In many ways I feel lucky to live in Daventry, although there are probably a lot of people who think I must have received a severe blow to the head to come out with such a statement. However, I do feel that in terms of the environment the District Council is trying quite hard to engage both households and business (after all, they were the first council to reach government targets for recycling years before the deadline). One of the things that they are trying to do to engage local businesses is run the Environment Business Network (EBN). It meets at different businesses four times a year, with a different theme each time. It allows the opportunity to meet others and have a round table discussion of issues, successes, problems etc, and also allows a look round the different businesses – something that you would not usually do. What I have found really useful is the discovery that there are other people at different stages of their environmental voyage – without the EBN it is easy to think that you are ploughing a lone furrow. I have found a whole host of help and resources through participation in the EBN – if someone can’t help you directly they can often send you to someone that can.
Today’s breakfast meeting was at DHL Mothercare – a huge warehousing facility on the DIRFT (Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal) estate. The theme of the day was waste minimisation. After introductions there was a talk by someone from DHL outlining their efforts so far at waste reduction, followed by a waste quiz by RUR3. Before we left we had a tour around the site.
So, what did I learn. Firstly, in common with other businesses, DHL had a lot of obvious cost reductions that they could make. The first was lighting which has helped them to halve their electricity bill. It was a combination of power reduction (replacing the horrid metal halide hi bay lighting with strips) and controllability (wiring lights to individual controls and adding in sensors). I must say, it was a huge warehouse with an incredibly high roof, and it did not appear to be badly lit at all (although it was daytime, it was not exactly Springlike weather today). They have also reduced their water spend by going for waterless urinals (there is apparently a very good report comparing systems which I would like to get a copy of) and are busy reducing their waste to landfill. They compact both plastic and cardboard and get paid for both – I will be investigating cardboard balers in the next 6 months as we are currently paying to have it taken away – although we don’t deal in such large amounts of waste, I think we should at least get it taken away for free.
Following the waste quiz (did you know that if every person in an office used one less staple each day then we would save 72 tonnes of metal?) it was noticeable how many people have problems getting rid of small amounts of waste such as cardboard and pallets. It would appear that the council does not have the facilities for this, but perhaps it should put a forum on its website so companys can get together and have joint collections – I think I will suggest it.
The tour of the warehouse was interesting even if it was only to show the sheer scale of the warehousing business – and this is only one of the many massive warehouses on the DIRFT site. What I noticed most was the amount of packaging that they had to recycle – and this is just a distribution warehouse – they do not make anything (I guess most is imported) although they do deal with returns. There was, literally, tonnes of the stuff, over 900 tonnes of cardboard every year if I remember correctly. The other thing that sprang to mind as we walked around the warehouse was the amount of plastic ‘stuff’ that was around. There were all sorts of imported (probably) plastic (definitely) things – toys, baby accessories, all sorts of stuff. Whilst it is all very well business recycling packaging, using reusable packaging (usually plastic), reducing packaging, surely it would be better (for the environment if not the economy) if consumers changed their habits and reduced their requirements for stuff and its attendant packaging.