The whole story
BENU REUSE's history of origins
Many intact second-hand items and used materials are being disposed of and thrown away every single day.
Meanwhile, repair services are increasingly being dropped - after all, the new object can be delivered immediately. Even clothes with minor damages, such as a small hole, are no longer repaired. The offer in the shops with supposedly low prices is endless. This drives the consumption of resources without ensuring a consistent re-use of these resources.
Municipal waste, i.e. residual waste, separately collected waste (glass, paper...) and hazardous waste (batteries, waste wood...) from households and small businesses averaged 610kg per person in Luxembourg in 2018. The EU average was 489kg per person in 2018.
In 2016, households had a share of 8.5% and construction a share of 36.5% of waste generation in the EU.
One example among many: More than 7.1 million tonnes of furniture are disposed of every year in Germany alone. The mountain of waste wood weighs a total of 10.5 million tonnes per year. Of this, 10 million tonnes (95%) are burned. The rest is supplemented with a lot of new wood (20% old wood: 80% new wood) to make chipboard. This process consumes very large amounts of water and energy. Questionable adhesives are also used in many chipboards. All this leads to a poor ecological footprint. We refer to this overall process as "wood recycling".
Another example: The construction industry is responsible for 50% of global waste, making it one of the largest waste producers in the world. Every year, millions of tonnes of usable building materials are thrown away in Germany. The majority is generated in demolition and dismantling projects, but 10-15% of all materials are also disposed of on construction sites for new buildings, which are not used e.g. due to an over-ordering or incorrect planning. Only a fraction of these building materials are actually recycled and reused. The transport, recycling and disposal, as well as the new production of missing building materials, create unnecessary waste and a considerable CO2 footprint. As a result, the construction industry is responsible for 23% of global CO2 emissions.
On 29 July 2021, humanity has used up all the biological resources the Earth can restore and sustainably provide within one year. Worldwide, humans consume so many resources that 2.75 Earths would be needed to provide them sustainably. For Luxembourg, the figure is 7.9 Earths (making Luxembourg the world's runner-up in resource consumption behind Qatar), in Germany 3, France just under 3 and Belgium 3.8 (2019, www.footprintnetwork.org).
The vision of BENU REUSE
BENU REUSE primarily wants to help ensure that things, components, materials, objects, etc. that are already there are being used for as long as possible ... In doing so, we integrate studies and expert knowledge to filter the supply of used things. It makes sense indeed, primarily from an ecological point of view, to take some things that probably still work and/or could still be used off the market, insofar as the damage they (potentially) cause to people and the environment could be too great compared to buying a new, better product. We do not rely on emotions and good will here, but on well-founded studies and the experience and knowledge of experts. In case of doubt, we advise to continue using intact things for as long as possible.
Building materials, used components intended for disposal, as well as intact everyday objects and materials are passed on via BENU REUSE, instead of being disposed of in the usual way. Givers and receivers find each other via a platform, a digital marketplace, to exchange used objects and materials. This makes it possible to
- reuse everyday objects in good condition;
- reassemble used building materials and components for the same purpose, initiate the creative reuse of used materials (while respecting possible risks) and of leftover materials that have not yet been used.
By reusing used materials and everyday objects, we save raw materials, energy, emissions and waste. In addition, less new production, less resource-intensive recycling and less landfill space are required. At the same time, one raises awareness about the need to consume more consciously and avoid waste.
With BENU REUSE, private individuals, as well as administrations and companies, are offered the opportunity
- ... to pass on intact things to people who will use them again;
- ... to find things in good condition and avoid buying new things;
- ... to save costs;
- ... to act/economise sustainably;
- ... to find out about more sustainable alternatives;
- ... to get to know companies and organisations that are active in picking up and/or selling used, repaired and/or recycled items.
BENU REUSE not only corresponds to the idea of environmental protection, but also relieves the wallets of the re-users, as the used items are passed on free of charge (except for the delivery fee). Our vision entails a conscious approach to both consumption and objects. How much more valuable will our possessions become if we - equipped with more knowledge - choose things more consciously, and can actually understand how these things continue to be profited from after our possession?
How did the idea of BENU REUSE come about?
A first pilot building BENU PROVISORIUM was built on the Place de la Frontière in Esch-sur-Alzette. Characteristics of this building, which opened at the end of 2018, are: ZeroWaste, CO2 neutral construction, a locally grown natural insulation, more than 94% "waste" used in construction and a total absence of new building materials (bitumen, plaster, cement and mortar, silicone ...). Only the screws are new ;).
We would like to highlight the pioneering spirit of the municipality of Esch-sur-Alzette, which not only made the site available to us, but has also generously supported the BENU project since the very beginning. We thank the municipality for its great support!
