Built into our firm’s name, the ‘5R’s — refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, and remanufacture — are the pillars of the work we do. The very definition of 5REDO means helping businesses adopt the 5Rs; essential ingredients in the circular economy.

The original three
You may be familiar with the commonly known ‘three Rs’: reduce, reuse, recycle. Taken together, it’s a catch-phrase that dates back to the 1990s, when environmental movements began to call for recycling efforts in earnest. At the time, the impacts of human-caused climate change were only starting to become known on a wider level, and environmentally conscious efforts were slowly being introduced in government policies and business practices.

The first three Rs are important, and they’re still part of the broader 5R definition. However, as the climate crisis has become more urgent, environmental activists and innovators have agreed that reducing, reusing and recycling simply doesn’t cover the range of activities needed to combat climate change. From there, the broader definition evolved.

The original three
The 5Rs include: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, and remanufacture (some say ‘repurpose’ instead of reuse, though the idea is the same). The two additions are refuse and remanufacture; and it’s not just the addition of these two concepts that’s important, but the order.

Nowadays, we start with refuse because, put simply, the best approach to cutting down waste in all sectors is to not generate it in the first place. Refuse can be interpreted broadly, from opting out of purchasing or using wasteful items like plastic cutlery, or rejecting the pressures of our over-consuming culture by not buying things you don’t really need, like trendy clothing or new furniture. For companies, key decision-makers can refuse to use wasteful materials or practices, opting instead for sustainable methods.

Although ‘reuse’ seems to encompass the idea of repurposing products, remanufacture is a more specific, innovative concept. It calls on businesses and innovators to find a way to extend the life of their products and materials by bringing them back into the supply chain, emulating the circular economy.

For example, pulling fibers from used tires to help create new materials, or finding a way to break down components of items that can be reused in different parts of production. At 5REDO, finding opportunities for remanufacturing is a crucial part of what we do, as the circular economy demands that we make supply chains more regenerative and sustainable.

‘Reuse’ is simple and important; that plastic container we might normally throw away can be turned into a container to grow vegetable seedlings. ‘Remanufacture’, however, asks us to put our brightest ideas forward, and reimagine how we work with materials across all industries.

With the climate crisis more urgent than ever, the 5Rs are the way of the future. Taken together, they encourage individuals, companies, and everyone involved in environmental efforts to adopt more sustainable ways of living.