Will recyclers inherit the earth?

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

I see that one of the behemoths of the corporate world has, at last, been shamed [well done Greenpeace] into doing something about the waste it creates through the consumption of its products.  Its solution is to re-invent the idea of the reward scheme so beloved of small boys (of all genders) who were always a bit short of ready cash.

Coca-Cola is funding trials after admitting that it needs to take responsibility for the zillions of tonnes of litter its bottles create.  The trials will focus on bottles up to half a litre, and people will be offered either cash or shopping vouchers to return empty bottles of any brand to collection points.  The company said the scheme could go national if the trials showed that it improved recycling rates and reduced litter.  That will, of course, depend on incentives and the (in)convenience.  Set the first too low and the latter too high, and it won't work and we'll all get the blame.

In respect of all this, The Times reported last week that more than 13 billion single-use plastic bottles are sold in Britain each year.  This is a staggering average of 200 per person (that is, ~4 a week – a norm I'm simply not keeping up with).  57% are recycled, with the rest sent to landfill, incinerated or left as litter.  Millions end up on beaches and in the sea.  Coca-Cola sells (only) 1.5 billion of these bottles.  Jon Woods, Great Britain manager for C-C, said that it would spend "several million pounds a year" on the trials and also on doubling the amount of recycled plastic in its bottles from 25 to 50% by 2020.

It's instructive to see how the Germans do all this.  When I'm visiting Mrs M all I have to do is to take my plastic detritus to the local supermarket and pop it into a machine.  This clever device weighs up what's what and, as soon as Mrs M [*] has given the green light, issues a voucher for use in the store.  It is so remarkably simple and convenient that there is probably no chance of its being introduced here.


* Modern German proverb:

No dove flies across Alexanderplaz without a flight plan approved by Mrs Merkel.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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