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 Peter Vernon – managing director at ESE World Ltd.

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

I’m managing director of ESE World Ltd and I’ve been working within the waste and recycling sector for over 30 years.

At ESE, we’re deeply committed to delivering sustainable and intelligent solutions for waste and recyclable materials – quality and sustainability are at the heart of everything we do. And we pride ourselves on helping our clients to streamline their processes and drive sustainability targets forward. Preserving our planet and its natural resources is high on our list of priorities, and our business is very ‘green’ in the way it operates.

Complete the sentence – the UK is great at recycling…

…plastics! Here at ESE, all our recycled HDPE bins are manufactured with a high post-consumer resin (PCR) content – as evidenced by our Blue Angel ecolabel accreditation. This means all our recycled solutions have a minimum of 80% PCR, and they are all manufactured to RAL’s highest quality standards.

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

I think those dealing with recycled plastics are set for an evolutionary year, as the prices of virgin high-density polyethylene are the highest on record for years – at this moment in time they’re around over €2,000 per tonne. So, if businesses opt for use of recycled materials instead, it will be far cheaper to manufacture items than when using their virgin counterpart.

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

When I was a child, we didn’t have plastic bags, we had paper or cloth bags to carry goods and bottles were made out of glass. So, over the years when cheaper products have been produced – like plastics, for example – the environment hasn’t been considered.

So, really, there’s not much I think I’d have liked to have known then, I just wish the actions that were in place when I was younger, were never swapped out for these less considered alternatives. We were answering the questions then, that we’re posed with now.

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

People with a lack of care and compassion for the environment. It’s not the plastics, it’s not the paper, it’s the people who are actually using and discarding products in the wrong ways that are the issue.

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

Use your bins properly – with less contamination, more can be recycled.

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

Landfill sites, more often than not, produce increased amounts of methane from the ground than that created by incinerators! I feel there’s a huge misconception that what people see coming out of an incinerator is always a gas – most of the time it’s steam.

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

To be completely honest, upcycling isn’t one of my strong suits, but I definitely find ways of reusing and redefining even the smallest of products, in and outside the home.

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

Without a doubt, I’d prioritise the support on offer for the whole of the environmental sector, as there are often too many grey areas. I would work with fellow decision-makers to set realistic and sustainable targets for the future of our country – helping the sector to thrive and achieve its goals. And in order to help make this a reality, I’d start by reassessing the UK’s current waste infrastructure, to help establish a strategy that aims to improve not only recycling rates but resource security too.

Complete the sentence – in 100 years’ time, I hope…

… everyone is working from the same page regarding recycling, even down to each council that collects refuse. I think uniformity is so important, so we can progress with recycling at the same rate across the entire country.

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