Blod Design Founder, Hannah Garcia has introduced a plastic recycling scheme through TerraCycle at ICE. So, naturally, we asked her to write us a Guest Blog and tell us all about it:
I find many ways to be annoying. I like to crack my toes, I sing ‘Tiny Dancer’ in a squeaky voice, and I can’t remember the difference between Star Wars and Star Trek. Yet these habits are all positively charming compared to how annoying I can be about the recycling. A great deal of my work is in sustainability engagement so it’s always at the forefront of my mind and I just can’t pass by a bin without having a rummage and a rant. Like many workplaces our recycling situation here at ICE isn’t so hot and I’d love to see it improve – Rachel has kindly offered me an opportunity to tell you all about the annoying new recycling box I’ve annoyingly put in the co-lab and explain how it works.
It’s possible that I’m wasting my time with all this recycling stuff – do you remember learning about the three Rs in school? Well there are five of them now and recycling comes in way down at number four in terms of its environmental benefit. In case you’re wondering, the other Rs are:
- Refuse. This one is all about saying ‘no thank you’ to things we don’t need and telling companies that we want sustainable alternatives. This could be as simple as turning down plastic straws or cutlery, choosing not to upgrade a phone that still works fine, or resisting those crap-filled goodies bags at conferences while supporting those companies who choose to do things differently. Saying no is really hard – especially when we’re conditioned to pick up stuff we don’t need – but it’s a great business and life skill as well as a step towards sustainable living.
- Reduce. This is about cutting back and being thoughtful about what we need to use. In our business lives this could mean printing less, ditching the office tassimo, creating a product with less packaging, catering events carefully to minimise food waste, taking the train rather than driving and so on.
- Reuse. Ok you’re probably familiar with reusable water bottles and coffee cups but could your organisation buy used furniture instead new stuff? Reuse your pull up stand and just print a new banner instead of binning the whole thing? Or refill your printer cartridges instead of buying new?
- Recycle. More on this later!
- Rot. If we can’t refuse, reduce, reuse or recycle it then we might be able to compost it and prevent it going to landfill. Food waste, tea bags, shredded paper, cardboard & envelopes, old socks and Huw’s beard clippings can all be broken down into beautiful plant food. Anyone fancy a Welsh ICE wormery?
So recycling isn’t all that great. You might even have seen in the news recently that the global recycling industry is rife with fraud and a great deal of what we trustingly put in the green bin just gets dumped, burned, or chucked in the sea. Those lovely green biodegradable cups? They all go to landfill as there are very limited facilities to compost them and even fewer councils willing to do it – less than 0.25% of ‘eco cups’ get recycled.
So is it worth our time to recycle? I think it is. Because there’s really no such thing as throwing something ‘away’ – it has to go somewhere and recycling ideally keeps materials out of landfill sites and incinerators (where they create harmful emissions) and out of the water and the soil (where they can harm wildlife, disrupt ecosystems, and make their way back into our food chain). While there’s no escaping the pressing need to find alternatives to plastic, recycling as much as we can will help limit the extent and impacts of pollution while producers and consumers come to terms with plastic reduction.
But recycling plastic is a problem – there are loads of different types and combinations of plastics and a lot of these are either virtually impossible to recycle or aren’t currently recycled as they’re a logistical pain to collect and process – each year we throw away 3.7 million tonnes of plastic (mostly packaging) and only 842,000 tonnes of this is recycled.
This is where my annoying box comes in. Have you seen it? It’s under the table in the post room in the co lab looking a bit sad and empty. Thanks to a scheme called Terracycle we can fill it with all kinds of hard-to-recycle plastics which will be responsibly processed and turned into new stuff. Right now we can collect cleaning and beauty product packaging, biscuit and cake packaging, baby food pouches, and coffee pods. Next year I’m hoping to be able to take crisp packets too – we could even sign up to recycle cigarette butts (they’re full of microplastics) if anyone is feeling ambitious. Once the box is full I will bundle it all up and the lovely Terracycle people will come and collect it. They will weigh it and reward us with points which we can redeem as a donation to a charity – our charity is the Marine Conservation Society, chosen by Alex Pollard.
I hope you’ll agree that reducing and recycling the resources we use is a no-brainer and join me in improving our recycling rates. If you’re not sure whether something can go in the box or not then come and ask me or just pop it in and I will work out whether it needs to stay or go. I’m really happy to chat about zero waste living too so just come and say hi if you’ve got any questions about those fascinating 5 Rs.
P.S. Did you ever play the original Wolfenstein 3D? The developers hid a secret message, deep within one of the game’s horribly complex mazes, instructing anyone who found it to call them and give a code word to win a prize. I’ll be surprised (and chuffed) if anyone has willingly clicked on a blog about recycling, let alone read all the way to the end, so – if you’re reading this – I’ll have an awesome zero-waste prize for the first person to come and find me in the co lab or message me on Facebook with the code word ‘crumpets.’ Go!