Hazardous, Lifestyle, Non-Hazardous, Recycling, Waste

No such place as ‘away’ when it comes to waste management

We are all consumers. We purchase products. We consume products. We throw away the resultant ‘waste’. Whether it’s a crisp packet after your lunch or a broken washing machine, you have classified the item in your possession as waste. Decision made. You’re throwing it away. 

Pause for a second. Have you ever thought ‘Where, exactly, IS away’?

I’m here to tell you; There is no such place as ‘away’ – but with the work we’re doing at Fernbank, that’s a good thing. And, you can do your bit too.

Whether it’s ‘Blue Planet’ showing images of our oceans teaming with plastic waste, Greta Thunburg on the cover of Time magazine or the climate change denying pantomime villain, played terribly well by Donald Trump don’t you think, public consciousness of climate change is at an all-time high.

Whilst we need to take action against climate change as consumers; recycling, better insulating our homes, turning down the heating or, as I have done, making ‘Eco Bricks’ for our kids school, we as leaders of companies, need to exert our influence by changing processes and practices that have a much more significant impact on the environment.

‘Blue Planet’ showing images of our oceans teaming with plastic waste
A scene from David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II ( BBC )

Our industry has moved away from ‘waste management’ into ‘resource management and production’, and is now focussed on turning our waste, or as we now prefer to call it – resources, into something of value. And it is the waste industry who define where ‘away’ is.

To put this into context we are a £9bn industry employing 600,000 people, influencing and setting the agenda on big issues, such as; carbon emissions, plastic waste in oceans and climate change.

Packaging recycling and recovery rates in the UK are at an impressive 70.2% (Defra). That’s great, however there is a logical ceiling to the economics of waste recycling, which I heard brilliantly described by TerraCycle Founder Tom Szaky as;

If the COST OF LOGISTICS + COST OF PROCESSING = LESS THAN THE VALUE OF THE RECYCLED COMMODITY then there is no market for that recycled product.

Rather than recycling our way out of this issue, we need to move UP the waste Hierarchy. More needs to be done to move the onus to reducing production. Stop making so much stuff and we won’t need to recycle so much stuff. The introduction of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and the governments Waste & Resources Strategy 2020 is driving that change through legislation.

Businesses, like yours, are no doubt looking to do the same. You want to reduce your carbon footprint in line with your corporate and social responsibilities whilst remaining fully compliant with the aim of improving productivity and reducing costs.

This has to begin with an internal review; What businesses practices are you putting in place to minimise your impact on the environment? This then has to translate outwardly to engage with experts in the Resources & Waste industry who can help you realise your objectives. They can help direct you towards compliant solutions, following the waste hierarchy and operating with a zero to landfill mind set, ultimately helping you find the appropriate destination for your waste.

Because, as you now know ‘there is no such place as away’.

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