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Waste has a future
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Have you seen it? I bet you have. I had to go from Barendrecht to Groningen by car. Along the way something suddenly struck me, although when I saw it, I didn't even immediately know what it was. Fortunately, on such a drive to Groningen you get plenty of retakes to find out. In the time I’ve had my driving licence, I have never had to use one, so you pay less attention to them. I have, however, been able to view one close up, because I drove into one once.

Did you know that there are about 50 on route from Barendrecht to Groningen? Plenty to find out what I noticed. You must have guessed by now; I am talking about emergency phones. Not the emergency phone exactly, but more the cover, which is placed around the 'ears' of the emergency phone.

An emergency phone is an installation along a motorway or other major road for contacting the emergency services in the event of a car breakdown or an emergency.

After 57 years of loyal service, it's time to say goodbye to the emergency phone. The approximately 3500 emergency phones have recently been decommissioned and will eventually disappear altogether. Immediately after the emergency phones were decommissioned, 500 of them were offered for sale and, as I was told, were sold out within half an hour. I have this image of someone buying 2 emergency phones and putting them in different rooms in their house to simplify communication with their partner. Or a company installing one at the entrance of their site to announce a visitor at reception. Great idea, your logo on it, company colours, a real eye catcher.

Us recyclers were immediately interested. As soon as something is "end of life" or its technology is outdated, or the value of the material exceeds the economic value, the recycling industry springs into action.

Now it's true that the emergency phone is not recycled, but rather "upcycled". Or, a new purpose or use is found for it. For anyone wanting to obtain an emergency phone at the moment must be able to state what they're planning to do to it. A plan for permanent repurpose must be submitted. I have this image of a committee of wise men deciding whether or not you are eligible to possess an emergency phone. I also imagine this committee checking and enforcing the plan for permanent repurposing when the emergency phones have arrived at the new owners.

In short, if the first 500 emergency phones had not sold out at such a rapid pace, would we be “upcycling” the remaining ones or would we simply have recycled them again? (which is the same in my opinion). Should we not change our vision "waste has a future" into "waste has a permanent new purpose"?


I don't know. What I do know is that it’s impossible to wrap all our materials that need recycling with a cover before we can permanently repurpose it.

Kind regards,

Paul Verhagen

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