CO-OPERATIVE businesses in the UK could save themselves up to £ 40 million a year by creating their own recycling industry.
Waste glass, metal, textiles, plastics and organic materials can be converted into useful products – drinks bottles into textiles; glass into insulation products and wood and plastic into construction materials.
A Better way to Recycle? – a three-month report, currently in production by the Manchester-based National Centre for Business & Sustainability – is preparing a workable vision which will point the way for the co-operative sector to develop its own recycling opportunities instead of paying an average 2% of turnover in disposal costs.
`There has never been a better time to invest in recycling,` says Sarah Lees of Co-operative Action – which supports the development of new co-operative projects and has awarded a £ 24,850 grant to fund the NCBS report.
`This vision directly supports co-operative principles by encouraging the creation of the sector's own recycling industry which would balance its social responsibility with its concern for the environment, providing an opportunity for economic growth and creating thousands of new jobs.`
The NCBS was founded in 1995 by the Co-operative Bank as a unique not-for-profit partnership between the bank and the four Greater Manchester universities.
It draws on the ecological and ethical policies of the bank and the technical expertise of the universities and the wider scientific community.
From existing experience in sustainable waste management , NCBS argues that there is a new and growing UK market in collecting recyclable materials and using them, or selling them on, as materials for new product manufacture. Co-operative societies could create their own subsidiary businesses or contribute to community investment by opting to support local worker enterprises.
And the project will also test the assertion that organising as a co-operative, or another form of social business, is the type of enterprise most likely to succeed in the recycling sector.
`UK recycling rates are currently poor compared to the rest of Europe with only 35 per cent of industrial waste and 12 per cent of municipal waste being recycled,` says Erik Bichard, NCBS Chief Executive, who hopes that the report will attract valuable attention from the Government, DTI Social Enterprise Unit, Environment Agency and DEFRA as well as private sector waste management interests.
`Co-operative enterprises alone spend close to £ 100 million every year dealing with waste – and this could be reduced by up to 40 per cent within three years, if they generated their own innovative recycling industry.`
* The National Centre for Business & Sustainability can be contacted at Giants Basin, Potato Wharf, Manchester M3 4NB; tel: 0161 834 8842; e-mail: [email protected]; or via www.ncbe.co.uk