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Why recycling can be attainable for everyone

30 November 2019

Why recycling can be attainable for everyone

The Co-operative Bank has an ambitious strategy to achieve “Zero Waste to Landfill”   by the end of 2020. Protecting our environment has always been important to us and as a Bank with a strong, customer-led Ethical Policy  we think it’s important that all businesses take steps and co-operate to help preserve our planet.

This project acknowledges that our natural resources are being depleted at an unsustainable rate and landfill space in the UK is rapidly filling up. Our aim is to recover and recycle as much material as possible from our operational waste. We feel that this is important for the world and important for our children. By working together and embracing change, it’s definitely achievable.

Starting small with recycling

Imagine a simple plastic milk bottle top. It’s something we’re all very familiar with.  Admittedly, most of us won’t have considered it to be a priority in our busy lives, although it’s likely that it will still be around on Earth for much longer than most of us. So how can we change the future for that one small, insignificant piece of plastic, and maybe set it on a course to help our planet rather than contributing to the problem? That was the challenge Co-operative Bank colleague Paul Graham set himself one tea break.

Familiar with large scale recycling projects, like our card reader recycling scheme,  Paul wanted a recycling challenge that was achievable and easy to manage by himself.  As Paul explains, “When it comes to recycling, no action is too small to make a difference.”

Recent changes to how The Co-operative Bank recycles material highlighted the fact that recycling success is dependent on the separation and cleanliness of our rubbish. As Mandy Keepax, Senior Facilities Manager, explains, “Milk bottles are a good example. They are difficult to recycle when they are dirty with milk residue. There is also a big difference with the type of plastic used. The milk bottle is one type of plastic and the top is another.”

With that in mind, Paul began a simple collection of milk bottle tops as he stood waiting for his tea to brew in the team kitchen.

“I borrowed a water jug, taped on a sign saying ‘Bottle tops for recycling’ and left it in the kitchen area”. Four days later, it was full of red and green tops. Paul gave them all a quick wash then popped them into an old carrier bag.

Fast forward three months and water jugs began appearing on other floors at The Co-operative Bank headquarters. “It was an amazing snowball effect,” he explains, “and as it was such a simple task, most colleagues joined in, including our cleaners who helped collect the full jugs.”

Following the full recycling journey

Collecting the bottle tops was just the first stage for Paul. Finding out what happens to milk bottle tops, rather than just forgetting about them, was the next priority.

Plastic milk bottle tops are made from a high density polyethylene plastic (HDPE). One of the biggest selling points of HDPE is that it can be recycled multiple times.

All of Paul’s milk bottle tops will be shredded into small granules and mixed with other HDPE. Reshaping this mixture can create a variety of new products.

While it will be used to create more milk bottle tops, it’s also recycled into plastic children’s toys, detergent bottles and many other things. You’ll find the material in buckets, crates and a wide variety of plastic car parts. And the best part is that none of the bottle tops are sent to landfill.

Making your recycling idea a success

This small but significant movement all came about after labelling a small glass jug. You really can make a difference, as Paul found out.

We can all reap the benefits when organisations like The Co-operative Bank get involved in big recycling projects like “Zero Waste to Landfill”, but starting small can be just as effective.

What do you do to save our planet? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter, and share this article to keep the conversation going.

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