EME 807
Technologies for Sustainability Systems

5.7. Reuse and redistribution programs


5.7. Reuse and redistribution programs

Reuse is the second level of the national solid waste management hierarchy. Reuse is simply repeated using a product or component in its original form. For example, using a glass milk bottle multiple times within the producer – customer chain (instead of using a plastic bottle).

Reuse also means that materials and products are redistributed from one who no longer needs them to those who can still find use in the items. The benefit of reuse is not only in conservation of valuable natural resources, but also in getting materials and products to disadvantaged people and organizations.

US EPA provides grant funding to Reuse Development Organization Inc. (ReDO), a non-profit organization whose mission is "to promote reuse as an environmentally sound, socially beneficial, and economical means for managing surplus and discarded materials. The ReDO company website provides some background on the issue.

example of re-distribution programs. pile of shoes surrounded by orphanage children
Program Soles4Souls redistributes mildly used shoes to schools in developing countries
Credit: Soles4Souls

Here are a few examples of successful material reuse programs, which attempt to divert the flow of useful resources from the waste stream:

  1. "LIFT" reuse program accepts gently used equipment designed for persons with disabilities and redistributes it to people in need. They perform safety checks and sanitation of the donated items. The program accepts walkers, wheelchairs, transfer chairs, raised toilet seats, shower chairs, adapted telephones, low-vision aids, reachers, and any other equipment that helps with independence. 
  2. "Soles 4 Souls" nation-wide program that has a mission "fighting the devastating impact and perpetuation of poverty through the distribution of shoes and clothing... Most new items collected primarily from corporations and retailers are given directly to people in need, both in the U.S. and overseas. The organization has relationships with several of the world’s leading apparel brands, which provides Soles4Souls with new but non-marketable overstocks, returns, discontinued models and other shoes or clothing items."
  3. Cooling pack reuse program: Employees of a medical facility initiated a program to divert reusable cooling packs from trash. Cooling packs are very common supplies that are used to keep the medical samples cooled for transportation. They were normally discarded once samples arrive at the facility, which has a stationary refrigeration system. The program established a few routes to reuse the packs while helping local food banks.