|If you were really keen and investigated Defra’s statistics you’d see that the UK still produces more waste per head of population than many of its European neighbours, (ave. 592kg). It also recycles less than the European average (18% vs EU ave. of 36.4%).
A cavalier attitude towards waste in the UK? Some of the attitude will be driven by our economic strength but you don’t find the same issues in Green focused Germany where they seem to be (clean) streets ahead of us.
I sense that the biggest drivers are simply inertia and knowing what to do. A great pile of disengagement from people who aren’t regularly confronted with the realities of what we don’t reuse. When exposed to the problem or solutions most folks are really positive. You’ll conclude that ‘out of sight is out of mind’. Awareness is everything.
The environmental project that is the National Forest is a fantastic example of raising the consciousness. Taking the least forested part of the UK after the closure of the East Midlands coal mines, the National Forest has overseen a rejuvenation that is so much more than putting trees in the ground.
Now as well as woodland being managed for economic and environmental good, people want to live there. House prices are rising. Businesses are thriving and visitor numbers to the region are growing. This wouldn’t have happened without the combined effort of individuals raising the profile of what could be, and convincing others to get involved. I know because I’ve been involved.
For the people living and working in the National Forest the transformation is clear. Branches and leaves waving about right in front of their eyes. But what about other folks living and working in urban areas? How do they regard their environment and their waste?
The thing is when you throw things away there is no such place as ’Away’. It has to go somewhere. Which is why it’s so important to give companies and individuals choices for their waste disposal. Become evangelical, raise awareness, drive good behaviours.
This is what the recently launched waste to energy plant of phs LifeCycle has done. The plant treats traditionally difficult absorbent hygiene waste, diverts it away from landfill and turns it into fuel. This service is available for pretty much all phs customers right now – what a choice! It’s a very effective and long-sighted program which is showing the way for the industry. It defines what good could look like and does ‘away’ with the euphemisms.
Shifting mindsets is possible to do because making the right choices is just so much easier when others are shining a beacon.