A Philosophical Dilemma: Sustainability vs Personal Discomfort
TW: This post touches briefly on animal welfare and meat processing.
Putting the environment first isn't always as clear and as black-and-white as you might hope or expect. I usually follow the many R's of recycling; reduce, reuse, repair, recycle. Typically, the way I operate falls under one of these areas. Though sometimes, following the most sustainable path isn't always the one we're most comfortable with.
From both a personal and business perspective, I reuse a lot of my waste and turn it into something better. Whether that's food waste, old clothing or excess Jesmonite, very little of the waste I produce ends up in the bin.
When we think about purchasing from second-hand markets, there is a grey area surrounding the previous life the product had. There are many debates relating to purchasing second-hand real furs, leather and suede goods, but in this instance I'm talking about a meat grinder.
Why on earth do I want to purchase a meat grinder?
Good question. One way to limit the waste we produce is to find a way to repurpose that waste and turn it into something new. When I make silicone moulds, sometimes the design doesn't come out as intended, making the mould completely unusable. But that doesn't mean it should go in the bin...
After some research, I discovered a way to reuse unwanted cured silicone to make new silicone moulds. Simply put, the process involves grinding down old moulds with a meat grinder into a pulp, or mulch, and recombining this into your new silicone mixture.
The benefits of this are:
Avoiding unusable silicone moulds ending up in landfills
Bulking/extending how much you can make with your new silicone
You can even reuse the excess silicone residue which cures to the mixing pots
A meat grinder is the most effective way to do this. Others have suggested to manually cut your moulds with scissors, while this would work, it's time-consuming and results in much larger chunks of silicone.
Is it ethical to purchase a second-hand meat grinder in order to upcycle old silicone moulds?
I thought this question would be easy for me to answer. Of course I'd purchase second hand, in the same was I always do with most things I purchase for my business. As I trawled eBay for second hand options, I became less and less concrete in my idea.
I did not feel comfortable purchasing a second hand meat grinder.
I thought about how it had been used, the animals that had been processed and I suddenly felt very sick and unsure of myself. Two different threads were pulling in my mind; sustainability vs personal discomfort.
But the environment shouldn't have to suffer just because of my internal barometer, right?
I posed this question to my Instagram community and the response was wild. I really touched a philosophical nerve here. Something that seems so simple and straightforward, we were all overthinking and counter arguing. Not a single one of us felt it was a clear choice so all I can do is weigh up the arguments I was provided in order to justify my choice.
The pros of purchasing a second hand meat grinder
Preventing a meat grinder from going to landfill
Preventing a meat grinder from being used to grind meat
Reusing a product that already exists instead of using materials, water and outputting CO2 in order to manufacture a new one
Does not generate any new plastic waste
The cons of purchasing a second hand meat grinder
Personal discomfort with using a product that was once used to process animals
Potential discomfort for my vegetarian and vegan clients
Sanitation; can we be certain this is 100% sanitary?
There is another point to consider, if this becomes a popular method amongst the creative community, am I responsible for promoting a surge in meat grinders? If the raise in popularity is to grind silicone moulds, then I'm okay with that.
How your product is made is equally important to what it's made from
While Hey Kiddo Co. strives for transparency, from my DIY water filter to remove microplastics from my waste water, to reusing any excess material to make incredibly unique terrazzo surfaces, I always ensure my business is as sustainable and positively impactful as possible. This also includes buying second-hand materials, reusing items I already own, ensuring my packaging is made from 100% recycled cardboard and is 100% recyclable and the list goes on and on.
I always put the environment first in all my business decisions. Sometimes this can be the more financially costly path. When it comes to making a decision about buying new in a scenario where second-hand items are readily available in abundance, this has been really tricky for me.
I am putting personal discomfort above sustainability. I really can't force myself to use a second-hand meat grinder in order for me to upcycle my old silicone moulds.
In order to reduce the impact buying a new meat grinder would have, I have a few criteria to meet in order to limit that cost:
Must be made from 100% recyclable or biodegradable materials (in this instance, 100% recyclable metal)
Good quality item designed to last, nothing poorly produced
Purchase from a local manufacturer and retailer to reduce CO2 cost of delivery
Ensure retailer uses plastic-free packaging
I appreciate it seems silly to get wrapped up in what the surface seems like a minor decision. However, it's so important to me to live my life and run my business in a considered way. By crafting in a thoughtful, sustainable way, I create transparency with my customers that each of my products have always been manufactured with the lowest environmental impact.