One person's rubbish is another person's treasure / Columns / The Foreigner

One person's rubbish is another person's treasure. Or so the ancient idiom says. In today's environmentally conscious world, another idiom is 'The Three Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle.' The Norwegian company Hydro recently announced an innovative approach for recycling parts of the waste from aluminium production. Some material is separated from waste products and sent to Germany where it contributes to producing insulation. These forms of innovation aim for a sustainable planet. We produce so much waste and we consume so much, that it makes perfect sense to see what we can recycle into other products.

norwayrecycling, climatechange



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One person's rubbish is another person's treasure

Published on Sunday, 10th March, 2013 at 07:42 under the columns category, by Ilan Kelman.
Last Updated on 10th March 2013 at 10:30.

Or so the ancient idiom says. In today's environmentally conscious world, another idiom is 'The Three Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle.'

Landfills can be full of gold
Landfills can be full of gold
Photo: Ilan Kelman


The Norwegian company Hydro recently announced an innovative approach for recycling parts of the waste from aluminium production. Some material is separated from waste products and sent to Germany where it contributes to producing insulation.

These forms of innovation aim for a sustainable planet. We produce so much waste and we consume so much, that it makes perfect sense to see what we can recycle into other products.

Two immediate challenges emerge. First, what other creative waste-to-resource processes can we invent? Second, can we be certain that a waste-to-resource process is actually environmentally friendly?

The second question means 'life cycle analysis'. That entails analysing all inputs and outputs from a product's cradle to its grave – all its raw materials to all its wastes. Sometimes, recycling can require so much energy that we wonder if a net environmental loss results.

So the first question might not be what we should ask. Rather than waste-to-resource, what about reducing waste and reducing resource consumption in the first place?

The Three Rs are indeed placed in careful order in the idiom. First, reduce consumption. We need to channel our inventiveness into using less.

Second, reuse. Any transportation or transformation of material uses energy. If we instead reuse products on-site, then we save that energy.

Third, and only if reducing and reusing really are not feasible, then we should recycle. Recycling is much better than sending it into a landfill or, too commonly, dumping it in a ravine or forest.

Transferring one person's rubbish into another person's treasure is the last resort. Our goal should be to treat everything that we use as a treasure for ourselves instead.

Dr. Ilan Kelman is a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research - Oslo (CICERO).




Published on Sunday, 10th March, 2013 at 07:42 under the columns category, by Ilan Kelman.
Last updated on 10th March 2013 at 10:30.

This post has the following tags: norwayrecycling, climatechange.





  
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