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No time to waste

It’s no secret at all that companies are buying into waste-reduction. It’s a definite win-win: a contribution to reducing emissions, cutting landfill and it helps with those all-important margins too.

Waste-to-power initiatives are on the up, and recycling’s been flying upwards for a long time in the UK to the point where it’s more unusual not to see recycling facilities available. DEFRA statistics show that waste generation has been dropping in double-figure percentages, the recovery of waste jumping by huge increments (50 per cent 2004-’08), while those from DECC show municipal waste combustion up 9 per cent since 2010 and sewage sludge digestion up by 8.

It’s always heartening to see a problem being tackled, but there’s no room to rest. Now even more creative methods of reducing, re-using and recycling are taking hold.

There’s Ecover hauling plastic in from the sea to make their products’ bottles for a start. The company’s chief exec Philip Malmberg drives home the fact that companies have to do much more than be seen to be doing in an age resistant to ‘greenwash’:

As manufacturers we've got to take responsibility for sustainability very seriously - to take real action on climate change and the damage done by our over-reliance on fossil fuels, creating ‘green' products that deliver more than a nod to sustainability."

Thames Water has seen the very obvious economic benefits of a smart attitude to waste. They saved £15million on their energy bills last year by getting 14 per cent of its electricity from sewage (or in their own words, “poo power”) and are now investing millions to increase the efficiency of the process, and so, you’d be fairly safe in predicting, their future savings.

Food waste is a major issue too, and one that we’ve had a look at before on the blog. For the food retailer, an interesting suggestion might be in the lighting department. It has been suggested that changing to LED lights, which emit minimal heat, might allow foods to be displayed for longer without having to be consigned to waste in the first place. There is certainly some logic there, and our LED trial showed that the technology itself is well worth an immediate look in terms of payback, energy savings and light quality.

The UK has recently been praised by the EU for vast improvements in recycling levels, and there’s little doubt that waste will continue to be high up agendas in both domestic and business environments.

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

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