Going Green Series: Tips for the Green Office

In the second of our Going Green series (check out the first part here) we look at creating an environmentally friendly office environment with some simple steps you can take.

Buildings and offices use a significant amount of energy and resources so small steps can have a significant impact, no matter the size of your office. Green measures can make your working environment healthier, and as a result more productive, as well as improve overall well-being of your employees.

There are a number of different steps you can take but here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Reuse it – Remember you don’t always need to buy new. If you are upgrading the office furniture you may be able to source some good quality second hand furniture. Is the furniture you are replacing good enough to be used by someone else? Perhaps your local community scheme could put them to good use.  Reuse could also be as simple as avoiding disposable plates and cups (water cooler cups, for example). Using real mugs and plates that can be reused time and again saves money and also is environmentally beneficial.
  • Use Recycled – Where possible use recycled materials, this could be paper, stationary, corporate gifts etc.
  • A computer left on overnight over the course of a year generates enough CO2 to fill a double-decker bus!

    Turn it off – If you are the last one out the office be sure to turn off the lights, also items that are plugged in or on standby still use energy. A computer left on overnight over the course of a year generates enough CO2 to fill a double-decker bus! Try posters and auto reminders to make sure everyone understands the importance of this.

  • Educate and Communicate – Make your staff aware of targets and aims, and let them know how they can help.  For example, food waste is a huge problem, so let staff have access to information about reducing this- check out Love Food Hate Waste. Also, communicate progress and success, and create opportunities for staff to share suggestions and ideas they may have.
  • Paper conservation – Don’t print emails and non essential documents, this will not only this mean that you save paper but also keep a less cluttered and more organised working environment.  You might also want to set up default double sided printing.  And of course, reuse scrap paper for notes and recycle all your paper!
  • Plants in the office can improve air quality and well being

    Air Quality – reducing indoor air pollution can be achieved by using non-toxic cleaning products. Adding plants to the office will help filter the air replenish oxygen. Air quality impacts directly on the health and wellbeing of the occupants of the office.

  • Green Your Commute – If you live near work, why not walk or cycle? Does the office have public transport links? Consider car sharing with a colleague if suitable (you never know, you might make a new best friend!). This not only is green but can save both parties money.

We’d love to hear how you have taken steps to ‘Go Green’ in your office – please share your thoughts below or via Twitter or Facebook.

Circular Economy Faces Consumer Challenges

The Circular Economy

Katie McGuire, Associate Director of consultancy group CO2 spoke at last month’s annual Carpet Recycling UK’s conference about the difficulties in the creation of a true circular economy. In this speech she emphasised a need to adapt consumer and manufacturing habits.

McGuire was eager to point out that a radical shift in thinking was required to address material scarcity, and consumption patters will need to change if finite resource availability is to not threaten the business continuity in all industries.

This new radical way of thinking is centred on the need for reuse to take over from ownership. McGuire highlighted a number of business case studies which demonstrated this principle and pointed to a need for purchasing to be replaced by leasing.

Whilst referring to the example of a fridge she explained that under this shift the manufacturer would lease the fridge which it still owns, maintains and repairs. This would encourage the manufacture of a fridge with easy and minimal maintenance and reusability. This would move away from mass consumerism and the need to own products.

Whether we will see this shift in consumer behaviour remains to be seen and will require some big changes in manufacturing and retailing. We are all aware that consumption patterns remain unsustainable and whilst recovering materials at end of life can ensure that we lose less material we undoubtedly need to address the need for increased levels of reusability. This ultimately will need manufacturers to design and build products with reuse in mind, considering how products can extend their lifecycle as well as having an end of life plan.

Leasing may threaten existing business models and a clear business case must be presented to companies in order to demonstrate the benefits.

Recipro sourced this article from edie.net

20% of the World’s Resources that are Extracted for use end up as Waste

According to new research, which is examining the unknown environmental cost of using raw materials, a staggering 20% of the world’s resources that are extracted for use end up as waste.

A study from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD) has discovered that we extract 62 billion tonnes of resources such as minerals, wood, metals, fossil fuels and biomass fuels every single year, which works out as an average of 10 tonnes for every living person on earth.

The OECD report Sustainable Materials Management explains the benefits of applying a lifecycle approach to resource use, so that we are able to see the true extent of embodied carbon and water attached to products, services and consumer goods.

Some of the key findings showed that some products were more damaging to the environment that the actual packaging. For example the production of milk produces 5 times more CO2 than the actual packaging which means that wasting milk is more damaging to the environment than purchasing smaller containers.

Although nobody likes to throw away things that still work, advances in technology have made it so that the updating of old appliances is more environmentally friendly as the older appliances are less resource efficient. For example modern washing machines can use 50% less energy and water than washing machines from 10 years ago.

