Products not people the problem with litter and waste

I often hear the capricious and slightly sinister complaint that there are too many people in the world, but what about items?

It’s been a few years since the world passed the billion car mark (there’s considered to be 1.2 to 1.4billion cars on the road worldwide today). And as of April 2017 it was estimated there were 720million iPhones in use (data from *

There are so many iPhones around that when I decided to make the leap from android mobile to Mac iOS I was able to find an old iPhone 6 that was put back to factory settings and given to me for free.

These are examples of two items humanity mass produces year on year without taking into account how to dispose of the abundance of products already in circulation.

What happens when large items or complex electrical/mechanical products are surplus to requirements? This is one of the major questions that is rapidly catching up with the planet as man continues to blindly build stuff it doesn’t need.

The ‘circular economy’ and Revolve

The circular economy it’s about making things last longer.

Iain Gulland, Chief Executive, Zero Waste Scotland

Iain Gulland, chief executive of Zero Waste Scotland, defines the circular economy by simply saying it’s about “making things last longer.”

“It’s really about designing a different way of using things and also thinking about second life and third life of materials.”

-Zero Waste Scotland

Revolve is Scotland’s national reuse quality standard for outlets that sell second-hand goods. If you see the Revolve logo on a shop window it means the products inside have been tested and checked to conform to modern safety and reliability standards in their second and third life.

Revolve is the reuse watermark for Scotland ensuring quality second-hand products

Reverting stuff away from landfill

Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) calculated that 3.6million tonnes of rubbish was sent to landfill in 2018. After a reasonable search on the internet that weight is considered to equate to a small group of skyscrapers – so a modest sized city centre or CBD.

Aberdeenshire council estimates that in 2016 almost 95 per cent of the waste being sent to its landfill sites in Buchan and Peterhead could have been reused or recycled instead of just buried in the ground.

Tayside Reusers

One of the larger reuse operations trying to make items last longer and revert them going to landfill is Tayside Reusers in Dundee.

Tayside Reusers started in 1992 as a recycling charity then in 1995 it became a retail operation, moving away from recycling and into reuse.

When I visited Tayside Resuers at the start of the year I met with some of the trustees including head of marketing Dr. Matthew Davis who explained to me that Tayside Resuser’s function is to restore items to a condition where they can be reused.

“If an item is brought in and we can clean it, repair it, or do anything we need to sell it, we will.”

Those items are almost anything. In their emporium you can find clothes to office and household furniture, bicycles and flat-screen TVs, all donated, restored and sold at hugely discounted prices.

Tayside Reusers car park and entrance: 73-75 Douglas Street, Dundee
White goods donated to Tayside Reusers awaiting repair

Revolve Aberdeen

Aberdeen supports the reuse movement through several outfits that sell Revolve approved second-hand goods at bargain prices.

The biggest of these sites is Somebody Cares Mega Store on Hazeldene Road

Three sites, Home Comforts in Union Square, Peterculter and on Great Western Road, are supported by Instant Neighbour .

Instant Neighbour sets up food banks and offers baby and childcare services as well as having its own store on St Machar Drive full of low-cost high-quality furniture and appliances (a washing machine can be snagged for as low as seventy pounds).

There’s also Stella’s Voice – a small charity shop that sells clothes and CDs on King Street.

Instant Neighbour on the roundabout between Great Northern Rd and St Machar Drive
Home Comforts: 1-3 Great Western Rd

A long way to go in the right direction

Zero Waste Scotland estimates that Scotland throws away over 9000 tonnes of washing machines, 6000 tonnes of TVs and 1600 tonnes of jumpers annually.

Aberdeenshire council calculated that over 83,000 tonnes of what is described as “mountains of rubbish made from clothing, leather footballs, newspapers, children’s toys, nappies and household items” went to landfill at their Stoneyhill and Buchan coast sites in 2016.

In comparison Instant Neighbour released figures of its annual attempts at diverting waste in 2018; 175 tonnes.

Reducing the amount of items that are discarded (and perhaps saving a couple of people in the process)

Blaming the fear about scarcity of resources and pollution on too many people being on the planet seems misguided. Instead, if we turn our attention away from our neighbour and towards ourselves, particularly our behaviour; constantly going out and filling our wardrobes with clothes we don’t really need, and our draws with mobile handsets we’re not really going to use, people might start to see the issue isn’t the individual, but their habits.

Links to Aberdeen Revolve certified reuse centres

Home Comforts – North Deeside Road, Peterculter; Union Square, Aberdeen; Great Western Road, Aberdeen – sells furniture and white goods

Instant Neighbour – St Machar Drive – sells furniture and white goods

Stella’s Voice – Aberdeen – clothes and bric-a-brac

Somebody Cares Mega Store – Aberdeen – furniture and white goods

Read about the visit to one of the North East’s largest reuse centres here: Save money on the price and help the planet in the process – Tayside Reusers.

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