It was great to hear news of the letsrecycle.com annual awards this week. Representatives from business, local authorities and other organisations all converged on a central London hotel to discover who the judging panel viewed as leading the way in no less than 10 different waste and recycling related categories.
It was clear from the calibre of the finalists – ranging from an outlet shopping centre, household waste and recycling centres and commercial waste management companies, through to community recycling initiatives, a university and a banking institution – that here in the UK, there’s a real appetite to grasp the issues, not only of business efficiency, but of individual and organisational accountability.
I was also pleased to hear, during the citations, of instances of where WRAP support and help had helped the finalists achieve their goals. Love Food Hate Waste received several name checks, and our Recycle Now brand and loan funds also featured.
Each of the winners richly deserved their awards, but I’d like to add my own congratulations to all the finalists. The judges must have had a hard time picking the winners.
WRAP’s role is very much one of an ‘enabler’, making it possible for others to make changes that will have a lasting impact. Those websites, and the range of loans we administer are just part of the wide ranging tools and support we have on offer, and I welcome feedback from anyone who has found our resources of value. It is good to know when we’ve got it right. And if you’d like to suggest other support we might offer, then please let me know as I’d very much like to hear your ideas.
It’s not just organisations in the UK whose achievements I’ve been impressed by. Last week, I took part in the first-ever Unilever 24 Hour Sustainable Living Lab. This on-line venture brought together contributors from all over the world to talk about critical issues such as designing out waste, carbon emissions, food waste, recycling and community engagement.
Four ‘virtual’ chat rooms, each focusing on a different core theme, ran at the same time. I was invited to start the ball rolling on this: The Big Challenge - How can we substantially reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill that consumer lifestyles generate? What are the key behavioural, infrastructure and market barriers to scaling up recycling and recovery schemes of consumer goods in your country/region? How can these best be addressed?
And here’s what I said to help start the debate…
“The main barriers are lack of awareness and knowledge; a lack of understanding of (and faith in) the recycling process; lack of consistency in approach from area to area; patchy reprocessing infrastructure and capability; and the need to overcome the technical complexities involved in recycling more problematical materials such as some plastics.
There are ways to overcome these barriers – such as the WRAP Love Food Hate Waste initiative; a range of voluntary agreements which have brought organisations together to identify the best solutions to reduce waste and increase recycling levels; advice and guidance for local authorities; and support for SMEs.
There is more to be done on all these areas – we need to be willing to consider and develop new business models that enable consumers to reduce overall consumption (and provide end-of-life solutions when a product has no more to give), and encourage manufacturers to reduce the environmental impacts of the goods they make.”
It was a great opportunity to share ideas and best practice, ask challenging questions, and learn from others in different continents. I think it’s important we make the most of these sorts of opportunities to share knowledge and develop thinking. No one company, country, or continent, for that matter, holds all the answers to all the difficult questions that face us, and the more we are willing work together to find long-term solutions, the better for us all.