Poppy Hebden-Leeder: Where There’s Muck, There’s Money


In preparation for a radio interview the week before last, I’d been reading up about waste and recycling in this country and elsewhere. While Swindon doesn’t have the most impressive recycling rate – the most recent figure I could find says 44% of our waste was recycled in 2014 – we do now have a state of the art treatment facility at the Cheney Manor Household Waste Recycling Centre. This will not only help recover more metals from the black bag waste we produce but now means no waste need go to landfill in Swindon.

Recycling levels across the country are still a problem though, despite the seeming enthusiasm for it, the growth in recycling is slowing. Between 2012 and 2013 the recycling rate across the UK only increased by 0.2%. In addition to this the outdated recycling systems we use across the country mean we lose an estimated £1.7Bn in reuse value every year.

The Green Party has a range of policies to support recycling and reuse of products, so that we don’t lose so much by literally chucking it in the bin. We want to use virgin materials in more sustainable ways and seek alternatives wherever possible, and re-use or recycle as much as possible.

There are estimates that in the UK we have 28-125 Million unused phones – that’s a lot of phones sitting in drawers not being used or recycled. In a typical smartphone chip there are up to 60 different elements, many of which are rare-earth metals which are only found in a few places world-wide. Recycling, where possible, is very important to ensure that this ‘waste’ is recovered properly and heads back into the economy to be reused. Indeed some are so rare that recycling them will not be sufficient to meet demand – we need to do more research on where they are in the earth’s crust. As emerging technologies are reliant on them, we also need to understand what we will do without them.

By properly valuing waste, and creating a market for ‘waste’ products, we can create jobs. Independent estimates range from 200,000 jobs, if we carry on with our current development path, to nearly half a million if we really expand the recycling system. The jobs vary in what they could be and where they’d be based, but they could have benefits across all of the UK. And if none of that convinces you how beneficial waste can be, search on the internet for ‘Portland electricity generation sewer pipes’ for a great new idea recently introduced in the USA.

Changing how we view ‘waste’ could generate income for people, create employment and mean less damage to the environment around us – it’s kind of a no-brainer.

(For further information, read:
http://www.green-alliance.org.uk/resources/Employment%20and%20the%20circular%20economy.pdf
http://www.green-alliance.org.uk/page_1514.php)

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