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Doctor's Orders

Date: 6/02/2014 | Author: Stuart Hayward-Higham

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Can Doctor Who teach us how to reduce waste asks Stuart Hayward-Higham?

I recently had the pleasure of taking part in a debate about reuse, as a panellist at an industry event in London.

The people and discussions were fascinating and inspirational, but what really intrigued me was the aspiration, complexity and also the terminology used to describe various reuse activities.

Currently there are many relatively small schemes seeking to make use of materials that others don’t have a use for, which is a very valid and valued contribution to the waste management and resource sector and one in which SITA UK also plays a part.

However, if you stand back and take a look at the reasons why these materials have been discarded, you begin to think about what macro cultural and system changes could be made to avoid it – which then opens a huge number of opportunities.

For example, looking to other sectors, we could learn from the “servitisation” activities occurring in the manufacturing sector.

For those unfamiliar with this term, it is simply the replacement of products with service. For instance, house-holders buy drills to make holes, the product being the drill, the service being the formation of a hole. The house-holder does not need to buy a drill to make a hole, they just need access to one, through rent or lease for instance.

This means the asset management for the drills can be done centrally, through the hirer, who can manage repair and maintenance in a far more economical manner than any normal individual can achieve. The result is more reuse, less waste.

If we then go further to consider design, products that are designed to be upgraded or remanufactured would allow for them to be returned, renewed, restyled and resold as an improved version of the original (the reason most of us “upgrade”).

This already occurs in products such as photocopiers, where the ‘chassis’ might be used a number of times but each time it looks new, feels new, has new functions and still does the job.  

When trying to think of a simple example to embody this process, the one that most struck home for me was Doctor Who.

The doctor has ‘regenerated’ 12 times by my calculation, with each event keeping the character contemporary and fresh, but the core remaining the same.

So perhaps, to encourage industry to reuse at its full potential scale, we all need to follow Doctor’s Orders. 

Stuart Hayward-Higham is technical director at SITA UK

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