The authors of the report have made several recommendations to further separate economic growth from environmental degradation. One of the biggest obstacles needed to be overcome is that material flows involve many stakeholders throughout the supply chain and often over wide geographic areas. It would need multiple Governments to work closely with industry and other key parties to encourage cooperation, innovation and cost savings.

Consumers also have a large part to play by making more informed choices. These include reducing the use of unnecessary materials, reusing and recycling, and taking advantage of advances in technology to purchase resource efficient appliances.

The findings of the study will go to the European Resource Efficiency Platform, an EC initiative that provides guidance to the European Commission on the transition to a more resource-efficient economy.

Recipro sourced this article from Edie

New report says UK must concentrate on resource efficiency

According to a recent report the UK must concentrate more on recycling and recovering materials, and it must also improve resource efficiency and the durability of consumer products.

The report Reinventing the wheel: a circular economy for resource security published last week (October 5) by the Green Alliance. The study examined the advantages and disadvantages of using pricing to improve the circulation of three crucial major resources – metals, phosphorous and water.

The Green Alliance says there needs to be a more circular use of these resources in the economy, which it claims would avoid some of the damaging, environmental impacts of extracting them as well as avoid the negative impacts of generating waste.

Using information provided by the Designing out Waste consortium, the report makes a number of key policy recommendations. This include improving collection rates and incentives for recovery of materials and introducing recycling rates that focus on specific materials and their quality, rather than simply on tonnages.

It also says that the product must be designed to make recover and reuse easier to prolong its life span. Measures to avoid leakage of valuable materials through exports should also be taken.

The Green Alliance argues that a multi-pronged approach is needed to improve product design, drive up the capture of products at end of life, and ensure that good substitutes are available for materials that will become more difficult to access in the future.

It is calling on the Government to promote economic incentives that encourage the waste and recycling industry to adopt a ‘whole life’ approach to products and materials.

Recipro certainly supports this new report and sees the construction industry playing a huge part in making this happen, with 13% of all construction materials been disposed of before ever being used there is certainly room for improvement.

Recipro sourced this article from Edie.

The Waste Review

The Waste Review published today (June 14) reiterated the push towards a zero waste economy, but recognised there was no quick fix for waste, according to environment secretary Caroline Spelman.

Writing in the ministerial foreword for the document, entitled ‘Government Review of Waste Policy in England 2011’, Mrs Spelman said there are numerous ways that could be emplaced in order to make a real change.

She called for all aspects of society to be united in improving recycling, reuse and prevention rates. She understands that due to the economic uncertainty it will be a difficult task but believes it to be an achievable one.

Outlining the importance of considering waste as a resource, Mrs Spelman said: “We need, as a society, to value products and care about how they are made and used, and how we deal with them when we no longer need or want them. If not, we will not only increase costs at a time when we are facing real challenges in reducing the deficit, but we will also have a negative impact on our environment.”

Explaining what she hoped the Review would achieve, Mrs Spelman said: “I believe that there is no silver bullet to solve waste, rather that there are a number of changes to policies and practices across the community, a number of small levers which we can pull in order to deliver long-term change.”

She said government should work with industry, councils, civil society and communities, with an emphasis on “making it easy for people and businesses to do the right thing” – involving rewarding good behaviours, and – in a reference to collection frequency – “ensuring residents receive the regular, frequent service they should expect as taxpayers”.

Recipro certainly understands the importance of waste prevention and reuse in the construction industry as the amount of construction surplus deemed as ‘waste’ is very alarming. The construction industry is responsible for generating 120m tonnes of waste materials in the UK every year, of which 14% is surplus unused building products.

Reicpro Looks at Metals Reuse

reicpro looks at metals reuse

Low recycling and reuse rates for rare metals could threaten the future production of clean technology according to a new report based on studies carried out by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Rare metals are a valuable resource which the western world relies on heavily. Many familiar household items include rare metals in them including stereos, computers and the iphone. They are also frequently found in medical technologies and farm machinery. But more importantly the vast majority of clean technologies such as hybrid vehicles, solar panels and wind turbines rely on the use of these materials because of their unique properties.

Of the 60 metals studied by the UNEP less than a third have an end-of-life recycling rate above 50%, equally worryingly 34 of the metals had a recycling rate below 1%. Particularly disappointing when it is considered that recycling metals can be up to 10 times more efficient than smelting them from virgin ores.

As the scarcity of these materials rises then so will the cost of manufacturing ‘clean technologies’ which would ultimately threaten production. The report stated that despite significant efforts in some countries that recycling rates for metals was discouragingly low. The study also pointed out: “The weak performance is especially frustrating because, unlike some other resources, metals are inherently recyclable”

Recipro sourced this article from edie.net

Recipro looks at pioneering landfill mining project

landfill

A Belgium landfill is to become the site of the world’s first high tech landfill mining project. The project has been given the green light to utilise gasification and plasma technology to extract energy and materials from buried waste.

