Innovate Blog
Waste less and live more

Tuesday October 18, 2016

Ask the Expert: Jo Gilroy (Head of Sustainability).

We asked our Sustainability expert ‘How do you go about wasting less?’

And here’s what she told us…

Sustainability Expert - Jo Gilroy Twitter - @JoannaGilroy

Sustainability Expert – Jo Gilroy Twitter – @JoannaGilroy

A couple of weeks ago Keep Britain Tidy launched their Waste Less Live More campaign where they highlighted nifty and insightful ways of doing just that, how to be less wasteful in our everyday lives.  I think the majority of people would like to be less wasteful but an important question most of us grapple with at some point, when vowing to lead a more environmentally conscious life, is how to waste less in situations where it is impractical not to use a disposable?  A good example of such a situation is the paper coffee cup.  I applaud those of us who always remember to carry a keep cup.  On my morning run into work, I use one myself.  But like the majority, my challenge occurs when I am on the go, having not planned to purchase a coffee but upon passing my favourite coffee house, the smell of freshly roasted beans lures me inside and then sight of the muffin selection seals the deal.  I’ve committed myself to using a disposable coffee cup and as such, am I condemned to being wasteful? Or is there an alternative solution?  The answer is yes.


It may seem that the solution here is an obvious one.  Simply recycle the cup.  All too often our commitment to being less wasteful ends when we place the unwanted item in a recycling bin.  However, if we truly wish to be less wasteful what is most important is not the recycling process itself but what the unwanted product is recycled into.  This is because there are different types of recycling, either down-cycling or up-cycling.  Up-cycling is where you transform recycled materials into new products of greater quality and/or better environmental value.  Down-cycling, on the other hand, is where you end up with a lower quality product which might not have any environmental benefit.  If you wish to get the most environmental value out of a recycled product, then you need to prioritize behaviours which lead to up-cycling.  This is why I am passionate about organisations such as Simply Cups and the Hubbub Foundation.

Hubbub are pioneering ways of involving big brands to co-fund environmental campaigns which push the boundaries of sustainability by making it fun, enjoyable and sociable.  For example, they are transforming perceptions as to what a street bin looks, feels and even sounds like.  After their ambitious litter campaign on Villiers Street in London, they are now tackling the issue of recycling coffee cups in Manchester City Centre,  In a similar vein, this year Simply Cups announced a game changing partnership with specialist recycler Nextek and product designer AShortWalk.  Together they have developed a brand new polymer produced from recycled coffee cups.  Using this material they can manufacture a diverse range of products, from furniture to garden equipment, from stationary to table settings.

If you really want to waste less and live more, then a vital action is to lend support to organisations such as Simply Cups and Hubbub who are bringing the importance of up-cycling to the forefront of the consume mind-set.