Recycling vs. Reusing: Is there a difference?

As the world becomes more environmentally aware, recycling & reusing energy, water and other natural and man-made resources is becoming more commonplace.  What is the difference between reusing and recycling something? The two terms are often used interchangeably but in some cases, they are really quite different.

reusing vs recycling

The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines recycle as v. 1 convert (waste) into reusable material, use again. 2 return (material) to a previous stage in a cyclic process and reuse as v. use again or more than once, n. the action of using something again.

Both recycling and reusing materials are important, environmentally friendly actions.  However, if something can be reused as well as recycled, it can be better to reuse it rather than recycle it.  The reason being that reuse implies less processing and thus less energy consumption than recycling.  During the recycling process, a material is usually broken down into something that can be reformed and made almost from scratch.  This implies a manufacturing process that could, indirectly or directly, cause harm to the environment (e.g. use of chemicals and polluting by-products) in addition to energy consumption, water consumption and carbon emissions.  An example is where glass bottles are either returnable (reused) or are non-returnable but can be recycled (glass sorted by colour, crushed, impurities removed, heated & melted then reformed and shaped into glass bottles or other glass products).  So remember this when purchase you next lot of beverages (see Eco-Friendly Drinking).

Here’s an example of one company’s glass recycling process:

Glass recycling is the process of turning waste glass into usable products. Depending upon the end use this commonly includes separating it different colors. Glass normally comes in a number of colours. The major types are: – Flint glass (clear glass) – Green glass – Brown-amber glass

Glass collection points are very common near shopping centers, at civic amenity sites and in local neighborhoods. They commonly stand besides collection points for other recyclable waste like paper, metals and plastic bottles. Local, municipal waste collectors usually have one central point for all types of waste in which large glass containers are located.

Most collection points have separate bins for clear, green and amber/brown glass. Glass reprocessors require separation by colour as the different colours of glass are usually chemically incompatible. Heat-resistant glass like Pyrex or borosilicate glass should not be disposed of in the glass container as even a single piece of such material will alter the viscosity of the fluid in the furnace at remelt.

Glass is an ideal material for recycling and where it is used for new glass container manufacture it is virtually infinitely recyclable. The use of recycled glass in new container, brick and ceramic manufacture conserves raw materials, reduces energy consumption and helps nations meet their energy efficiency obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, and reduces the volume of waste sent to landfill.

Secondary uses for recycled glass:
In the United Kingdom the container industry cannot consume all of the recycled container glass that will become available over the coming years, mainly due to the colour imbalance between that which is manufactured and that which is consumed. The resulting surplus of green glass from imported bottles containing red wine may be exported to producing countries, or used locally in the growing diversity of secondary end uses for recycled glass.

Secondary markets for glass recycling may include: * Glass in ceramic sanitary ware production * Glass as a flux agent in brick manufacture * Glass in sports turf and related applications (e.g. top dressing, root zone) material or golf bunker sand * Glass as water filtration media * Glass as an abrasive

Mixed glass waste streams can also be recycled and converted into an aggregate. Mixed waste streams may be collected from materials recovery facilities or mechanical biological treatment systems. Some facilities can sort out mixed waste streams into different colours using electro-optical sorting units.

Source: youtube

When it comes to precious resources like water, we must recycle and reuse where appropriate.   The difference between recycling and reusing water can become a little blurred. Collecting rainwater off your roof is in effect ‘new’ water that has been through the water cycle.  Rain water that’s used for household purposes can and should be reused (in the form of greywater) for garden irrigation or for flushing toilets.  Greywater (and even black water – sewerage) can be recycled by a series of processes to render potable drinking water.

Water Rhapsody specializes in water conservation systems that include water collection, water reuse & recycling systems and water saving devices (i.e. where less water is used to achieve the same goal).  We supply and install water conservation products that have been thoroughly tested and are environmentally sound.  We also install high quality water tanks and are official JoJo water tank dealers in Mpumalanga and Limpopo.  Our qualified consultants are trained to assess your water conservation requirements and supply you with the most suitable solution.  Contact us for free quote!

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