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Posts Tagged ‘recycling’

The festive period can often be a time for overindulgence, and I am sure anyone who ventures anywhere near their local shops on the weekend before Christmas would agree with me. Overindulging every now and then is something that I think everyone will admit to doing, especially over Christmas when you might well have a large meal of roast turkey and all the trimmings. This is always a particularly enjoyable meal; however, if you think about the long term impacts of eating so much food in such a short space of time, you might actually stop and consider the benefits of reducing your consumption for that one meal. When you reduce your consumption, you can often end up having food left over that can then feed you for the next few days in the form of sandwiches or curry. Our Love Food Hate Waste campaign is able to provide you with some further ideas about what to do with any left over turkey, but the idea of using this food over a longer period of time shows a good example of increasing resource efficiency.

Promoting resource efficiency is something that is applicable to your business model as well as how you might choose to live your life because it can lead to cost savings. Resource efficiency is all about managing raw materials, energy and water in order to minimise waste and thereby reduce cost. Another reason why you would want to increase the resource efficiency of your business is because it can help increase the overall sustainability of your business. Not only does minimising waste output have significant environmental benefits, but there are also clear economic incentives as the costs associated with waste disposal will be minimised. Research has shown that there is the potential to save up to 4.5% of your annual turnover by reducing costs associated with landfill tax. Reducing the quantity of waste that your business generates can lead to increased business efficiencies as you gain a greater understanding of your business processes and this can give you a competitive advantage over your competitors.

There are clearly a number of advantages associated with improving resource efficiencies in business and I will now go on to explain how you can implement changes that will lead to improved resource efficiencies. The first thing that your organisation should do, is to undertake a waste review to see exactly where waste is being created in the first place, and therefore what actions can be taken to reduce this. These reviews can either be done internally, or you can call on organisations such as Zero Waste Scotland who are able to offer businesses of all sizes free advice. When making changes to your business it is important not only to involve your staff, and work with them, but also to consider your entire supply chain. This includes working with your suppliers and your customers so as to examine the true costs associated with waste, and also to help promote change amongst others. It is important to set realistic targets. Remember to start small and grow from there, it is worth remembering that there are numerous simple measures that you can implement before trying a large change. Many small successes are greater than one large project that perhaps does not work as well.

Over the festive period, there are a number of steps that businesses can take to improve their resource efficiencies. These can be simple steps such as anticipating that there might not be as many people in your workplace and therefore remember to get fewer supplies, particularly if the items have a short shelf life or these can be larger steps such as choosing to send out e-cards instead of cards. By examining what resources come into your workplace, it is possible to reduce what comes in and therefore create a more efficient, sustainable workplace and a more profitable new year.

I hope you have a very resourceful, Christmas and an efficient New Year.

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People are genuinely surprised when they realise that the UK lags behind the rest of Europe in how it deals with it’s waste, and now it seems that we can no longer hide the fact as we actually landfill two million tonnes more waste than any other EU country.

Because of this the Local Government Association (LGA) warns that UK landfill sites will be full in just 8 years unless major changes in recycling rates occur.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t really like the idea of living in a country that has been labelled a ‘dustbin’, so with this in mind it seems that the aims of the Scottish Government’s Zero Waste Plan can’t come soon enough.  I also don’t need to stress the significance of just how important the decision to include construction, commercial and industry waste is into the waste targets that have been set, as they are by far the biggest producers of waste in the UK.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom, and even though we’ve still got a long way to go, it’s encouraging that lots of businesses in Scotland are trying to do their bit, with a few already well on their way to meeting their own zero waste targets, (you can read about some case studies on our Waste Aware Business website). But on this recent estimate we can only succeed if all businesses play their part.

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Firstly, a big thanks to Joe for keeping us informed and entertained over the past 18 months or so, and we wish him good luck and all the best in his new post.  We won’t let him get away that easily though, so we’ll pay him a visit to see how he’s getting on at Going Carbon Neutral Stirling once he’s had time to settle in.  As for me, I’m going to try and not undo all of the good work that Joe has done, and in his last post he highlighted the fact that the Zero Waste Plan has just been launched, so this seems like an ideal topic for my first blog.

There’s been a lot of talk in the world of waste about the much anticipated Zero Waste Plan and if you’ve not had chance to read it yet (all 59 pages of it), I’ve picked out some salient points which could impact on you and how you run your business.

In brief the Zero Waste Plan sets the direction of the way forward for waste and resource management in Scotland over the next 10 years.  It aims to achieve a Scotland where waste is seen as a resource and everyone plays a role in reducing the demand on the Earth’s natural resources, reusing and recycling materials whenever and wherever possible, and then recovering resources once all of these options have been exhausted.  Scotland is now achieving a recycling and composting rate of 37%, almost double what it was 5 years ago and the plan aims to build on this success.

