Recycle, freecycle, upcycle, reuse

gumtreeBy Claire Cobbledick, Head of Marketing, Gumtree South Africa

On 22 April, South Africa will join the world in conserving energy for Earth Hour – but we should always have energy conservation in mind.

South Africans throw away over 566 million tonnes of waste each year – most of which ends up in landfill sites. Unfortunately this trend can’t continue as we are running out of landfill space. Gauteng alone generates 45% of South Africa’s municipal waste, but the landfills in the province have less than 10 years remaining. Government initiatives, such as the new Waste Act and National Waste Strategy, hopes to encourage households to start recycling, but an even more preferable way of cutting down on waste is upcycling or reusing items, which would eliminates or greatly reduces the need to expend the energy required to recycle.

Whereas recycling reprocesses an item into new raw material for use in a new product (which expends energy and involves labour and additional natural resources), reusing and upcycling involves any activity that lengthens the life of an item, effectively removing it from the waste stream and reserving the “embodied energy” that was originally used to manufacture an item.

This ultimately reduces the amount of waste we produce as well as the need for new virgin material to be harvested as feedstock for new generations of product – less trees are felled, less water is wasted during manufacturing, less energy is required.

There are many schools of thought as to what upcycling should be defined as, in general, upcycling is about refashioning an existing product into a product with a new and greater purpose, such as turning old coffee tables into works of art or old pallets into garden boxes. The goal is to prevent wasting useful materials by making use of existing ones.

Reusing items also serves a purpose for the greater good. Rather than dismiss broken items, they can be repaired by reputable dealers – stoves, fridges, televisions – which eliminates the need to buy a new one. Alternatively, it can be repurposed – there are many creatives out there turning old PC monitors into fish tanks, or old china into flowerpots, for example.

If upcycling or reusing is not your cup of tea, though, there is another trend South Africans are fast embracing – freecycling. Rather than throw away items, donate it to charity or to individuals that could use it.

We know that about 70% of retired cell phones are refurbished or reused, but many old PCs end up in the landfill. Although your old desktop computer may seem slow to you, there are many needy schools or charities that wouldn’t mind collecting it. And if the item is a good enough condition, it can be swopped for something you need rather than thrown away.

Set a challenge for yourself, your friends and your office this Earth Day and do your part for the environment. Whether you reuse, repurpose, freecycle, upcycle or sell your items, you will be doing your part for the environment.

About Claire Cobbledick

Gumtree South Africa has recently appointed Claire Cobbledick as South Africa Marketing Manager. She has extensive experience in the marketing and advertising industry and now heads South Africa’s largest online classifieds site’s marketing activity.

Claire will be working with a fast growing local team to steer the brand in this market. As the former Managing Director of The Jupiter Drawing Room Cape Town, she is well suited to her new role at Gumtree and respected in the industry, having been named one of the most admired agency bosses in Cape Town in 2013. In addition to her role at The Jupiter Drawing Room, Claire has also worked as a marketing manager for Red Bull South Africa and at a number of other advertising agencies.

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