Can Recycling Breed Innovation?
We encounter recycling on a daily basis. We’re a recycling nation: you can recycle bottles, cans, your cell phone, old flip flops, carpeting, and of course the old standard paper and plastic. Everywhere you look there are designated bins for recyclables.
Take this to another level. The hotel sheets that were laundered after being used by the guest that stayed just a few nights earlier. The restaurant fork you put into your mouth at dinner last night was in someone’s mouth just a few hours earlier. We live on a blue orb hurling through outer space. The water here today is the same water that was here when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Everything on this planet is recycled; the air, water, even solid waste.
Why is this important? Nature intended that water be reused. It’s sensible that we would do the same. Reclaimed water reduces the discharge of pollutants into lakes, streams, and rivers, and at the same time can replace potable water supplies for many common uses like landscape irrigation, toilet flushing, cooling and industrial applications. The EPA also has an extensive study that further outlines why water recycling is vital.
Recycling can even spur innovation and new ways of thinking, even when it comes to design pieces created purely for enjoyment. One of the most unique projects I’ve seen recently has an aspect of water recirculation in its design
In the process of purifying water, even the silt and sediment that is removed can be beneficially reused into something useful, such as topsoil and topsoil blend for earthwork, pipeline construction or restoration, landscaping, and tree nursery applications. In fact, the chemicals used to coagulate the water are also beneficial for binding phosphorus and preventing the pollutant from entering lakes and reservoirs where it can lead to algal blooms, loss of oxygen, and fish kills. With a different perspective, what was previously thought of as “sludge” is now viewed as a valued soil supplement.
Water reuse and waste recycling are solutions that help to fulfill day-to-day water needs without depleting water supplies. Since green recycling is all about changing the way you look at something considered as waste, and seeing it as something positive, there’s certainly a bright outlook for what we can achieve.
Dr. Mark LeChevallier is the Director of Innovation & Environmental Stewardship for American Water in Voorhees, NJ. He received his Bachelor of Science and Masters degrees in Microbiology from Oregon State University in 1978 and 1980 and his Ph.D. in Microbiology in 1985 from Montana State University. Dr. LeChevallier is also known around the industry for his talent for making complex ...