It all sounds good so far but as with everything the devil is in the detail and the following points bear particular significance to businesses:

  • The Municipal Sold Waste (MSW) target (which was largely household waste) of recycling and composting 70% of waste by 2025 and maximum 5% of waste to landfill now applies to all Scotland’s waste – household, construction, commercial and industry.
  • SEPA will produce a revised Waste Data Strategy outlining the steps and timescales for improving commercial and industrial waste data by the end of 2010.  The Waste Data Strategy will include making use of Regulations to be made under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act by October 2010, establishing a mandatory requirement for businesses receiving waste data requests from SEPA to complete them.
  • Separate collection for food waste from households and business sectors, such as commercial kitchens, hospitality sector, food retailers and manufacturers likely to be by 2013.
  • Separate collection for materials such as paper, cardboard, metal, plastics, textiles and glass from all sources likely to be by 2013.
  • Following the separate collections for materials there will be landfill bans on unsorted waste, with progressive bans on individual materials sent to landfill and a progressive limit of biodegradable content of waste that can be landfilled.
  • A carbon metric will be introduced to be used along side the current tonnage metric which will help prioritise the recycling of resources that offer greater environmental and climate change outcomes.  Although because of the lack of data concerning Commercial and Industrial waste this will not apply to this sector immediately, but likely to be for all waste streams by 2025.
  • Scottish Government will develop a Waste Prevention Programme in line with EU Waste Framework Directive by the end of 2010.
  • Zero Waste Scotland will develop and promote a sustainable procurement toolkit for use by public and private sector to encourage the purchase of products containing recycled content and minimise overall resource use.
  • Zero Waste Scotland will develop good practice commitments for resource management, collection and services provided to householders and businesses, with the aim to achieve consistent services to users.

As you can see it’s certainly an ambitious plan, but there’s not much point in having a plan if it doesn’t push the boundaries and strive to achieve the very best.  Obviously the long term target isn’t going to be reached overnight and separate recycling and composting targets for commercial and industrial waste streams will be developed, (once better data has been collected), acting as stepping stones for this long term goal. 

Separate collections of materials have been highlighted as a priority in order to increase the quality and quantity of the resources recycled and to maintain their value and generate market supply.  The example given in the plan illustrates how food waste can be treated using a biological process, such as anaerobic digestion to produce energy for local homes.

Looking at the Plan in terms of the waste hierarchy (reduce, reuse, recycle, recovery) it’s good to see that waste prevention is at last getting the attention it deserves.  It is always significantly better to reduce and reuse materials, as this cuts down on the amount of raw materials being used, and recycling still requires energy, so it will be interesting to see what the Waste Prevention Programme delivers at the end of this year.

As a business now is an ideal time, if you are not already doing so, to move towards a ‘zero waste’ way of thinking, so that when the short term targets are introduced you are ideally placed to help Scotland achieve them.  Using resources more sustainably and minimising your waste can also help you to reduce cost, increase profit and gain a competitive advantage. 

Why not complete an internal audit of your business, so you can see if there are any areas where you can design out waste altogether, perhaps by removing the plastic cups from the water cooler so that people have to use their own cups and glasses?  Could you use reusable materials instead of disposable ones, such as washable napkins instead of paper serviettes?  Or could another local business, voluntary group etc. make use of any materials that you produce as a by-product, such as cardboard boxes?  These are only simple examples but by thinking more creatively and looking at each of these steps you can reduce your costs at both the purchasing and disposing ends of your business.  The increase in landfill tax is also an issue to bear in mind, currently it is £48 per tonne of waste and this is set to increase by £8 a year until 2013 when it will be £72 per tonne.  This is a big expense for any business and another good incentive to move towards zero waste sooner, rather than later.

With the development of the Zero Waste Scotland procurement toolkit, and the good practice commitments for waste services, it’s reassuring to know that you will not be left to tackle these issues alone.  Many of the comments we hear concern the inconsistency of services available so hopefully these commitments will go some way to providing support for businesses and alleviating these problems.

In the meantime, don’t forget you can look at our Business Recycling Directory to find your local services and the Green Business Partnership can provide small to medium sized businesses with free and subsidised assistance on how to become more green and maximise the business benefits of doing so.  Envirowise also offers free and independent support to businesses helping you to become more resource efficient and save money.   With all of this help out there, what are you waiting for!?

Also, if you have any of your own ideas on how to reduce, reuse or recycle waste and examples of things you have done that have worked, or even those that haven’t worked so well, why don’t you let us know so that we can pass them on? (See, we’re even into reusing ideas!).

