Waste not, want not: how the rubbish industry learned to look beyond landfill

A yellow monster truck pushes mounds of rubbish across the summit of Britain’s biggest waste mountain. The 50-tonne beast has huge, spiked, steel wheels that grind mattresses, plastic bottles, trainers and traffic cones into the mud of the manmade peak.

This strange landscape is Packington landfill, near Birmingham. And this week Sita UK, which owns and operates the site, closed its gates for the final time. A boom in recycling, coupled with the 1996 landfill tax have slowly choked the life out of the refuse disposal sector. The charge of £80 a tonne will rise again to £82.60 from April, forcing the industry to deal with its waste in different ways.

Read on at The Guardian website…

Swish your way into a new wardrobe this Saturday at Twickenham Library

Does your wardrobe need an update? Come to the West London Waste swishing (clothes swap) event this Saturday, February 21, at Twickenham Library, and walk away with a new look. At the same time bid farewell to clothing you no longer wear, and send them on their way to a new home.

You can bring up to 10 items of clean clothing (in good condition, please) to the event to exchange for tokens (a maximum of 10). The tokens can be traded for items of clothing others have brought. Continue reading

French FoE shows consumers how to fight planned obsolescence

Calling all French speakers! Amis de la Terre (Friends of the Earth France) has launched a consumer guide to avoiding planned obsolescence in everyday products. Called Comment sortir de l’obsolescence programmée?*, the guide offers tried-and-tested advice, including to avoid throw-away products, buy simply produced goods (so there are fewer parts to go wrong), purchase reparable and good-quality products, and take part in borrowing-and-lending schemes such as Streetbank (see earlier BRAGonline article). Continue reading

Streetbank builds community while helping reduce waste

Do you have something you’d like to give away but don’t want the hassle of transporting it across town or further afield? Or how about a skill or a piece of equipment you’d be willing to lend or would like to borrow?

If so, Streetbank is for you.

Streetbank nutshell

Streetbank is a community sharing and giving website, connecting you with neighbours living within a mile of you. It helps reduce waste, save money, free up space – and build community. BRAG had a visit from Streetbank founder Sam Stephens this week, and we’re on board – its philosophy is very much in line with BRAG’s mission to recycle, reduce and reuse.
Continue reading

Dutch environmental group tackles food waste with ‘doggy bag’ initiative

A Dutch environmental group, Natuur & Milieu, has launched a campaign to persuade restaurant patrons to take home their uneaten food and thereby reduce food waste. Natuur & Milieu has distributed 50,000 doggy bags, accompanied by a starter pack, free to restaurants to encourage their participation in the campaign. The doggy bags were developed with input from catering staff, who were asked what kind of container they preferred.

Restaurant patrons who want to take food home can let their waiter know by means of a Boomerang card, which is available free of charge in many restaurants. The cards come in a number of versions, with messages including “A compliment to the chef” and “I always fancy something tasty in the evening”.Milieuclub wil taboe doggybag doorbreken

Natuur & Milieu said that the Dutch catering industry wastes 50,000 tonnes of food annually, the equivalent of 77 million hot meals.

Before launching the campaign, Natuur & Milieu carried out a survey on food waste, which found that 78% of participants said they hated wasting food, but that 80% of restaurant-goers never take home leftover food. Respondents cited embarrassment (52%) and lack of awareness (55%) as the major reasons for not asking for a doggy bag.

Natuur & Milieu’s partners in the campaign are packaging specialist Depa Disposables, NGO Oxfam Novib and banking group Rabobank.

For more information, see (in Dutch) http://www.doggybag.nu.

A Brixton Remakery

Strewn with rubbish and blackened by fires, the space where the Brixton Remakery now stands was, two years ago, a derelict block of garages set to be blocked off by the local council. It was a grimy tomb for dead foxes and a place to dump burnt-out cars and beer cans.

Today it is a bright, busy series of workshops, where unwanted planks of wood are being turned into striking table-tops and everything from scaffolding poles to pianos are treated to a new lease of life. The Brixton Remakery is a pioneering re-use and refurbishment hub that stops valuable resources being sent to landfill and instead uses them for the benefit of local people and businesses. Based in one of south London’s most deprived boroughs, it’s almost entirely run by volunteers

Read more at: New Internationalist

A Not So Rubbish Trip

Illustration from Henry Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor (1851).

London dustman. Illustration from Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor (1851)


When Rosie Oliver says she’s going to take you on a rubbish trip, she means it literally. Rosie, a lawyer, lecturer and presenter specializing in environmental law and policy, created and leads a two-hour walk from Mudchute on the Isle of Dogs to Greenwich on the theme of rubbish and how it has influenced the landscape. Woven into her commentary are stories about the people who collected the rubbish and how the rubbish has been treated and transformed over the centuries.

One example is Mudchute Park, the site of the former mud chute that spurted silt dredged from Millwall Docks into “settling ponds”, a type of landfill for waste mud. Also, the Victorian homes we passed and structures like the railway viaduct were likely built using materials that included rubbish: the dust and ash from people’s fireplaces from burning coal and domestic rubbish, which was collected by dustmen and taken to brick factories in Kent where it was mixed with clay, fired and brought back to London to be used for building.

In the 21st century, the need to reuse, recycle and reduce the rubbish we generate is greater than ever, Rosie says.

The walk includes a visit to the Mudchute city farm, where we saw one of nature’s recyclers in action – a magnificent pig – and we finished on the banks of the Thames at Greenwich, a veritable treasure trove of historical rubbish.

Rosie’s company is called Dotmaker Tours, and she offers the rubbish walk to the public once a month, and at other times to private groups: http://dotmakertours.co.uk/page10.htm.