FROM experience, site visits as a learning tool can either be an excellent source of education or a load of old rubbish. Well, in the case of Naked Leader’s recent trip (click to see pictures) to a client’s recycling facility, it turned out to be both!
The thirst for knowledge on the subject came when a Naked Leader office lunch sparked a lively debate as to what should and shouldn’t be recycled. To put the lid on the discussion and to can everyone’s curiosity, there was only one thing for it.
‘We turned to one of our clients, Veolia Environmental Services, for their help,’ explained Naked Leader CEO Rosalind Howard, the two companies enjoying an excellent working relationship over time.
Veolia Environmental Services is the UK’s leading recycling and waste management company, enjoying a UK presence since 1990, with 2011 revenues above £1.2 billion. It employs 12,000 people and has invested more than £1 billion in the UK’s recycling and waste infrastructure and are renowned for their integrated waste management solutions.
Gavin Graveson, Executive Director, is responsible for municipal and collection services as well as treatment and he offered Rosalind and her staff a site visit to Alton MRF (Materials Recycling Facility) in Hampshire. As an eye opener and behind-the scenes look at just what goes on at such a plant, the visit was everything it said on the tin.
Among the tips learned on the day were this top five:
- Don’t squash plastic bottles as they can’t then be sorted by size while the scanner then reads them as cardboard. That means they get sent to the wrong area and have to be brought back manually.
- Paper needs to be left as large as possible, not torn.
- Shredding is undesirable as it makes strands too short for the paper mill and the paper is then inferior. In addition, shredded paper can jam the rollers.
- There is no need to remove labels from tin cans or drink bottles.
- Do rinse items or the paper part of the recycling can become contaminated.
This might vary at other recycling plants, so check with your local authority.
‘The viewing was conducted by Martin Pettigrew, Innovation and Recycling Manager, who organised and led an amazingly interesting and fascinating trip,’ added Rosalind.
‘We wanted to see for ourselves what happens and just what is and isn’t acceptable to recycle, as well us understand why this is the case. It would help us make more informed decisions.
‘Martin was assisted by Darren Carling, both of whom made us so welcome and answered all our questions.’
Tea and biscuits were thrown in too – with biscuit packets carefully discarded in the right area of the facility, of course!
Two members of the party, Jan Clark and Beryl Hennessy said: ‘Martin’s enthusiasm shone through, as did that of Gavin. It was amazing to learn that they handle 300 tons of recycling a day at Alton. ‘Some of the cardboard and paper separation is done with compressed air. At several stages in the sorting, it is done by hand, which refines things further.
‘The machinery was amazing, sorting the paper in stages. The final products are squashed, wired up and sent on to be used to make other products so there’s not a lot left. We were helped with questions about dealing with the disposal of certain items. The team were very informative and enthusiastic about their work.’
The ability to stop one or all of the conveyor belts is an impressive safety feature while Hampshire recycles an incredible 90% of its waste!
Naked Leader associate Bob Perry was absorbed and added: ‘I found the trip quite inspiring! The enthusiasm and professionalism demonstrated by Martin and Darren was first class and I was left in no doubt about their passion for, and commitment to, reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill.
‘It was also fascinating to see the process in action. It gave me a completely different perspective on not only the technology but also the working conditions for staff.
‘I now feel I can sing Veolia’s praises. They’re a ‘right-on’ organisation having a positive impact on the planet.’
Naked Leader’s Creative Consultant, Jackie Witney was also in awe of the day’s events. ‘I’ve often wondered what actually happens and genuinely feel bad about throwing things away so I found the trip extremely interesting and informative,’ she said.
‘What a production line! So quickly dealt with, manually and by machine and the one that sorted the cardboard with a laser and made it fly off down another shoot was a highlight for me.
‘I feel much less guilty about throwing things away thinking about the jobs created and the money made for the business selling on the end product. I would add though that the way other recycling plants prefer to have their rubbish might differ to that of Veolia, so people should check their local recycling services.”
Thanks to Jackie and her colleagues for their feedback and it is worth reflecting on the fact office outings can be used as an effective learning experience, while they good for morale.
Perhaps if you are a boss it is time to take your litter on a similar excursion!