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Research conducted on behalf of multi-national companies often carries with it the scent of mistrust. Modern consumers are savvy enough to realise that the parameters of most company-instigated research will have been skewed firmly in the favour of the company paying for the study to be carried out. But is this research always greenwash or can it provide a valuable insight into issues which would otherwise remain uninvestigated?

The devil's in the detail

When I heard on the tweet vine that a recent Nestle funded study shows irrefutably that bottled water is the “greenest” packaged beverage I was sceptical. But scepticism is different from cynicism and I was keen to learn more and discover the truth. Having looked in some detail at the study it appears to have some merit. It’s a peer-reviewed life-cycle analysis (LCA) of various drink options and includes comparisons with other water choices (tap, filtered etc.) as well as other beverage choices (vitamin water, coffee, wine). Ignoring the fact that wine isn’t what most people would consider a viable alternative to water (unless it’s a Friday night of course) the parameters of the research look, to my hugely untrained eye, to be fair. But what about the results?

As you can see from the chart above, bottled water forms a significant proportion of the average US consumer’s beverage consumption. In fact US consumers apparently drink more bottled water than tap water and more “soda” (e.g. cola, lemonade etc.) than anything else. Wow. More soda than water? That’s a lot of fizzy drinks.

Anyway, leaving this health issue aside, the key findings of the report show that the environment would benefit if people switched from soda to bottled water. In fact, if you switch today from your preferred beverage (coffee, wine or whatever) to bottled water you will, on average, reduce your daily “impact” by 9%. Why? Because the non-water elements of soda involve lots of things which contribute to climate change (like growing the sugar, making the chemicals etc.) If you then switched from bottled water to tap water you would see a further decrease in your impact of around 4%.

The conclusion of the report: removing bottled water (i.e. banning it) would be unlikely to result in an environmental improvement. This makes sense because most people would switch to a less environmentally friendly option rather than drink tap water. But it doesn’t remove the fact that we would all be better off drinking more tap water (where clean tap water is available) instead of packaged alternatives. It also doesn’t remove the fact that the waste generated from the packaging of beverages across the world makes up a significant part of our waste streams and that more needs to be done to reduce packaging and complete the circle when it comes to recycling packaging waste.

In conclusion, it may be true that bottled water has less impact across its life-cycle than alternative packaged beverages but it is also about the only drink which most people in developed countries have available, cheaply and with less impact, by simply turning a tap.

For information about recycling plastic bottles in Scotland see here (public) or here (businesses).

Key findings from the study

— Water is the least environmentally damaging beverage option

— Tap water has the lightest footprint, followed by tap water consumed in reusable bottles (if used more than 10 times), and then by bottled water

— Water of all types accounts for 41% of a consumer’s total beverage
consumption, but represents just 12% of a consumer’s climate change impact

— Milk, coffee, beer, wine and juice together comprise 28% of a
consumer’s total beverage consumption, but represent 58% of climate change impact

— Bottled water is the most environmentally responsible packaged drink
choice

— Sports drinks, enhanced waters and soda produce nearly 50% more
carbon dioxide emissions per serving than bottled water

— Juice, beer and milk produce nearly three times as many carbon
dioxide emissions per serving as bottled water

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It’s a valid question. Why should we recycle rather than send waste to landfill? Why is the Scottish Government moving towards Zero Waste? Why is landfill tax increasing? What benefits does being low waste offer businesses and households? In short: why bother?

Landfill: materials lost forever.

The answers to all these questions is the same:

  1. Landfill is a graveyard: it represents the final destination for materials dumped there. This means that any value in those materials is lost forever and new materials have to be found, some of which are non-renewable so will eventually run out.
  2. Landfill requires space, which could be used for other purposes.
  3. Landfill produces methane as organic materials decompose. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas. Admittedly some landfill sites capture this methane and convert it to energy. Others burn excess methane, which everyone passing by can see in the form of massive plumes of orange fire which pump CO2 into the atmosphere. Organic waste could easily be recycled through anaerobic digestion or composting.
  4. Recycling creates value both in terms of the materials and for businesses involved with it. Scotland now has more than 450 recycling services for over 80 different types of material. You can search for them using our Business Recycling Directory.
  5. Reducing and reusing waste saves money. All businesses can implement waste management strategies to save costs this way. Recycling can also save money depending on the type and volume of materials involved.
  6. Packaging is an important way of protecting goods as they reach you. However unnecessary packaging adds weight and bulk to products which can increase transportation costs. Depending on the materials used it can also add to the waste which ends up in landfill. So recyclable, minimal packaging is best. See our Positive Package campaign for more about how suppliers and retailers are minimising the waste they produce.
  7. Landfill increases our use of natural resources. We use trees for paper and oil for plastic. Recycling the paper and plastic reduces the demand for these resources which means it oil will last for longer and fewer trees need to be grown. Less mining is needed for metal, which saves the environmental impact of mining (pollution, energy use).
  8. Recycling requires less energy than producing materials from scratch.
  9. Clean, local energy-from-waste plants could be a solution for our future heating and energy needs. Energy-from-waste no longer means dirty incineration. It can be achieved through anaerobic digestion of organic waste (no smell as it’s all sealed) which produces methane (again, no smell) which is burned just like natural gas to heat water and create steam – just like a coal-fired power plant. Technology allows for close proximity to homes and business with negligible risk to human health.
  10. Landfill sites tend to be big and far away from businesses. Recycling sites can be more local. This reduces the travelling distance of waste and reduces both the fuel and time required to handle the waste.
  11. Recycling allows a product to live again. 99.9% of the material in an aluminium can is recovered in the recycling process. Glass can theoretically be recycled forever as it doesn’t wear out during the recycling process.

