or stain, and often it never left the manufacturing facilities where it was cut. This wood is then the trimmings of the new home construction process and we are reintroducing it, therefore we feel it is pre consumer waste.

When I first went into business last year, we decided to call our wood “recycled wood,” since it fell into both of these categories. Since then, we decided “reclaimed wood” gave our audience a better understanding of our products as a whole, especially since many people don’t know about the term pre consumer waste. What category our wood falls into could be debated, but one thing is for sure, it is beautiful wood being saved from taking up landfill space!

Quick Tips to help Reduce Your Consumer Waste

• There are a number of online resources:
o Freecycle.Org is a great one! Just look up your local group and start recycling. Or you can check out Upcyclers' own version: Freeupcycle!
o Craigslist is another resource to help people buy, sell and trade things they no longer want or need.
o Etsy has a large selection of vintage items and using their search engines you can find amazing handmade creations made from all sorts of recycled materials.
• In your community, you can find resources like:
o Buy from and Donate to places like Good Will, the Salvation Army, and local church and charity consignment shops.
o Hold garage sales & visit estate sales.
o Donate to your local Habitat for Humanity’s Restore. They take almost ANYTHING for the home (except electronics & clothing) and will even take full gallons of unused paint, if you happened to buy too much or the wrong color.
• If you do have to buy new, try to buy durable.
o Take into consideration product packaging, product life, and the options you will have in recycling or reusing the product once it has come to the end of its shelf life.

Becoming ethical consumers is something that everyone should start looking into. Does value or values determine your purchases? Educating yourself about the products you buy & their affect on the environment is vital to our future and the future of our planet.

1 comment:

  1. Hi from your newest google and facebook follower, I too love to upcycle. My latest blog post is an upcycling post, please pop by, Karima x www.karimascrafts.com