Re-use | Environmentally-sound living

Oct 18, 2017 | Social Change

“Reuse is the action or practice of using something again, whether for its original purpose (conventional reuse) or to fulfil a different function (creative reuse or repurposing). It should be distinguished from recycling, which is the breaking down of used items to make raw materials for the manufacture of new products. Reuse – by taking, but not reprocessing, previously used items – helps save time, money, energy, and resources. In broader economic terms, it can make quality products available to people and organizations with limited means, while generating jobs and business activity that contribute to the economy.

Historically, financial motivation was one of the main drivers of reuse. In the developing world this driver can lead to very high levels of reuse, however rising wages and consequent consumer demand for the convenience of disposable products has made the reuse of low value items such as packaging uneconomic in richer countries, leading to the demise of many reuse programs. Current environmental awareness is gradually changing attitudes and regulations, such as the new packaging regulations, are gradually beginning to reverse the situation.

One example of conventional reuse is the doorstep delivery of milk in refillable bottles; other examples include the retreading of tires and the use of returnable/reusable plastic boxes, shipping containers, instead of single-use corrugated fiberboard boxes.”

Ref: Anonymous (2017). Reuse. [online] Available at: [Accessed 20 Jul. 2017].

The Initial Project

In week 8 of the Falmouth MA programme, we found a ‘buddy’ and were given a ‘brief’ to complete. Mine was set by Steven Conner, and read; “Take some photos for me please of things you use or see daily/weekly that you normally do not give a second thought to.”

In keeping with my emerging practice, I decided to try to use this as an exercise illustrating opportunities for positive social change.

Many people think that their main contribution to improving the environment is to separate out their rubbish each week into different bins. While this helps, their rubbish is still going to be RECYCLED at best. Recycling is very inefficient, whereas RE-USE involves little or no waste, and can go on for many years. The third strategy is to REDUCE. Given that there are some things that we simply cannot do away with completely, RE-USE is often the least environmentally damaging approach.

The Assignment

For the short assignment, looking around our home, I found six items in daily use, the youngest of which – a Silver Jubilee mug – is 40 years old. The Sainsbury Bloater Paste pot dates from 1914, so it’s 103yrs old. The other vessels probably fall between these two.

Never having tried ‘product’ photography, I decided to keep things simple. I discovered that you could buy a plain pop-up photographic light tent through Amazon, added a couple of cheap articulated lamps, and two LED bulbs with remote controls. The complete kit cost £45, and the quality was so good that I suspect that I will get many years of occasional use from it.

The lighting was matched either side at the same height as the objects, diffused through the walls of the tent. I experimented with two backdrops but felt that the black one created a more impressive image. After a few trials, I settled on a half-stop under-exposure. Each image was then cropped square, composed in the same one-third, and the black density was increased to the point where the backdrop disappeared completely.

Feedback received, and understood, was that with this type of photography it is well worth moving the lights around quite a bit to get the right effect, and also to avoid the floating appearance created by increasing the black intensity to such an extent. Next time, reduce it but leave some discernable detail in the backdrop.

The Subsequent Project

Ideas to develop this project are percolating! I am interested in documenting examples of the re-use philosophy, and will be adding to the portfolio until I feel drawn to publish it somehow.