There are lots of reasons to avoid landfill by recycling and, in Scotland, we have plenty of ways to achieve this: whether through collections or local Recycling Centres. More and more people and businesses are recycling. The real question is, are you?

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Many of us are probably in the dark about what happens to the waste we recycle. Does it enter a vortex? Does it really get made into new things?

I’ve visited several recycling centres since I started working for Waste Aware Business (WAB) and I also maintain the directory of recycling services on the WAB website and I’m beginning to understand just how much good work is being done to recover the value from materials for which we no longer have a need (mostly packaging but also end-of-life products).

What Happens Next?

What Happens Next?

I recently found a useful little section in the main Waste Aware Scotland campaign website which shows the waste journeys of many of the materials that both businesses and members of the public can now recycle in Scotland.

Included in the section are the journeys of the following widely recycled materials:

This waste journey information, although simplified, is interesting because it shows that something really quite extraordinary happens to the things we leave out in our recycling collection boxes/bags each week. Something far removed from the journey taken by the waste in our black bin bags (which is tragically short and terminal – all the way to the nearest landfill site).

Our friends at SEPA have produced some great videos showing waste journeys which can be found here.

By learning about what happens to the waste once it leaves our business or household it makes it seem worth the little extra effort involved. It also helps us all to realise that, by recycling, we really are making a difference by avoiding a) the need for virgin materials and b) the waste of the materials used to make the products and materials we put out for recycling.

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I’ve taken most of this week off for an arguably well deserved break and I’m currently drifting on a small wooden fishing boat just off an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

My Fishing Trip

My Fishing Trip

Unfortunately the above is a slight exaggeration. In reality I’m staying with my in-laws an hour away from my home town of Edinburgh. I’m currently watching drizzle run down the windows of our little holiday cottage. Still at least I saved some CO2 by holidaying locally. Also, it is a lovely little place just by the sea. Yesterday the sun even came out briefly.

However, it occurred to me that the business of renting out a cottage involves the potential for waste. It very much depends how cottage owners inform their guests about the recycling opportunities during their stay. Having received nothing obvious about this from our cottage owner, I looked at the notice board by the kitchen and found only take-away menus and a 2006 bus timetable. I even went to the effort of looking at the wheelie bins to see if anything on them might provide a clue. In one of the bins I found a plastic bag from the local authority which said “place plastic in here for recycling”. A good start, but I still have no idea where to put cans, cardboard or glass bottles. I may have to put them in the same bin as the plastic and hope for the best.

Should holiday-home owners even take responsibility for the treatment of waste on their property or does it fall on the people who pay to stay there? I tend to think it’s a shared responsibility and that owners should at least make clear where recycling can be carried out. After all without that information any well-meaning guests are left to fend for themselves.

Thinking about it, it’s probably only a small percentage of business waste overall, especially compared to the construction industry or manufacturing. But it all adds up. On a related issue I launched a new pilot campaign called Waste Aware Tourism last year. Focussed specifically on tourism within the Cairngorms National Park, I arranged to have a page added to all the bedroom folders asking tourists to recycle during their stay. I also contacted many of the local businesses (via the Cairngorms Chamber of Commerce) to ask them to consider setting up recycling facilities and many of them were very willing to oblige. Unfortunately not all materials are easily recycled in the area (plastics again) which was raised by some of the businesses. Also, for small tourism business, the costs involved with paying for kerbside recycling can be prohibitive. I understand that some local authorities will treat these businesses as households and allow them to use the kerbside recycling service accordingly. Perhaps we should try to get agreements of this type across Scotland to help smaller businesses recycle more types of waste.

That’s a discussion for another day. I’m going back to the jigsaw puzzle…

Seaside Memories Jogsaw Puzzle

Seaside Memories Jigsaw Puzzle

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