Reuse vs. Recycling


The data tells us: a festival of 50,000 people can use about 150,000 disposable cups. A marathon (which is so fashionable today) of 10,000 people, about 40,000 glasses or PET bottles. Translating this, 50,000 glasses equivalent to a ton of waste. This without counting the 28 million containers that are produced every day for domestic consumption.

In Catalonia, nine million beverage containers are put on sale every day. Of these, only 3.5 million are collected selectively. The rest (5.5 million) end up dumped, incinerated or dispersed by the environment. This represents not only a significant environmental impact but also a waste of raw material.
In addition to selective collection in collaboration with local entities, Ecoembes carries out different actions that allow increasing recycling rates. The complementary collections are made in places and events such as sports facilities or tests, transport stations and airports, business and congress centers, music festivals, penitentiary centers, entertainment venues or educational institutions, among others.
If we reduce the production of waste in these spaces, Ecoembes can focus its selective collection mission and in this way would significantly reduce the amounts of plastic waste that ends up in landfills and in the Mediterranean.
The sources of the amount of plastic packaging placed on the market come from two independent sources: Ecoembes and Cicloplast (materials entity). Despite using different methodologies in both cases, the quantities are completely coincident and represented 690,560 tons in 2011.
The net recycling of plastic packaging was 34.92%, accepting the packaging declared by Ecoembes as being placed on the market. If the highest consumption scenario is taken, this level falls to 26.87%. Most of the recycling of plastic packaging is under-cycled.
However, it is important to note that, if we consider the scenario of generation of plastic containers inferred from the characterization carried out by the Magrama, the net recycling of plastic containers present in the municipal flow would be a meager 10.77%.


Recycling is the simple or complex process that a material or product undergoes to be reincorporated into a production or consumption cycle, be it the one in which it was generated or a different one. The word "recycled" is an adjective, the final state of a material that has undergone the recycling process.

Reuse is the action of reusing the goods or products and giving them another use. It is any operation by which the waste is reused for a different purpose for which it was conceived.

It is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of lower quality and reduced functionality. Downcycling aims to avoid wasting potentially useful materials, reducing the consumption of new raw materials, energy consumption, air pollution and water pollution. Their goals are also lowering greenhouse gas emissions (although reusing toxic contaminated chemicals for other purposes may have the opposite effect), compared to virgin production. A clear example of downcycling is the recycling of plastic, which converts the material to a lesser degree.


With these concepts well understood, it is important to note that studies show that sustainability starts from eco-design, reuse and "recycling", the latter above all, works when the circle is closed, as it is in the recycling of glass, metal or paper, which does not lose quality of its raw material and can be recycled again; In the case of plastics specifically, there are still dangerous unresolved problems, since the raw material loses quality and the objects that are manufactured after recycling cannot be recycled again.

“Downcycling does not stop the need to make millions of tons of new plastic to make more and more disposable objects. And in the science fiction assumption that we were able to “downcycling” 100% of the plastics that are manufactured, what would we do with the generated objects? Upholster the entire world with fleece fabrics?