Jammy Dodger - 25th October 2011

Last Friday, someone in the UK won £20.84 million in the EuroMillions triple rollover jackpot. That's right £20.84 million – enough to buy a garage in Chelsea, or a lifetime's supply of Jammy Dodgers for you and a significant other. If the thought of someone riding out the undertow of the recession on all that booty turns you green at the gills, don't despair, just turn to waste management and sign up for a fail-safe opportunity.
 
Of course there's no such thing as a straightforward cash cow, but in the UK we are quite literally throwing good money after bad as we fail to capture available resources and, instead, pay greater and greater sums in Landfill Tax to store them for future use. Economically it makes as much sense as forking out for a Michelin-starred dish then showing it off on the mantelpiece until it has to be scraped off by the cleaner. It's surely also one of the reasons that private business is stepping up to sustainability despite stalling government commitment to regulation.
 
So how much is slipping through the net? At a recent stakeholder seminar, Alupro announced that, despite a 30 per cent increase in can recycling during the first two quarters of 2011, the UK is still losing a whopping £20 million a year by sending aluminium cans to landfill. That's one triple rollover cash cow that could be reined in for starters. And what about steel, plastics, paper and all the others?
 
Recycling offers a unique benefit for each material. Recycling plastic dramatically cuts carbon by negating the need for oil use, while we all know that recycling paper saves trees – the lungs of the planet – and diverting organic waste from landfill creates energy, or helps to sequester carbon, depending on the treatment employed. However, while these materials are renewable, glass and metals are permanent resources which, once created, can be reused over and over again with no deterioration in quality.
 
According to Packaging Europe, around 285 million cans were manufactured worldwide last year, every one of which had the potential for remanufacture into another product in just six weeks. It's easy to think that these cans will spend the rest of their lives in a virtuous loop bringing soft drinks to market but the model is, in fact, much more complex. Aluminium, for example, is in demand across a staggeringly wide range of industries, many of which will make use of the material for significant lengths of time. Aluminium put to use in a window frame will be taken out of the loop for years, while can manufacture continues unabated. For this reason, accessing the untapped material for recycling is crucial if we are to maximise resource use, reduce carbon and, ultimately, develop sustainable systems.
 
It's na├»ve to think that diverting this material can be done with a click of the fingers, but still, first one to the £20 million wins a cleaner planet – and £20 million! See you there! 

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