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Waste not want not

Over recent years recycling and waste management have gone from a hot topic to a scorching, scalding, sizzling one. Every business in the country acknowledges the importance of recycling and talks about their latest green initiatives. Despite this growth in recycling rates have slowed considerably in recent years and some of the statistics available are still frightening. FMJ spoke to industry experts to find out more

According to a government report from December of last year the United Kingdom produces roughly 200 million tonnes of waste per annum. Half of this comes from the construction industry, a quarter from the commercial sector and 14 per cent from households.

Of that 200 million tonnes the proportion that went to landfill was 26.1 per cent.

Meanwhile household recycling stood at 44.9 per cent in 2014, with the total amount of waste going to landfill coming in at at 9.2 million tonnes, which is around a quarter of what it was 20 years ago.

Of course it is easy to simply trot out massive numbers and statistics but what do they actually mean in everyday life? Well According to Recycling-Guide.org, the unreleased energy contained in the average dustbin each year could power a television for 5,000 hours. Or how about this one: The largest lake in the Britain could be filled with rubbish from the UK in eight months.

If you are more concerned with financial drivers than environmental ones then you might be interested to hear that on average, 16 per cent of the money you spend on a product pays for the packaging, which ultimately ends up as rubbish.

Or that the British throw away £36 million worth of aluminium each year. The country gets through plastic at a rate of 275,000 tonnes of plastic per annum. That equates to 15 million bottles each and every day. The rate of plastic use is growing by about four per cent each year.

FMJ spoke to Harvey Laud, director at waste management gurus Helistrat to find out what he thought needed to change.

“I believe that we are probably quite close to doing as much as we can in terms of managing waste. But before you turn over the page I have little doubt that there is a huge opportunity to better manage our valuable secondary resources. The issue here is not what materials are defined as waste or a resource but in the mind-set we adopt. The reality is that many people still see these resources as waste, things that they no longer need, to be thrown away. As a result their minds are automatically drawn to how do we dispose of these materials? Further still, how do we dispose of this rubbish in as cheaper way as possible?

“Ultimately I believe the only way we are really going to be able to leverage the commercial and environmental benefits of increased recycling is by thinking “how can we better manage our resources?” This focus on getting more materials back in to sustainable supply chains for the future makes sound sense both in terms of preserving the future supply of products and diverting materials from expensive forms of disposal such as landfill.

“Whist this does require more up front planning and a more strategic approach, ultimately the system that you implement should not be complicated. Time spent looking at how goods are supplied through to their management onsite and the ultimate means of processing will enable you to implement a simple and easy to use system. In turn, this will enable you to maximise the quantity and quality of your recycling. This will optimise the value of these materials and potentially eradicate any disposal to landfill, helping to minimise your on-going resource management costs.

“If the commercial and environmental benefits of recycling aren’t enough of a trigger for intervention in their own right, then compliance certainly should be. In addition to their Duty of Care, new regulation now also requires businesses to segregate certain recyclable materials from their general waste. Failing to do so can result in prosecution, a substantial fine and potentially unrecoverable reputational damage. Businesses unsure of their legal obligations should seek expert advice from someone like Helistrat. Often they will find that this is the starting point for a journey that both saves them money and also improves their environmental performance.

“One other area I would urge businesses to consider is the importance of communication and education. Historically we have focused too much on instruction when it comes to informing people about recycling and resource management. Simply telling someone where to put something, however, does little to engage their hearts and minds and encourage behavioural change. Sustained communication, which helps people to understand why they are doing something and shows them both the positive and negative outcomes of their actions, is vital to developing this new materials mind-set and changing behaviour.”

About Sarah OBeirne


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