Milestones and anniversaries can be strange affairs. This year we mark 25 years in the UK marketplace. Should we look back on our achievements or look forward to things not yet done?
It’s easy, as we often hear, to dwell in the past. It’s easier to be smug about the things you’ve already done.
But we’re all for looking forward – and the whole industry needs to be. The greatest challenges are yet to come, as we tackle the huge demand for waste management systems that don’t impact on the environment and which communities can accept because they’re effective, yet discreet.
Our first 25 years in the UK have seen many changes. Contractors and council waste collection teams no longer collect waste but make collections of commodities and resources. Greater environmental awareness and an understanding that we cannot continue to discard valuable resources, means we must manage them in smarter, more efficient ways.
We use two-wheeled bins (dubbed the wheelie bin) instead of dustbins. They said it would never catch on.
The litter bin market has changed from the traditional (boring) steel post-mounted can to contemporary designed street furniture.
The industrial and commercial waste market has changed from plastic to metal containers and is swinging back again as recycling and manufacturing techniques improve. We’ve been involved in the recycling of more than four million plastic wheeled bins and we can now produce containers manufactured from 100% recycled material.
In scribbling down a few challenges for the next 25 years, we’re mindful of the need to store and move waste without a huge demand on already stretched manufacturing resources.
People are talking in terms of zero waste achievement. Depending on which figures you believe, around 80% of the UK’s population now crowds into urban areas, which account for 10% of the land space. That’s a dense and complex waste management challenge.
So may be another innovation will become as familiar over the next 25 years as the plastic wheelie bin has over the last quarter century. Given that the development of efficient solutions and practices for effective management of urban waste is one of the most pressing problems communities face today, it’s surprising that we’re not already using underground, and semi underground waste collection systems far more extensively than we are at the moment.
The introduction of semi underground infrastructure for waste collection provides an efficient and cost-effective option. Some European countries have been doing it this way for 20 years or so and in these countries, such as the Netherlands and Finland, stand-alone semi-underground collection points are common.
Flexibility about where the systems can be sited make them ideal where there’s limited space simply because of the number of people using an area, such as we see in some streets, parks and city centre open spaces.
They offer opportunities to segregate recyclable materials at the point at which they’re thrown away and more waste can be stored, and then moved with less frequent use of vehicles. Less traffic on the road? Now that’s got to be a priority for the next 25 years.