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Waste (K)not


Since 2010, The Castle Climbing Centre has been on a mission to ensure that none of our waste ends up in landfill. Over the years we have tried a number of approaches; some have worked, some haven’t. Among other developments, we’ve installed clearly labeled bins in every part of the centre, purchased products in bulk to reduce packaging, conducted regular waste audits and implemented an onsite composting system that generates 5 tonnes of compost a year. We reuse as much waste as possible on site from our building construction to our art and craft sessions! We are proud of our onsite waste and recycling systems, however the challenge arises when our waste leaves The Castle and continues its treacherous journey – to landfill or not to landfill?

Unfortunately, we had a bit of a rubbish start with our waste management services. We were faced with a lack of communication, irregular and unreliable collections and fabricated information about what was happening to our waste. These challenges are not unheard of in the industry.  Finally we switched to a business we believed we could trust and shares our core values. First Mile believes ‘in a world where you can recycle everything’. First Mile collects an average of 823kg of waste from The Castle every month. All of our waste is sorted and salvaged at the London-based First Mile ‘Sacktory’. We receive a monthly breakdown of how much energy our waste produces and how many tonnes of CO2 are saved. First Mile has calculated that our recycling rate is 87%, this is good but it could be better! This is why we ask our customers and staff to use the correct bins and use reusable, compostable or recyclable materials as much as possible.

We visited First Mile’s ‘Sacktory’ in West London to find out how they sort and process our sacks of rubbish. At their Sacktory, employees clad in protective clothing sift through the rubbish as it passes on conveyor belts dividing it in to plastics, glass, clothing, food waste, electronics, etc. Large pieces of equipment assist the hand sorting, such as an industrial hoover that helps to separate lighter rubbish, like plastics, from heavier glass and metals. It’s a big operation. Around 70,000 sacks, 120 to 200 tonnes, are delivered on a daily basis to the site for sorting; about 4,500 to 5,000 tonnes per month! The waste collection fleet, which meets the Euro 6 standards, is deployed after 8pm and services the whole of London. Once sorted the different materials are purchased by businesses for processing and regeneration. Glass becomes tarmac; textiles are shredded and recycled or distributed to charities; cooking oil becomes biodiesel; electronics are stripped for copper and precious materials.

First Mile Recycling            

So, eight years down the line, what have we learnt? We still believe it is possible to run a business that follows a zero waste to landfill policy, however it is a commitment that continually needs monitoring and reassessing. We have found that using mainly recyclable materials in our operations has helped to reduce the volume of non-recyclable waste produced. Similarly, sending good quality, already-sorted waste to a trusted source is imperative to ensuring our waste is recycled. We acknowledge that just because waste has been removed from our site, does not mean it ceases to be our responsibility. First Mile is currently developing a system for tracking and analysing the waste collected to make it possible to hold their customers to account for the quality of their waste. It is our responsibility to hold our suppliers, service providers and customers to account to reduce waste production and we expect to be held to account too. This is why we have chosen a trusted waste management business that shares our values and why we follow the journey our waste takes after leaving The Castle.

Advice for businesses looking to reduce waste to landfill:

  • Bulk order goods and use refillable containers.
  • Where possible use suppliers with minimal and recyclable packaging.
  • Clearly label bins and provide information for staff and customers.
  • Compost! Check out the Urban Worm for their great office solutions!
  • Audit your waste management contractor.
  • Be transparent with staff, customers and suppliers.

Advice for individuals:

  • Carry your own reusable set; cup, food container and spork!
  • Shop plastic-free. Check out Get Loose, Bulk Market or Harmless!
  • Use the correct bin and clean your recyclable items.
  • Hold businesses to account for their waste management. Ask them to commit to a zero waste to landfill policy!
  • Reduce, reuse and then recycle.