Recycling – Why there’s gold in them thar bins

by Scott Douglas

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

16-JAN-Recycling-NewsA version of this post first appeared in the Daily Record’s Edinburgh Now supplement.

Where there’s muck there’s brass – and the dirty business currently enjoying boom times is the world of recycling.

There’s pots of money being made and spent as part of Scotland’s drive to efficiently deal with our mountains of garbage in a more environmentally friendly way.

Back in the 1980s “recycling’ was the return leg of a bike journey and the only easy money to be made from the contents of a bin was the cash back on empty Globe juice bottles.

Now recycling is a £23 billion-a-year sector creating jobs for consultants, collectors, traders, shippers and armies of people involved in sorting, mashing, melting, and reviving our trash.

Across the UK there’s potential for a further 10,000 new jobs and £25 billion of exports from recycling by 2020. Not bad for a load of old rubbish

Little wonder there is a such a push to convince businesses that  recycling isn’t just another dreary task on the daily To Do lists or an additional cost on the balance sheet. Instead, we are being urged to look at effective waste management as an opportunity to be seized with both hands.

Which all sounds perfectly reasonable if your business happens to be selling compostible cups, smelting down scrap metal or flogging recycled paper – but what about the rest of us? Well, it seems there could still be gold in them thar bins.

Trade Waste

In Scotland the cash message is being pushed to persuade businesses to quickly embrace the new Government waste regulations that came in with the New Year and which mean firms are now responsible for separating plastics, metals and food waste for recycling.

Zero Waste Scotland has some fascinating video case studies of businesses who’ve already made the changes – and seen the bottom line benefits. Pubs, restaurants, takeaways and convenience stores all tell how they now produce less waste, so pay less for rubbish collection, which is a welcome saving.

But it goes further. In each case the process of concentrating on better waste management has also brought a focus on how to make each business better – and more profitable – in other ways.

Like the award-winning fish and chip shop whose efforts to reduce waste helped sharpen focus on provenance.. Now customers treated to wall mounted displays telling them which fishing boat landed their fillet, who dived for their scallops or what local fields their chips or burgers came from. Genius.

Or the pub which has introduced a wormery to compost kitchen scraps and leftover food and uses the compost on the allotment where they grow their own fruit and veg. The wormery also taught them their chip portions were too big and they’ve now reduced the size by 20%, making a tidy saving. They also have a nice wee earner selling empty drink and food cans for scrap.

Good for business

Slowly but surely the world of commerce and industry is coming round to the notion that recycling is good for business. Achieving 70% recycling by 2025 could benefit Scotland’s economy by £175million. Currently we spend £95 million per year to throw away resources worth more than £97 million. Bonkers.

In Edinburgh it may helps that so many of us now recycle at home as standard. We’ve been diverting bottles and cans to the blue box and cardboard and paper to the red box for what seems like ages. So presumably it’ll be easy to adopt the same practices at work.

For the home recycler there are also financial incentives to consider. Every house in Scotland throws away food worth £35 a month. What could you use that extra £420 a year for?

Unless you want to see a hefty hike in you council tax payments, you’ll be jumping on the recycling bandwagon with alacrity. The Government will be turning the screw on councils in the shape of hefty landfill taxes of more than £80 per tonne and we can rest assured those costs will be passed on to us.

Maybe such financial reminders and incentives will bring the laggards the grumblers and the naysayers round to the benefits of recycling.

But really there are other more compelling figures which should do the trick. In Edinburgh we  produce 250,000 tonnes of household waste per year – an average of one tonne per home.

We shouldn’t recycle because we have to. We shouldn’t recycle because it pays to. We should be recycling because we want to.

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