The Remo Milieubeheer NV landfill site  in Houthalen-Hechteren, Belgium has more than 16 million tonnes of stored waste of which estimates suggest up to 45% can be recycled as material.

Advanced Plasma Power (APP) has formed a joint venture with global waste management firm Group Machiels to carry out the pioneering work which has been dubbed the ‘closing the circle’ project.

An on-site energy plant will be constructed which will feed energy into the national electricity grid in Flanders.

The gasification and plasma technology converts the waste stream into a clean hydrogen-rich syngas and vitrified recyclate product which can be used as a building material or replacement aggregate.

Recipro sourced this article from edie.net

Are Recycling Targets Compromising Quality?

A recent report from the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) has warned that pressure on local authorities to keep waste out of landfill is at risk of backfiring. Ever increasing target rates for recycling is resulting in an emphasis of quantity not quality, producing a poor quality stream of recyclable material. Accordingly much of this is low-grade recycled material which holds no real economic value so ironically becomes destined for landfill anyway.

The report suggests that the waste industry needs to amend its culture to focus not only on increasing the amount of material recycled, but also on the quality and value of the material being recycled. This would then allow recycled materials to be fed back into the economy as saleable goods.

The report calls for the progression to a “circular economy” where recovered and recycled material is of a sufficient quality to be routinely reused in the economy. The ICE has suggested that the cost of making the required changes could be anywhere between £10-20bn by 2020.

Recipro is of course fully aware of the need to change attitudes towards waste management, one method of ensuring that materials are not down-cycled is by ensuring that good quality new and used material are used for their intended purpose. For example construction waste, which equates to approximately 120 million tonnes includes approximately 14% of this is brand new material which has become surplus (WRAP). Furthermore, it is estimated that the same quantity again is reusable second hand material.

By recovering this material before recycling, significant savings can be made with reduced demands on energy and resources required in the recycling process, whilst also ensuring that the product has an economic value and not downgraded. Reclaiming and reusing materials is the most effective way to recover value from waste materials.

Defra has welcomed the report by the Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE) and will be utilising the report alongside their current review of waste policies in England. A spokesperson from Defra stated “It contains some interesting ideas and policy suggestions which we will look at in detail as part of our review”.

It will be interesting to see whether this review places greater importance on the areas of reuse and ensure that legislation and incentives ensure that the ideal waste hierarchy is achievable and economically viable.

Source: BBC News (13/01/2011) (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12172766)

Rome’s Rubbish Hotel

rubbish-hotel

We have all stayed at rubbish hotels but this one is a little different, it’s a hotel made entirely out of rubbish.

The hotel is made up of approximately twelve tonnes of rubbish collected from Europe’s beaches. It has been built as an artistic method of raising awareness about the throwaway culture that we live in and to highlight the coastline’s worrying levels of pollution.

The hotel is located in the world famous tourist city of Rome and has been created by German artist HA Schult. The distinguished guest list of the hotel includes eco-warrior and Danish fashion model Helena Christensen.

Whilst this may be seen as a bit of fun by some, there is a very serious underlying message that we are ignorant about rubbish and resources. We currently consume far beyond the earths capacity of resources and at some point something must give.

To some extent the increased awareness of recycling has largely determined that our throw away lifestyles can be maintained safe in the knowledge that rubbish will be recycled. This fails to address the true underlying problems and the need to reduce our rubbish, where this is not possible then reuse should be preferential to recycling.

This is a value that Recipro can assist with in relation to construction materials, we are always seeking to maximise the life cycle of products and resources by providing a platform to do so.

It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that we do everything we can to reduce the amount of consumption that we are currently inflicting on our planet, after all the earths resources are finite.

Recipo Looks at Welsh Zero-Waste Strategy

The Welsh Assembly Government set out plans to create a zero-waste society.

Welsh environment minister Jane Davidson spoke about the countries new waste strategy “Towards Zero Waste”.

While the minister was eager to show she was ‘broadly supportive’ of methods that get results, she made it clear that Welsh would not go down the route of punishing or rewarding those involved in the programme.

She completely ruled out copying schemes like Recycle-Bank which looks likely to be used across London after being supported by Mayor Boris Johnson and his waste advisor Isobel Dedring

Ms Davidson said: “In England the focus is on how to make people recycle more – in Wales we recognise it’s more important to stop this waste in the first place.”

“We believe that our plans – including separate food waste collections and smaller bins – will do this.”

“Costly measures like those adopted in England, such as retaining a weekly bin collection or rewarding people for throwing more recyclable rubbish away, won’t.”

Welsh targets will aim for at least 70% of waste recycled by 2025 and cut carbon by 27%.

The Welsh minister said Wales has risen its recycling more than any other country in the UK, with an increase of 30% in the past decade beating England who has only managed a 25% increase.

Wales also were the first in the UK to introduce Landfill Allowance Scheme and have passed every target set out under it.

Recipro supports the Welsh waste strategy!