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Growing interest in sustainability has shone a spotlight on waste management
Waste management isn’t an issue that’s usually at the forefront of people’s minds, which is actually a little strange when you think about it. It’s an essential part of the way we live and something everyone interacts with every single day. But most people don’t spend a lot of time considering what happens to their waste after it’s been thrown in the bin.
Underpinning waste services is an international business ecosystem heavily reliant on global commodity prices. You might not realise it, but the value of recyclable paper in India has a direct impact on your local rubbish collections in the UK and legislation passed by individual governments can have far-reaching impacts all across the world.
For companies operating waste management and recycling services, it’s important to be continually innovating and devising new solutions to meet customer demands for both good value and sustainable waste provision. Bywaters is one such company, a family- owned recycling business which has been rooted in London’s East End since the 1950s.
How the waste management industry has changed
During the nearly 70 years Bywaters has been providing waste management services in London, there have been significant shifts in both international recycling infrastructure development and consumer demand for sustainability.
The renewed focus in recycling this brought about was complemented by Bywaters building a state-of-the-art Materials Recovery Facility in 2006 at a new site in Bow. Today, that facility sorts 125,000 tonnes of waste a year into more than eight individual waste streams, ensuring all waste is sent to the correct facilities for recycling or energy recovery.
As customer demand has moved towards all-round sustainability, Bywaters has continued to invest in making its services more environmentally friendly. In 2015, the company installed 4,000 solar panels to the roof of its facility and more recently every dustcart in their fleet was upgraded to meet Euro 6 emissions standards.
Edward Van Reenen, associate director for sustainability and environment at Bywaters, has been encouraged seeing these trends develop. “The ongoing rise in interest in sustainability is inspired by a whole host of social and cultural factors. Influences range from Blue Planet and Sir David Attenborough to the climate strikes and Greta Thunberg. As a result, environmental awareness is higher now among clients and consumers than ever,” he says.
Of course, all this has to be supported by the business remaining stable in what is often a volatile marketplace. Recycling is now an international business, with global commodity prices having a huge impact on waste management companies. Recent years have seen particular volatility, with
China closing its doors to accepting recycled materials in late-2017 and India announcing similar measures on accepting waste paper in 2019. International shifts such as these cause fluctuations in the commodities market that have to be navigated by waste management companies and Bywaters keeps up with the pace by continually innovating within its services.
As recycling has become more accepted as part of daily life, consumers, now look for more from their waste management providers. Bywaters’ response has been to invest in a variety of sustainability innovations and work with their clients to bring about changes that go above and beyond increasing recycling rates.
Weighing technology and data collection
In the age of big data, clients in every sector are looking for services with a demonstrable impact. Bywaters provides this for clients through using precise weighing technology to give accurate weights for all waste produced by tenants within multi-tenanted buildings. This gives customers a level of information to which they have never previously had access.
Using this data, Bywaters is able to discover which parts of each building are underperforming in terms of recycling practices, and introduce targeted measures to make sure resources and time are efficiently used where they’re needed most.
In addition to using this weighing technology, Bywaters provides up-tothe- minute reporting of all waste production and environmental key performance indicators through its bespoke reporting platform, the Bywaters Reporting Analytics Dashboard (BRAD).
Making sense of big data also means measuring environmental impact. So one of the key features of BRAD demonstrates tangible benefits of sustainable waste management by tracking CO2 savings associated with increased recycling rates and diverting non-recyclable waste for energy recovery.
Coffee cup recycling
As part of Bywaters’ commitment to providing innovative recycling solutions, the company was recently awarded a grant from the Cup Fund to install reverse vending machines and other coffee cup recycling infrastructure across the campuses of three London universities.
The Cup Fund is the UK’s largest grant fund to support projects that boost coffee cup recycling. The fund is provided by environmental charity Hubbub and supported by donations from Starbucks introducing a 5p charge for single-use coffee cups.
Bywaters’ associate director for corporate social responsibility (CSR) Siận Glover says of the project: “It’s fantastic to introduce new recycling streams for our clients in the education sector and to install interactive equipment, such as reverse vending machines, to engage students and staff with sustainability initiatives.”
Partnerships and CSR
Sustainability is a global issue and clients now expect to make an international impact with their CSR initiatives. Bywaters works with clients to sponsor initiatives both in London and around the world.
Recently the company worked with one of their corporate clients in central London to plant trees with GreenPop, a charity which carries out reforestation efforts across Southern Africa and which Bywaters has been working with since the beginning of last year. Working alongside WWF, Bywaters is also helping fund the training of anti-poaching dogs in India and Nepal, protecting tigers and fighting against the illegal wildlife trade.
Closer to home, the company provides financial support and staff volunteering hours for FoodCycle, a charity that prepares free meals for the hungry and the lonely across England using surplus food, and also supports the London Wildlife Trust, preserving local biodiversity.
Associate director, commercial, at Bywaters Sam Fairservice concludes: “This is the new world of waste. Bywaters understands that in the 21st century, it’s not enough simply to provide first-class recycling services, you have to take an all-round approach to sustainability and work with clients to achieve those goals.”