Recycle your old bras!

February 25, 2009 at 11:49 am

If, like most women, you only sort out your underwear drawer once in a blue moon, the chances are that you will be amazed at the number of ill-fitting or unloved bras lurking there. You may well wonder what on earth to do with them before slinging them in the bin but, believe it or not, there are plenty of organisations crying out for them.

The charity BreastTalk are always glad of bras, whatever size or style, from sports to maternity or nursing, so long as they are not too sexy – best not to donate your Ann Summers collection! Bras should be washed first and labelled with the size and if by any chance they are brand new, you should alert them to this fact. The charity distributes them to homeless women in the UK and to overseas countries where the technical difficulties in manufacturing bras make them too expensive for many women to afford, especially in West Africa. Bras are lightweight and so economical to ship overseas. Damaged bras are recycled by the charity into quilts which are then used at home and overseas for homeless people, or to keep shock victims warm.

Oxfam’s Wastesaver project will also welcome old bras with open arms. According to a spokesman, bras made in the UK are particularly sought after in developing nations.

A quick look on the internet reveals all sorts of innovative ideas of what to do with your unwanted bras, from the horticultural notion of using them to collect ripening fruit and veg such as grapes and tomatoes, to the somewhat whacky idea of making a “cute purse”!

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New £5m plastics recycling plant

February 25, 2009 at 11:37 am

2K Manufacturing has announced that it is to begin the development of a new plastics recycling facility. The news comes after the company received a £5 million cash injection from Foresight, which has invested heavily in a number of companies in the past, including the Closed Loop Recycling plant in Dagenham.

The plant is to be built near Watford, and is set to start production this year. Furthermore, 2K Manufacturing has indicated that it hopes to build a further 11 recycling plants at sites around the country.

The aim of the plant is to produce ‘Eco Sheets’, a plywood substitute that is made from plastic waste. The sheets are formed using a process known as powder impression moulding, and the good news is that the process makes use of plastics, including mixed plastics, in order to produce the final product.

2K has big plans for its eco product, and has stated that over the next five years, as the other plants are constructed, the company should be able to produce up to four million eco sheets a year. And it is not hanging around, with mass production billed to start as early as this July.

Andrew Page of Foresight said that “2K represents a compelling investment opportunity”, as well as indicating that it is based in “an attractive area of the environmental infrastructure market”.

And it is also great news for believers in recycling, as it manages to solve another troublesome waste issue. With demand for recyclable materials dropping in Asia, it means that more waste will be able to stay in the UK and be put to good use.

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Drinks producer goes green with new plant

February 18, 2009 at 4:03 pm

The world is on the brink of an ecological disaster caused by global warming. Rumours are mounting that the recession will bite into the green budget and set back the important aims to reduce emissions. So it is heartening to see that one UK company is taking the initiative.

The Cameronbridge distillery in Fife, Scotland, which is run by Diageo, is the location for a new £65 million green energy plant after work on the plant was given the go ahead last week to commence construction.

The distillery produces vodka, whisky and gin, and the plant will make use of the ‘wash’, a mixture comprised of the waste barley, wheat, yeast and water products, by turning it into a fuel that can be used to power the plant.

It is an exciting development as it is setting an example to other companies of how it is possible to utilise alternative forms of power in order to reduce carbon emissions and get the same results. Diageo, working in joint partnership with the energy firm Dalkia, claims that it will reduce the distillery’s reliance on fossil fuels by a massive 95%, certainly going some way to save the planet.

The plant was officially opened by Alex Salmond, the First Minister for Scotland, who said that not only would it help to pave the way for less reliance on fossil fuels, but that it would even provide jobs during the economic downturn, thereby killing two birds with one stone.

He is quoted by the BBC as saying that "Scotland is not immune from global recession, but by concentrating on our strengths we can emerge stronger from the downturn.”

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Paper recycling gets costly

February 18, 2009 at 4:00 pm

The global economic meltdown has hit many areas hard. But behind the big news stories of huge banks going bust, well-known stores disappearing from our high streets, and bailouts being thrown around left, right, and centre, there is another area that is suffering: the recycling industry.