The building was constructed with materials removed from other construction projects, the demolition of houses, the leftovers of companies - used building materials, used metal and wood, used windows and doors. Interiors and façades were also UpCycled from used objects and the most diverse kinds of waste... Besides being ZeroWaste, the construction is CO2-neutral, and the insulation was made from a renewable raw material called "Miscanthus".
Creativity, social cohesion, participation: Under the guidance of professional artists, more than 140 volunteers and interested people from the immediate and distant surroundings (e.g. from the Netherlands, where a group of young people came to work on the design project for a week) worked, tinkered and designed - even young people from a regional educational institution took part. In a month-long participatory project, a unique outdoor design was created that tells stories about social cohesion, that documents the enormous consumption of resources in industrialised countries and integrates memories of the participants (toy cars, trainers, records, plates from DenHaag, pendants of a well-known rock group and much more).
The first BENU shop opened its doors in the BENU PROVISORIUM on 1 December 2018. Here, mainly creations by BENU COUTURE are sold, which are designed and mass-produced on the first floor of the building in a tailoring studio by professional designers and tailors. It is exclusively UpCycled fashion, made from fabrics we obtained by people from the region.
While collecting building materials for the pilot building BENU PROVISORIUM and the preparatory work for BENU VILLAGE - the first ecovillage in the Greater Region -, we were able to establish many contacts with companies, private individuals and organisations that gave us used materials for our projects.
Why do companies work with us?
Sure, they save on disposal costs. But since these are passed on to the customers, it is - according to our experience - mainly entrepreneurs who are concerned about consumption and the daily disposal of sometimes high-quality products and materials. They accept the extra effort required to put good material aside and make it available for further use. We thank all committed companies and private individuals for this effort.
In addition, we have been approached with concrete needs: we need a few windows for a greenhouse in the garden, jars for homemade jam ...
Until then, we had worked through all requests one by one, phoned, written and posted a lot. Due to the many positive experiences and with our awareness of what an important role reuse plays in a sustainable circular economy, the desire to expand the idea of REUSE matured at BENU. We did not want to keep our knowledge to ourselves or use it for our own projects only. All interested parties should be given the opportunity to join in ...
Luxembourg is actively working on the establishment and expansion of swap exchanges/places, e.g. in the form of swap shops at recycling centres ... But in fact, we are not pioneers, but latecomers. We are lagging behind some European countries that successfully implemented such concepts already many years ago. BENU wants to actively support. To catch up. BENU REUSE explicitly presents itself as an innovative complement to local waste prevention initiatives.
In order to realise the start of the project as quickly as possible, we asked around, looking for a goal-oriented, pragmatic solution, and presented the project. We met with great interest at the André Losch Foundation. Shortly, we were given the possibilities to implement the project in its entirety:
- the development of a new internet platform with a lot of background information,
- the recruitment of two people, one of whom was looking for social stability,
- the purchase of a delivery van, which would allow us to optimise routes and reduce the corresponding carbon footprint.
A huge thank you to the André Losch Foundation, notably for the unbureaucratic processing, the courage and the pioneering spirit that allow us to make an active contribution to protect the climate together with the population.
Why join BENU REUSE?
Anyone who wants to make a difference and not be content with nice - but obviously insufficient - steps to protect our planet should join.
My advantages as a donor: I give my intact objects and materials the perspective of being used again. In addition, thanks to easy-to-understand texts, I can inform myself on how to avoid waste in general and on how to reduce unnecessary or even toxic waste. What do I do with the waste I still produce? I can find an answer to this question on benureuse.lu. Once a receiver has been found for my donations, BENU takes care of the transport. Everything is free of charge for me. This saves time, spares me of any disposa fees and the trip to the recycling centre. An active contribution to sustainability!
My advantages as a receiver: I am offered support in my search for items and materials. I can find contacts with donors on benureuse.lu., and I receive items and materials free of charge - I only contribute symbolically to the delivery costs. So the cost saving, when compared to buying something new, is considerable. Isn't it the case that many people feel comfortable disposing of things "correctly", giving them a supposed "recycling"?! But how many of us actually - that is: consciously and regularly - look for products that contain these recyclables? As receivers of offered objects and materials, we avoid any "re-" and/or downcycling (processing a product while reducing its quality), thereby making an important and active contribution to an efficient sustainability.
Advantages for companies and public structures: I improve my sustainable image and live up to my responsibility towards society and planet Earth. I also reduce my disposal costs.
BENU REUSE - A pilot project
BENU REUSE is not a simple platform, but rather an innovative and overdue pilot project in and for Luxembourg. We would be happy to expand the project beyond its territorial borders in a later phase. Moreover, we can well imagine transferring BENU REUSE into a larger structure as soon as it becomes available. Politically, BENU REUSE explicitly views itself as an addition, as a complement to the current and announced initiatives and further developments based on the EU directives and the local waste law.
