Reducing, reusing and recycling to reach zero waste

With public sector budgets being squeezed there’s never been a better time to reduce waste and save money in the process. We are increasingly seeing local authorities and other public bodies entering the Zero Waste Awards, having found that waste reduction makes good financial sense, and ultimately saves the tax payer money. Organisations that have mastered the art of the three Rs (reduce-reuse‑recycle) and achieved a significant reduction in waste are rewarded with gold, silver, bronze or highly commended for their efforts.
Winners of Zero Waste Awards in the latest round included Warwickshire and Staffordshire County Councils, Milton Keynes Council, the Greater London Authority, Caerphilly County Borough Council and Dundee Council, Lancashire Community Recycling, as well as the Isle of Wight NHS Trust.

Managing resources wisely
Attending the  Zero Waste Awards recognition event at the 12th Century Coombe Abbey in Warwickshire were representatives of Lower House Farm Household Waste Recycling Centre and Waste Transfer Station, jointly developed by Warwickshire and Staffordshire County Councils. The state-of-the-art facility near Tamworth junction is capable of receiving 10,000 tonnes of material a year and incorporates a purpose-built charity re-use shop, operated by Warwickshire Community Recycling with proceeds benefitting local causes.
Delivering a best value solution for both authorities, the £3.5 million facility boasts what is claimed to be the UK’s biggest recycling centre charity re-use shop and accepts 30 types of material ranging from household and garden chemicals, paint, asbestos, plasterboard and engine oil. Separating waste streams at source is by far the most efficient way to make sure they are recycled or otherwise treated and disposed of correctly. The new facility at Lower House Farm has optimised the waste and recycling service for householders, reduced waste disposal costs through avoided Landfill Tax, and generated financial clear benefits for the local community.

Partnerships for success
New partnerships are developing in the public, private and third sectors, crossing the traditional boundaries to deliver a more sustainable society.

Zero Waste Award submissions are particularly popular from partner organisations collaborating on waste reduction projects together to achieve the same goal.
The Isle of Wight NHS Trust for example, also awarded at the Zero Waste Awards, is recognised nationally as a hub of good practice on waste management. Over the last two years the Trust has worked with its waste contractor and other partners to double its domestic waste recycling rate from 18 per cent to 39 per cent, reducing the cost of its waste contracts by 30 per cent.
When public sector organisations and their waste contractors cooperate with recycling projects, significant progress can be made in a relatively short time frame. The Isle of Wight NHS Trust’s achievements go to show what can be achieved when both partners are committed to the 3Rs of reduce, reuse, recycle.

Key players
Reducing dependence on waste disposal and achieving a resource-efficient society depends on the ambitions and efforts of a number of key sectors. Firstly, European and central governments are developing legislation to support resource-efficiency targets. New Circular Economy legislation will be put in place over the next year or so by the European Commission, likely to include more ambitious recycling targets. In turn, government is making funding available for communities and local government to implement those policies.
Alternatively, waste disposal authorities are responsible for planning for a more resource‑efficient society, with sufficient facilities to handle material flows. In addition to this, waste collection authorities are educating and motivating the public to participate in more sustainable practices, and supplying the services that enable them to do so.
Industrial designers are being encouraged through Circular Economy principles and cost-saving opportunities to design products that can be repaired or disassembled for recycling, ensuring materials stay ‘in the loop’ and consumers have less need to dispose of obsolete goods. Moreover, manufacturers are working on ways to get products to market in less wasteful ways, including operational practices, packaging, and the product’s whole lifecycle once it is no longer useful for its original purpose. Additionally, retailers are taking more responsibility for supplying products that are environmentally sustainable, repairable and recyclable, and for promoting those products to consumers.
Waste management contractors and the recycling sector are increasingly able to provide services that prioritise recycling over disposal, and are forming intelligent partnerships with businesses, communities and local government to recycle more.
Universities and schools are expanding their education programmes to incorporate sustainable resource management concepts from early years to tertiary education, giving the next generation a firmly-rooted understanding of zero waste principles and practice. Householders are becoming more aware of the benefits of resource-efficiency and sustainable waste management, participating more than ever in recycling schemes and increasing their demand for sustainably-produced goods.

Zero Waste Awards
Becoming more resource efficient saves money by reducing procurement spend and avoiding waste disposal costs. Zero Waste Award winners are also seen to be green by their customers, supply chains and peers.
One of the judges of the Zero Waste Awards, Karen Cannard, creator and co-founder of the Rubbish Diet Challenge, said: “The Zero Waste Awards recognises leadership and action amongst those who are working hard to create a more sustainable and resourceful economy, embedding ambitious waste reduction practices into the heart of their organisations.”
The awards were presented by event partners, SAICA Natur and Wastecare and a keynote address was given by Sue Armstrong‑Brown, Head of Policy at the think tank, Green Alliance. Speaking at the Awards ceremony, she focused on the ‘crucial need’ to develop stronger resource efficiency messages for the future. Looking at the development of waste management over time, Mrs Armstrong‑Brown was hopeful of progress in the direction of zero waste, particularly with the European Commission’s forthcoming Circular Economy and resource efficiency measures.
As well as providing recognition for organisations working towards zero waste, the Awards provide an opportunity for leaders to network and share best practice with other experts. From factories to hospitals, community centres and charity groups, everyone has a story to tell of their journey towards Zero Waste. Applicants are judged across five equally weighted criteria. These are: Waste prevention; Re-use; Recycle/Compost/Recover; Energy Recovery; and General.
Unique in the waste and recycling sector, the Zero Waste Awards are free to enter, non‑competitive and awarded on merit. Winning a Zero Waste Award demonstrates commitment to environmental and cost savings to your customers, clients, partners and funders. Winners of the Gold Zero Waste Award are also automatically entered into the Zero Waste Platinum category at the Awards for Excellence in Recycling and Waste Management.
The next round of the Zero Waste Awards closes on 2 September 2015 and the awards presentation takes place on 4 October. Entries can be made at any time via the website below.

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