Binning the bin tax – what a rubbish idea.

Listening to the radio on a Monday morning should be relaxing, but I am feeling quite angry.  The new government are scrapping the plans of the previous government to make us all pay for what we throw away, replacing it with incentives to recycle.

So, instead of reducing the amount of rubbish we are creating we are now going to be rewarded for buying more stuff and how are we going to be rewarded – we will get vouchers to buy more stuff – a vicious circle.  If you don’t buy very much, then no rewards for you – we need you to buy things – after all, that is what our economy is built on – shopping.

Do I think recycling is a bad thing?  Certainly not, but I think we should be at a point now where not recycling is unheard of, unthought of.  We shouldn’t have to be rewarded for recycling.

What I do think is that if you throw things away you should pay for it – after all you are taking more landfill and more of that scarce resource – space.  It is the only way to make people think about what they are buying and why.  I understand the argument, there would be more flytipping, and burning of rubbish or putting it in the neighbours bin  – then we will have to be more vigilant.

The pay as you throw works in Belgium – why are we not capable of managing such a scheme.  While it may not be the best way, it is surely a start in the right direction.

Recycling at work.

Our Green Team started off with a brainstorming activity to identify areas where we thought improvements could be made.  From this we decided that the most obvious area to look at first was recycling as there were no facilities at the moment (apart from a skip for cardboard and recycling of cling wrap) with all other waste being sent to landfill.  It also seemed one of the easiest to tackle as recycling has been a high priority for a number of years in Daventry, with the council providing excellent facilities and being the first in the country to meet government targets for household recycling.  Unfortunately, they do not seem at all interested in helping businesses in the area to recycle.

How have we done so far?

Two of the team spent a lot of time trying to find someone to take away our recycling.  Some were not very helpful, a couple were more interested in the confidential shredded waste which is controlled from head office and therefore we had no authority to change, and some were just too expensive.

We have provided bins for the collection of bottles, cans and plastic which are then put in a particular skip provided by local Company, Cawleys and, at the same time changed our supplier of the cardboard skip to Cawleys, which saved enough money to provide the recycling facilities.   Although there were some complaints initially that, heaven forbid, people are being asked to wash out their containers, and empty an extra couple of bins, it has in the main been well received.

We have also removed a larger skip from site which was originally rented in order to get rid of some particular waste some years ago and which now seemed to have a few broken pallets and bits of metal put in.  The pallets are being taken away for free by a local company (we may be able to find someone to pay for them at some point, but this is not a priority) and we have had the skip removed which, at a conservative estimate has saved us £1500 a year.

In addition to this, we have found a local company that will take away some perspex chips that we use as part of our business (saving about 5kg of plastic going to landfill every month) and other sundry items that they sell on to schools and playgroups for craft purposes.  The envelopes that were thrown away with the perspex are reused up to four times eah and we have even had other sites bring their perspex to us so we can send it for reuse.  Although this last part makes only a small difference, I think it has raised awareness at other sites of what we are trying to do.

In addition to this, the search for someone to recycle has allowed us to get a cheaper quote for the rest of the general waste that will save us a further £750 per year.

So, what more can we do.  I think we need to look at providing more facilities for general paper and newspapers, as well as for some of the less obvious things such as batteries.  I am also planning to invest in a cardboard baler which will bring down the collection price of the cardboard and then look to try and sell or get a better price for some items such as wooden pallets and cling wrap (although the price of recycled materials has dropped dramatically in recent months following the collapse of the oil price).  We also have intermittent pallets of waste that can be recycled, so my next task is to find a way to advertise some of these internally and see if they are needed at any other site.

Has anyone out there had any successes or failures recycling at work?

Help maybe at hand to recycle plastic bottles.

An article published on the New Scientist website this month highlights research that has discovered a strain of bacteria that could make recycling PET (polyethyleneterephthalate) drinks bottles more lucrative. These are a strain of pseudomonas bacteria that can change the low value PET into higher value PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoates) plastics some of which are used in the production of medical devices. According to Wikipedia PHAs are polyesters that are ‘produced in nature by the bacterial fermentation of sugars and lipids’.
The incentive to recycle the billions of PET bottles produced is currently low because the low value PET is recycled to more PET. Now, a team of researchers in Dublin, may have found a way to convert this low value plastic into higher grade PHA. By heating the PET in the absence of oxygen they break it down into terephthalic acid (TA). They then found a strain of bacteria which will convert this into PHA.
Not only would this reduce the amount going to landfill it could also make recycling more profitable – maybe mining landfills for plastics will come a step closer after all.

Recycling at the supermarket.

Whilst doing my weekly shop this evening at the previously lauded Waitrose I noticed a bin next to the magazine section. This was labelled as a repository for all of the unwanted supplements and advertisements in the magazines. What a great idea, it saves me having to put them in the recycling at home and earns them brownie points. The question is, how do we stop the magazines from putting them in there in the first place. After all, do people buy any of the things they advertise, or do most people, like myself, empty out the magazine as soon as they get home and not pay any attention to them?