We are learning, we are developing. Participatively.
As a pilot project, BENU REUSE is still in its experimental phase, and will be further developed on an ongoing basis. This includes adapting the underlying criteria according to changing needs and new findings. We invite you to join our discussion and contribute further information. Help us to complete our information which is based on laws and recognised, independent studies!
REUSE - part of an overall strategy
reduce • reuse / repair / share • recycle
reduce: By rejecting/avoiding, you bring less waste into your home. Most rubbish can be avoided by simply rejecting superfluous items (e.g. unnecessary packaging and carrier bags). The less we consume, the less we have to produce and dispose of later.
reuse/repair/share: It is best if things are being used for as long as possible. There are many ways to do this:
Passing on, sharing, exchanging, renting, repairing, buying second-hand. Reusing is also possible. Through UpCycling, we change things by increasing their value, e.g. by producing new, modern and high-quality furniture from old, unfashionable furniture.
recycle: The remaining, unwanted stuff typically ends up in residual waste (landfill or incineration) or can be partially handed in at the Wertstoffhof ("recycling" centre). Most of the separated recyclables collected there are incinerated (incineration may be declared as "recycling" if energy is recovered in the process). Otherwise, they are down-cycled, i.e. reprocessed with a loss of quality (this process is also declared as "recycling" without comment). Only a small part is actually re-cycled in the narrow sense of the word.
Take plastic, for instance : 2% of plastics collected worldwide are recycled, 7% is down-cycled and 91% ends up in landfills, in our fields and a large part of it in the sea.
In Luxembourg, almost all residual waste is incinerated. In other countries, such as Portugal, Spain or Greece, more than half of it is landfilled.
Keyword ZERO WASTE: Zero Waste means "no rubbish and no waste". It is about reducing one's own waste and minimising unnecessary waste. The guiding principle followed is: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. In other words, reducing consumption and avoiding waste. Using things that are already there for longer, buying used things and giving away unused things. And only in third place is recycling. Recycling is important, but it always consumes energy and unfortunately doesn't work satisfactorily. (to the interview with Olga Witt, author of "A Life Without Waste")
REUSE and consumer behaviour
Our goal: Raising awareness about waste prevention and a more conscious consumer behaviour. What do I really need? Does it have to be new? Can I repair, change and/or reuse something?
When buying new products, I also consider the future process: Is the product durable, repairable? Can the item be reused or recycled? At the end of its cycle, can it be disposed of in a sustainable, perhaps even harmless way? The decisive factors here are in particular the ingredients, the composition and the processing (for example, avoid composite materials, i.e. materials that are glued together and can only be recycled with considerable effort or, as in most cases, not at all).
Sustainable consumer goods are durable, reusable, repairable and composed of separable ingredients that can be reused, recycled or disposed of harmlessly (see the Cradle2Cradle principle). Social aspects are also essential, though almost always overlooked: where and how was the object or material produced? Where and how were its components produced? Do humane production, processing, transport and distribution conditions apply?
Why does BENU REUSE also pass on items that do not meet the criteria for sustainable consumer goods?
We have decided to define our criteria for the passing on of used objects and materials as broadly as possible. By reusing items that still are in good condition, we can avoid buying new products elsewhere, along with the associated consumption of resources and energy.
However, items that may cause damage to health or an excessive environmental pollution (e.g. excessive energy consumption) are excluded from being passed on (keyword energy poverty*). You can find the underlying criteria in the CRITERIA chapter on this website. Discuss with us! If you know of any additional studies, please contact us and become an active BENU REUSE Brain member.
(*) What is energy poverty?
"The UK is the only country in the EU to have defined energy poverty. There, households are considered to be in energy poverty if they would have to spend more than ten per cent of their income on the necessary energy costs to reach the heating standard as defined by the World Health Organisation and to meet other necessary energy needs (mainly electricity)."
Yes, you may - no - you should feel good about joining in and helping to reduce resource waste and litter. Great!
However, BENU has witnessed that some people only participate in the drop-off or donation of clothes, maybe offering some nice things on BENU REUSE as well, while continuing to overconsume. Let's be clear: we can hardly change anything if we don't change our consumption behaviour (significantly).
Therefore: Participation is great! Though an according change of our consumption behaviour, i.e. passing on what is good, reducing new things, promoting and asking for used objects (e.g. also here on BENU REUSE), repairing, exchanging and giving away, ... Those actions constitute a decisive contribution to sustainability. That's how we will get ahead!
BENU REUSE criteria
Not all, but very many, used items can be passed on or searched for via BENU REUSE. Here you can find out which items are conveyed and which are excluded from conveyance.I want to know more
Many participate! Here you will find organizations, initiatives and companies that accept, pass on, repair or broker a wide variety of used items. Let yourself be surprised!I want to know more