waste and recycling

The key question here is how much waste does an organisation produce and can it produce less? Adding waste reduction to your system of carbon accounting can help with this. The next question is what can you recycle? There is very little joined up thinking going on in the UK about this. For example, if local authorities only collect certain types of plastics then maybe organisations should only use those types of plastics.

What is the most environmentally friendly thing to do with your recycling? Many local authorities collect recycling all mixed up together – a system called commingling – because they are measured on tonnage not environmental impact. But the energy that is used to try to separate commingled – or commangled – recycling at the other end is crazy. And all too often it proves impossible to separate the recycling. The more we can source separate our recycling, the more likely it is that a reprocessor will be able to use it as a raw material.

We believe that getting recycling right requires two phases. The first phase is about behaviour change. We need to get people to recycle as a matter of course. However in this phase the systems used to recycling or to reuse recycling will not necessarily make environmental sense. And there will be few reprocessing markets and those that exist may be far away. This is the phase the UK is in. The second phase is about making the system environmentally friendly and encouraging local reprocessing industries. Much of Europe is already in this phase.

Recycling symbol

If your organisation is big enough then you might want to explore energy from waste solutions. There are many exciting new technologies either available or on the horizon for deriving energy from waste. In its Waste Strategy the Government has said that councils should start investigating the production of electricity from food waste.