Resource efficiency and waste management - Refugee Council
September 16, 2009

Resource efficiency and waste management

An interview with Daniel Silverstone, chief executive of recycling and waste management specialists London Remade

 

The London Remade offices near Holborn are a lesson in resource efficiency. Toilets have a short flush option. Re-usable shopping bags hang next to the door for when you pop out to the shops. There’s even a wormery in the corridor to compost staff food waste.

Daniel Silverstone, London Remade’s chief executive, says that the organisation’s aim is to get more people, at work and home, to take a similar approach. “About 60% of people claim to recycle,” he says. “We want to make the link between that and changing behaviour so that less waste is produced in the first place.”

For Refugee Community Organisations (RCOs), Silverstone also believes that the growth of the waste management industry could present opportunities for funding, volunteer placements, jobs and enhancing cross-community relations.

A universal product

London Remade is a not-for-profit business that designed and now delivers the Mayor of London’s Green Procurement Code. Though most of their work is with businesses, they also work on a community level.

“Waste is a universal product and a universal issue,” explains Silverstone. “And, because of that, I believe that it can become a vehicle for cross-community action.”

For example, refugees, Silverstone says, might have experiences of waste management and environmental issues in their home country that could help deliver solutions in the UK. If that expertise can be harnessed, “there’s the possibility [for RCOs] of volunteering opportunities, business opportunities and community leadership.”

Silverstone also believes that RCOs, and minority communities in general, have been left out of the environmental debate. “I’ve been working in sustainability for about five years,” he says, “and I’m still shocked by the lack of diversity. At meetings and conferences you very rarely see a non-white face.”

That’s why as well as developing their own resource efficiency and sharing their experience, Silverstone hopes RCOs can help shape the whole debate about effective waste management.

Simple steps

There are relatively simple steps that RCOs can take to reduce their own waste.

“Start by using 100% recycled paper,” suggests Silverstone. “It’s as cheap as other paper and equally high quality. You could also discuss with others in your building and the landlord about getting someone to collect all your recyclables, particularly really toxic things like batteries.”

There can be some initial costs involved in aspects of increasing resource efficiency but there is often payback over time. In addition, lots of funders are now looking at environmental policies when they consider applications.

For organisations in London, signing up to the Green Procurement Code is a great way to start, and the London Remade website has lots of helpful information and advice.

Outside of London, local authorities are often a good place to go for help with waste management. And the Waste and Recycling Action Programme is the national resource full of useful guidance and links.

Does your RCO have experience with recycling or other environmental projects? Or are you interested in being involved in the future? Let us know in the comments below.