Why the environment matters to me…

The climate change agenda took something of a back seat, while the world battled against Covid-19. But that doesn’t mean the environment didn’t continue to matter a great deal, to many people. So, to celebrate all things sustainability, help share tips for smarter environmental thinking and remind each other just how much our carbon impact matters, we’re inviting colleagues, friends of the business and our peers in the wider industry to take part in our quickfire environmental Q&A.

Next up, it’s Amy McCormack – commercial director at waste management specialist, ETM Recycling.

  1. Where do you fit into the environmental sector? Tell us a little bit about your role at ETM…

I have a senior, hands-on role at ETM – we’re a family-run recycling company, based in Bristol, and we commissioned a new, state-of-the-art waste transfer station two years ago.

This was a result of a £5m investment to create the biggest facility of its kind in the region. As part of our mission to achieve zero waste to landfill, we’ve got the capacity to handle 150,000 tonnes of waste per year, which is currently collected from our own skip fleet, as well as via contracts for the west of England.

  1. Complete the sentence – the UK is great at recycling… but is enough being done to educate from the front end?

We have some fantastic resource specialists in this country, who are extremely committed to the waste hierarchy and achieve continued progress through effort, dedication and innovation. But there is still so much work to be done, particularly when it comes to plastics.

Thankfully, this topic is at the forefront of the agenda and, encouragingly, clients are increasingly asking how we process plastics and where it ends up. However, the news that some of the country’s waste is still being shipped out to Turkey, for example, indicates the degree of change still required.

We need to keep talking, throughout not just our own industry, but with the government, waste producers, manufacturers, lenders and wider communities, to ensure we better deal with materials, and keep the waste – and resource – in this country.

  1. Which sector do you think could achieve significant environmental progress this year?

As a business, we deal primarily with C&D waste, and we’ve witnessed a huge shift away from customers using brokers, in favour of collaborating with local waste providers instead. This speaks volumes about organisations’ increasing sense of a duty of care, the need for proper segregation, and a commitment to keeping materials in the region – not just opting for a provider who can give them a skip for the lowest price.

I think this is something for the C&D sector to be particularly proud of, and I think it is an encouraging sign for local communities.

  1. What do you wish you’d known about the environment, as a child?

In truth, I probably knew very little about the environment as a child – certainly when I compare what we learnt in school, versus my eldest daughter’s knowledge now. She’s six, and has had confident conversations with us at home, about everything from plastics in the ocean, through to carbon-footprint-minimising housebuilding techniques! Young people today are being brought up to care far more about climate change and do their bit to protect the environment, and I think it’s brilliant!

  1. What’s the single biggest threat to the environment, in your opinion?

The magnitude of change required to truly address our collective carbon footprint.

As a business, this is naturally something we invest in, heavily – it’s one of the reasons we chose the electric-driven waste shredder from UNTHA, for instance! However, in terms of the wider plant we need to procure, the technology simply isn’t there yet.

Yes, electric cars are becoming more common, especially in our region, but we need to see more progress on the commercial side. You can buy an electric bin lorry, yet when it comes to lifting heavy skips, the options are severely limited.

  1. Share one tip to help people be ‘greener’, at work or at home:

Segregate – pre-sorted waste requires far less processing, which makes it quicker, easier and more efficient to divert from landfill. We can all do our bit!

  1. Tell us an environmental statistic that you think people need to know:

Last month ETM diverted 10,000 tonnes away from landfill!

  1. What’s the best thing you’ve ever reused/upcycled?

I’m particularly fond of an old blanket box we must have had for at least 15 years and have painted and restored. It now houses the kids’ toys in the centre of their playroom – they love it!

  1. If you were prime minister for the day, what’s the one thing you’d do to improve the UK’s sustainability agenda?

I’d make it clear that we really need to tackle the UK’s carbon agenda. I’d encourage a call to arms to ask where the green tech is for larger vehicles, and ask how we can push this forward.

We all have targets to hit, and Bristol has new incoming Clean Air Zone rules which we champion – Bath has done this brilliantly! But we need the lorries!

  1. Complete the sentence – in 100 years’ time, I hope… all our fleet is hovercraft!

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