Recycling: New trends emerge.

16% of the price you pay for a product is for the packaging, which will ultimately end up in the bin?

It requires 70% less energy to make paper from recycled paper than from raw resources.

£36 m of aluminium is thrown away each year?

Pretty horrific huh?

Enter Manchester based organisation EMERGE, and its army of bright eyed and bushy tailed volunteers, who aim to combat this ludicrous situation we find ourselves in. And it sounded so good, the VPA team just had to go along and take a look.

So at 10 am on a cold blustery morning we found ourselves at a whole sale market on the outskirts of Manchester.  We were greeted by the chirpy and endlessly enthusiastic Nicola, who ushered us all in and gave us a good old cuppa before handing out fluorescent jackets and getting our tour underway.

Started in 1996 as a volunteer organisation, The East Manchester Environment and Resources Group – EMERGE – is now collecting recycling from 800 businesses in the Manchester area, and with the help of European Regional Development Fund and CRED Lottery Funding, secured a contract from Trafford Council for the collection of recycling from 7000 homes.

Out from the common room we come across huge containers full of CDs. “Oh we just take those for the plastic or something,” she says casually. “Over here, come look at our WEEE.” Which stands for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment. Obviously.  Most of it is taken apart and the various materials separated – selected metal fetching a pretty price per tonne. And they certainly bring in a lot of it.

Nicola then takes us to look at the cardboard. Sold by the tonne, paper and cardboard are compressed into bales and stored as such. The same goes for cans (which are separated into steel and aluminium), and bottles.

 

Another initiative is the setting up of Fare Share, in 2004. This organisation takes food that has been thrown away by the supermarkets because it is either out of its sell by date, damaged, or misprinted. All food is then given out to homeless shelters, community centres and soup kitchens. The warehouse it is all kept in is certainly impressive, with a walk in freezer, shelves upon shelves of products ranging from sauce for Shepard’s pie to a whole salmon, and a colossal walk in fridge.

Snooping over, it was time to take our first steps to becoming Zero Waste Champions. The idea is we all monitor our waste by weighing it, examining it, and thinking about how to cut down the amount we send to landfill. She talked us through her own experiences, from the grim (bicarb and salt toothpaste anyone?) to the gleeful, and left us feeling very inspired. After a not so quick team meeting we bundled into the cars (dodging the police at times) and successfully made up for all our green thinking with a buffet lunch in the centre of Manchester. With lots of ice cream.

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