Recycling the 3R’s

For those of us that have been involved in the environmental protection industry for a while its worth thinking back to one of the early mantras of late ’90′s and namely the 3 R’s (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle). At the time this was mainly about waste and how to respond to the introduction of the landfill tax and pollution control measures but over the years and as other key environmental issues have been the focus of the industry effort, we have seen the 3 R’s applied to energy and water. But with an increase in how materials are actual used and future where raw materials could actually run out (precious metals are becoming very precious indeed) the 3 R’s should be re-learnt with a new meaning. There is much discussion about resource efficiency at the European level with directives taking shape that will soon be making their way to our shores. There is also an increasing focus on a circular economy where materials, features and ‘things’ are designed to be reused several times before being recycled (and then have its energy Recovered if you use the 4 R’s). But we should move the discussion on to cover not only ‘things’ such as light fittings, boilers, furniture but to include ‘space’ with the concept being if you can make a space flexible for the future then its design life is greater, you retain its occupants for longer when their needs change, and this reduces the need for new ‘things’, energy to produce these but also energy to move. Retaining tenants is good and the flexible use of space for future changes also makes a great deal of commercial and environmental sense. But it requires all of us involved in providing advice, solutions and direction to look at Reuse in a new and (recycled) way.