Recycling - what goes around comes around

13th of October 2017 Article by James Lee
Recycling - what goes around comes around

Cromwell Polythene managing director James Lee encourages the cleaning industry to lobby government to take recycling in public more seriously.

Championed by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), the theme of the recent Recycle Week in the UK is Recycle - It's Worth It, focusing on the idea of what goes around, comes around.

The concept is to highlight the lifecycle of materials and food from raw extraction to manufacturing, their first life usage, second life usage and so on. The end-game of this process should see as much energy and usage extracted from raw materials as is technically and commercially possible, before the final incarnation of the material is used to produce energy-from-waste, or unless unavoidable, sent to landfill.

All very lofty ambitious, but what about practical applications and solutions? And how can the cleaning industry help to drive us all towards a world without waste?

In my last ECJ blog, I focused on how cleaning companies can act as partners for their clients to help implement recycling initiatives with a facility, in particular food waste segregation and landfill diversion. Now I want to scale this up by encouraging cleaning contractors to support local authorities with the introduction and expansion of recycling initiatives in public spaces.

Recycling on the go

Recycling should be a central part of anti-litter initiatives throughout the UK. The government's Litter Strategy 2017 calls for more people to be able to recycle on the go - noting that standard litter bins often do not provide people with the opportunity to separate different types of materials for recycling.

That is very true, but there is lots to consider when replacing standard litter bins with segregated litter bins for recycling. WRAP has also produced a guide, which provides key information on the options for, and benefits of, introducing recycling on the go. Its principal aims are to aid and inform decision making, and to highlight the options for introducing new recycling on the go facilities or enhancing existing ones.

Cleaning companies that work with local authorities which don't already implement a recycle on the go scheme should be asking them for good reasons why they don't. Cost is often a factor - recycle on the go units, placed in public spaces such as parks, carry some increased costs, usually due to the extra work required to empty and clean the units. Cleaners should work together with local authorities as far as possible, and consider the following recommendations:

- The use of lightweight, easy-to-clean recycle on the go units wherever possible with storage containers that are easy to open, and access keys that don't cost a fortune to replace if lost;

- Street cleaning companies could offer a long-term contract package to help new recycling on the go systems be incorporated into existing services without an initial dramatic hike in cost, instead favouring spreading a higher cost over a longer contract term;

- Cleaning companies could team up with waste management partners to offer a more cost-effective solution for local authorities when bidding to service such a scheme;

- Advocating the use of recycling sacks that themselves are produced from a high proportion of recycled materials (some recycled blends boast upwards of 97 per cent recycled content) could further add to the sustainability goals of the local authority and the contractors involved.

Recycle on the go bins provide the public with an opportunity to continue recycle away from home or work. But to be truly cost-effective, initiatives need comprehensive government support and guidelines - above and beyond a measly single paragraph mention in the 2017 Litter Strategy document.

After all, what goes around comes around - if the government wants to support Recycle Week and the wider UK landfill diversion drive, it must be willing to put more substantial budgets and policies forward to help local authorities on the front line.


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