Using existing recycling systems to capture public interest dominated the discussion at the Resource Association’s summer lecture, awards and reception.
The annual event this year featured two lectures, delivered by Iain Gulland, chief executive of Zero Waste Scotland and president of the board of the Association of Cities and Regions for Sustainable Resource Management (ACR+) and Ngozika Onyekwelu, representative of ACEN: Africa Circular Economy Network.
Mr Gulland’s talk focused on how waste management organisations can change the recycling system in the UK to capitalise upon increased public attention on environmental issues.
“How do we communicate with people to do something really positive, especially in this time of climate crisis. We need to energise people to do the right thing,” Mr Gulland said to the audience at the National Liberal Club.
He encouraged the recycling industry to harness the power of populist political campaigns, particularly the grassroots effort to see Bernie Sanders become the Democratic nominee in the 2016 American elections.
Mr Gulland added: “People are willing to come out and do something but they are really only interested in doing something big.
“How do we harness everybody to do something not just here in the UK but across the world?”
Ms Onyekwelu’s lecture looked at the challenges facing the recycling industry in Zambia, as well as demonstrating how circular economy projects could solve a variety of pressing issues in Africa.
She suggested the continent was “a blank sheet” for recycling initiatives to work on and that it could learn from the mistakes which had been made by European countries.
“We all have a great understanding that we do not have to succumb to the system, we can overcome the system,” she said.
“Waste affects everyone so messaging has to be for everybody.”
Ms Onyekwelu also discussed the Bright Future Project, her own start-up industrial recycling plant in Zambia.
There are currently limited waste management systems in place in the country and poor waste control causes a number of public health issues – 200-300 people have died of cholera due to bad waste management habits in recent years, according to Ms Onyekwelu.
Quality Recognition Awards
The lectures were followed by the Resource Association’s Quality Recognition Awards, which are given to local authorities and recycling collectors that have been identified by members for delivering high-quality recyclate for reprocessing.
Pearce Recycling was nominated for their prize by Novelis, who praised them for providing 1200 tonnes of used drinks cans. DS Smith recommended Tesco Plc for an award after the supermarket dealt with organic contamination which had affected much of their packaging.
Hills Waste Solutions was recognised for its work on carton recycling in Wiltshire and were nominated by Ace UK, whilst Stroud district council received praise for its pride in high-quality material from Palm Recycling. An award was also shared by the partnership between Newport Recycling Ltd and Hills Waste Solutions for their thorough inspection of materials, having been nominated by UPM.