Both the BBC and have recently reported on the rocketing costs of recycling paper since the crisis began to pick up speed at the end of last year. Since then, the entire recycling system has been put under almost unmanageable strain as a result of the collapse of the industry in the Far East.

According to, back in September a tonne of mixed paper was bought for £65-£75. But in just a few months, the cost has plummeted to just £15. The price is slightly higher for non-mixed paper, that which has been separated already, which currently sells for £40 a tonne. But this is down from a high of £90-£115 back in September.

Asia, and especially China, is a big collector of the world’s waste, and the UK currently ships a hefty proportion of its waste to the other side of the world to be recycled. But with the rapid drop in demand that has come as a result of the financial crisis, the UK has suddenly been left trying to figure out what it is supposed to do with all those huge mountains of recyclables.

All of this means that councils around the country will be receiving far less money than they had previously budgeted for, and someone is going to have to pay the price. And there’s no prizes for guessing who that will be.

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Kamikatsu, Japan – zero waste town

February 10, 2009 at 1:46 pm

There’s a chance you may have heard of the small town of Kamikatsu in south-western Japan. Its 2000 residents are embarking on an environmental and cost-saving project that may make them a model for the rest of the world, and has certainly got them noticed on UK shores.

For starters, the town doesn’t need any rubbish collectors. It doesn’t need them because the town’s goal is to be producing absolutely no waste by the year 2020. Instead, they are required to sort every possible piece of household rubbish into one of 34 categories for recycling.

Here are some of the categories: glass (brown, green, clear, other), tin cans, sake bottles, lighters, electric razors, cardboard boxes, nappies/sanitary towels, milk cartons, plastic containers, plastic bottles (separated by type), plastic bags…

Why put themselves through that? Well for a number of reasons. In particular, this option was both cheaper and more environmentally friendly than landfill provision over the next 12 years, or building new incinerators after the town’s original ones became too polluting to pass new regulations.

Certainly the change hasn’t been accepted completely willingly – it’s taken time for the aging residents to come round to the idea, and according to a recent poll, 40% of residents still object to having to wash everything before palming it off for recycling. But home composters are in use in 98% of households and attitudes improve with every passing day.

But would any of this ‘wash’ in the UK? It’s probably too early, in my humble opinion. It’s true, recycling uptake has dramatically improved and continues to do so – according to government figures, 30% of rubbish is recycled by those in the east of England. Barnet in north London recently reached a target of 28% after introducing a ‘compulsory recycling scheme’ – something which, believe it or not, requires regular enforcement by officers provided for the purpose.

There’s a lot we can learn though, and as a country we ought to admire the tenacity of a small rural Japanese town for making a giant step towards saving the planet.

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First nappy recycling centre due to open in Birmingham

February 10, 2009 at 1:39 pm

A nappy recycling plant is being proposed in Birmingham in response to concerned parents who don’t like seeing so many disposable nappies going to landfill. The company, Knowaste, already has plants in Canada and Holland and will be leading the project.

Research conducted found that 95% of respondents to an online survey would welcome this development which would enable 13% of nappy waste to be recycled. Frequent attempts have been made by the government to encourage people to use re-usable nappies to reduce the waste. The Chief Executive of Knowaste, Roy Brown, thinks this is the wrong approach: “Rather than trying to change people’s behaviour, we should try to find a solution to using disposable nappies”.

Dave Jelley has been appointed as general manager of the site and will spend time building links with stakeholders and ensuring operations run smoothly once the plant opens. It is estimated that 30,000 tonnes of nappies could be recycled each year in a 42,000 sq foot space presuming the planning application is successful.

It is estimated that nappies make up 6% of household waste so this type of project should significantly reduce the amount of waste going to landfill each year. This will help local authorities who are struggling to keep to landfill targets.

Incontinence pads and bed liners will also be recycled in the same place to make plastic cladding, roof tiles and other products. Plans are already in the pipeline for sites in London, Manchester and Newcastle in the next five years and Knowaste are hoping the government will lend its support to ensure the project will be developed to its full potential.

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