Reuse Now glossary of terms

Circular Economy: A Circular Economy is a new way to design, make and use things within planetary boundaries. Shifting the system involves everyone and everything: businesses, governments, and individuals; our cities, our products, and our jobs. By designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems we can reinvent everything. (source EMF)
Reuse: Strictly defined reuse is the use of products or components more than once for the same, or other purposes, without reprocessing. (ISO 20887, 2020), but other terms that can come under a broader umbrella of reuse are remanufacture, refurbishment, repair, and reclamation/salvage. Reuse is any operation by which materials, products or components are used again for the same purpose after their first life. Preparing for reuse is checking, cleaning or repairing after first life (to prevent them becoming waste) to enable products to be reused without any other pre/reprocessing.

Kirchherr, J.; Reike, D.; Hekkert, M. Conceptualizing the Circular Economy: An Analysis of 114 Definitions. 2017

Biological Cycle: The processes – such as composting and anaerobic digestion – that together help to regenerate natural capital. The only materials suitable for these processes are those that can be safely returned to the biosphere. (source EMF)
Butterfly diagram (proprietary): The butterfly diagram illustrates the continuous flow of materials in a circular economy. There are two main cycles – the technical cycle and the biological cycle. In the technical cycle, products and materials are kept in circulation through processes such as reuse, repair, remanufacture and recycling. In the biological cycle, the nutrients from biodegradable materials are returned to the earth to regenerate nature. (Source: EMF)
Building in layers: the concept of designing adaptable and flexible buildings by considering the intended lifespan of each independent building layer, optimising building longevity and maximising material reclamation at end-of-life (source UKGBC) –also Shearing Layers
By-product: A product that results from a production process, which is residual or incidental, i.e. it is not the main intended result. A by-product has a lower economic value relative to the main product.  (source IEMA)
Closed loop: Where used, waste or surplus products or materials are recycled for use by the manufacturer for remanufacture or reintroduced into the manufacturing process, usually for use in the same type of product. (source IEMA). An example of a closed-loop recycling process is The Council for Aluminium in Building scheme Aluminium should be reused with further processing wherever possible, but following that it is an ideal material for closed loop recycling as it can be recycled with little material degradation or waste creation.
Deconstruction: is the selective dismantlement of building components, specifically for reuserepurposingrecycling, and resource (waste) management. It differs from demolition where a site is cleared of its building by the most expedient means.
Design for Disassembly (Deconstruction) (DfD): is the process of designing products and/or buildings so that they can be taken apart at the end of the product’s life so that components can be reused and/or recycled.
Downcycling: The reuse of resources to create a product that is of lower quality than the original. For example, concrete crushed for use as aggregate or plastic bottles downcycled into textile fibres. It is possible that a resource could go through several rounds of downcycling before the resource becomes so degraded in quality that it is unusable. (source IEMA)
Industrial symbiosis: The process by which (a network of) organisations work together to create environments in which materials, energy and water can be exchanged, to the mutual benefit of business and the environment. (source IEMA)
Finite Materials: Materials that are non-renewable (at least on timescales relevant to the economy, rather than geological timescales of tens of thousands of years). Examples include metal and minerals, fossil forms of carbon, sand, rocks, and stones. (source EMF)
Linear Economy: An economy in which finite resources are extracted to make products that are used – generally not to their full potential – and then thrown away (‘take-make-waste’) (source EMF)
Maintain: Keep a building or product in its existing state of quality, functionality and/or aesthetically, to guard against failure, dilapidation or decline. It is a practice that retains the highest value of a building or product by extending its life or use period. (source EMF)
Non-Virgin Materials: Materials that have been previously used. This includes: materials in products that have been reused, refurbished or repaired; components that have been remanufactured; materials that have been recycled. Also referred to as secondary materials. (source EMF)
Open loop: When waste products are reprocessed and the recyclate produced is used in a different application. Typically, materials recycled through open-loop recycling go on to be used for purposes different from their pre-recycled purpose. Open-loop recycling often leads to a degradation of the material quality and may reduce the lifetime of the material. (source IEMA)

An example of open-loop recycling is the recycling of high-density polyethylene bottles to make plastic pipes, and container glass into fibre glass insulation and plastic bottles into plastic pipes. There tends to be more benefits from closed loop recycling – for example, studies have shown that it is better to use recovered glass to create new glass rather than use it as an aggregate in construction.

Recycle: Transform a product or component into its basic materials or substances and reprocess them into new materials to product something with the same or a lower value new product (source EMF)
Recycled Material: Has been reprocessed from recovered material by means of a manufacturing process.  Also Secondary Materials – Materials or products with recycled content (ISO 14021). Recycled content by proportion or mass including: • Pre-consumer: material diverted from the waste stream during the manufacturing process. • Post-consumer: material generated which can no longer be used for its intended purpose. (Source WGBC). Secondary raw materials are those that are recovered from manufacturing and other processes, and which can be used as a substitute for, or alongside, primary raw materials (Source IEMA)
Redevelopment: where established structures undergo substantial renovations. For example due to a building falling into disrepair, or where an existing building being repurposed in order for the property to better align with market demand or to take advantage of changes in regulation. Also Adaptive reuse: the process where existing buildings are reused in a different capacity to their original purpose.
Refurbish: Return a building, part of a building or product to good working order and or higher specification. This can include repair or replacement , updating, and improving cosmetic appearance – retaining quality and value and extending ‘life’. Refurbishment implies a process of improvement by cleaning, decorating, and re-equipping, which may include elements of retrofitting.
Remanufacture: Re-engineer products and components to as-new condition with the same, or improved, level of performance as a newly manufactured one (source EMF)
Repair/ Renovation: Operation by which a faulty or broken product or component is returned back to a usable state to fulfil its intended use. Applies also to buildings where damaged elements are repaired to extend the life of the facility. (source EMF)
Repurpose: Repurposing is the use of something for a purpose other than its original intended use, reusing an existing structure for a purpose other than which it was designed for. Can be used in the same context as redevelopment/ adaptive reuse
Resource efficiency: Making the most of material resources while minimising the production of waste. It allows us to create more with less and to deliver greater value with less input. (source IEMA)
Retrofitting: modernising and optimising an existing building through the installation of an element or technology which wasn’t there previously, often with the focus of being more energy efficient, while still fulfilling its original purpose
Reverse Logistics: Supply chains dedicated to the reverse flow of products and materials for the purpose of maintenance, repair, reuse, refurbishment, remanufacture, recycling, or regenerating natural systems. (source EMF)
Sharing: The use of a product by multiple users. It is a practice that retains the highest value of a product by extending its use period. (source EMF)
Technical Cycle: The processes that products and materials flow through in order to maintain their highest possible value at all times. Materials suitable for these processes are those that are not consumed during use – such as metals, plastics and wood. (source EMF)
Upcycling: The reuse of resources (such as discarded objects or material) to create a product of a higher quality or value than the original. (source IEMA)
Virgin Materials: Materials that have not yet been used in the economy. These include both finite materials (e.g. iron ore mined from the ground) and renewable resources (e.g. timber ). (source EMF)
Waste hierarchy: The waste hierarchy is a framework which has been used in UK policy and legislation since the 1990s. The concept is simple, with waste prevention at the top of the waste hierarchy (the preferred option) and disposal at the bottom (the worst option). It supports activities which eliminate and reduce waste – such as reuse, repair, remanufacture and recycling – prior to considering conventional waste management opportunities.
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