Ebay to introduce reusable packaging

October 21, 2010 at 4:46 pm

In a move to boost their image Ebay are beginning to incorporate a box that can be sent back and forth between buyers and sellers known as the ‘Simple Green Shipping’ programme. This will help the site’s users to cut down significantly on the packaging they use. The product is a simple innovation that marks a major shift in the company’s green credentials. It also highlights the importance of recycling in customer perception of businesses.

Ebay will begin trialling the new scheme in October when they will release one hundred thousand boxes. The trial boxes will be entirely free to users who can simply request them via the website.

The Ebay website is essentially used as a virtual market stall and the company rarely intervenes in sales, unless there is a dispute between parties. The company had not come under any direct criticism for waste produced by their site and their decision to produce these boxes free of charge shows a business that either genuinely cares for the environmental issues or is wise enough to take the lead in green innovation.

The boxes have been designed so that they can be re-used continually and have been produced from recyclable materials. To encourage minimal damage to the environment not only will these mean less packaging used but the boxes themselves have been constructed from 100% FSC-certified and recycled material and printed with water-based inks. (The Forest Stewardship Council is a not-for-profit group promoting responsible use of the world’s forests.) The boxes will also be printed with tips on how to minimise waste and resources.

Ebay estimates that if each box is used at least five times this would be the equivalent of protecting nearly 4,000 trees, saving 2.4 million gallons of water and conserving enough energy to power 49 homes for a year.

The appearance of Ebay in 1995 was a landmark point in the emerging internet business world and they have strived to maintain this with their yearly innovation events where employees are invited to put forward new ideas. The ‘Simple Green Shipping’ programme was one of the five ideas picked this year.

A further point of interest in this project will be the space left on the boxes for users to inscribe messages and to track their box as it progresses around the country. This will foster a virtual community based on buyer-seller relationships and even give each box a very individual history.

The trial scheme will begin in the US in October and the company will expand this to Europe based on its initial success.

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Carrier bag usage reduced

October 15, 2010 at 2:53 pm

UK supermarkets and consumers have reduced the use of carrier bags by 41% since records began in 2006, compared to a 35% reduction in 2009, according to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

The total number used in 2006 was 10.9 billion and this has since been reduced to 6.5 billion a year in 2009/10. These findings include bags-for-life, re-usable and single-use bags. It also means that the material used in carrier bags has decreased by 39,700 tonnes a year.

WRAP conducted a spot-check analysis of bag use throughout May this year. It found that 395 million less bags were used in May 2010 compared to the same month in 2006.

In 2008, the government, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and leading supermarkets made an agreement to apply a voluntary approach in order to try and cut the number of single bags given out to customers by 50% by spring 2009. The results of this target were announced by WRAP with a reduction of 48% achieved.

After the agreement to halve carrier bag use was made and all but met in 2009, monitoring has continued during 2010 without any formal targets being set. But the annual trend has shown that a reduction has continued by weight and numbers since 2006, according to WRAP.

The BRC added that the continued reduction of single-bag use for the fourth year in a row had been achieved at a time when customers were focusing on the economy instead of the environment.

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Calls for return of bottle deposit schemes

October 8, 2010 at 2:36 pm

The CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England), of which travel writer Bill Bryson is the president, has called for a reintroduction of the old-fashioned bottle deposit scheme to cut back on litter and increase recycling levels. It would involve consumers paying a deposit for glass and plastic bottles and cans to encourage them to take their containers back for recycling.

David Cameron has already said that the government will look into the proposed scheme to see how feasible it could be.

The scheme would involve customers paying a 15p deposit for containers smaller than 500ml, and 30p for larger containers. The deposit would then be returned to them when they take the empty bottle back to be recycled. The CPRE has predicted that, if successful, it could see a 90% return rate.

The idea forms part of the CPRE’s ‘Stop the Drop’ campaign, which is campaigning against littering and fly tipping. Bryson commented on the findings by asking “what sensible nation would not want to capture and recycle its precious and finite resources?”

The report suggests that the scheme would cost £84m to set up, but could save £160m a year for local authorities in their waste management costs.

As expected, drinks manufacturers are opposed to the idea, as they would be expected to foot some of the bill for the scheme. Bob Gordon, from the British Retail Consortium, dismissed the proposal as “rosy-eyed nostalgia” that would be an “expensive waste” to set up because “bottles and cans are not the issue”, highlighting rigid plastics as the key area for increasing recycling rates.

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New Torbay recycling scheme up and running

October 1, 2010 at 2:29 pm

A new recycling scheme has just started in Torbay, Devon. The introduction of the scheme means that 60,000 households will now have to take time sorting out more of their rubbish in order to make it easier to recycle. Unsurprisingly, the scheme has proved to be controversial.

The aim of the new scheme, according to operators Tor2, is to get the recycling rate up to 50% of all waste by the year 2012. It claims that this will allow the council to save £14 million in landfill costs every year. In all, the scheme cost £2 million to set up and five years to come to fruition.

However, angry residents have been complaining that the scheme is too complicated, leading to thousands of calls to the council in the first few days alone. On top of the scheme proving unnecessarily confusing for many residents, there have been traffic problems caused by the new lorries which make the collections.

Residents now have a lot more work to do to throw out their weekly rubbish. They are now expected to separate their waste into three boxes: one for glass, foil and cardboard; another for cans, paper, plastic bottles and other materials; and a third outdoor bin for food waste. The rubbish will be picked up in a weekly collection.

The aim is to allow the council to reach the recycling targets that have been set by the European Union. The £14 million in savings will be made from not having to pay the landfill taxes and fines.

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Battery recycling rates up

October 1, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Battery recycling rates seem to have been given a boost as a result of new EU legislation, according to recent figures from the Environment Agency.

The agency revealed that there has been a 7% rise in battery recycling rates over the last three months. In total, 16.5% of portable batteries were recycled in the second quarter of 2010, compared to just 9.15% in the first quarter.

In terms of volume, that equates to nearly 1,500 tonnes of batteries being sent for recycling between April and June of this year, and 2,320 tonnes being sent for recycling over the first half of the year.

It is likely that this sudden rise is linked to the new EU rules surrounding the recycling of batteries that came into force back in February 2010. The new laws made it a legal obligation for shops selling over 32kg of batteries a year to provide free battery collection points for batteries to be sent for recycling.

It is all good news for the government which has specific targets it has to reach over the course of the next few years. The target for this year is 10%, and it looks like this will be met as recycling rates are predicted to rise in the lead-up to Christmas. Indeed, the recycling rate for the first half of the year stands at 12.58%.

The next target is an 18% recycling rate for 2011, followed by the first legally binding rate of 25% the following year. Following that, a target of 45% has to be hit by 2016, so the government will hope that the rate continues to rise over the next few years.

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