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We don’t believe in waste of any kind, not just resources, but also time, energy, ideas or money. Life is short; we don’t want to waste it. Here you can delve deeper into the work with do with our customers by reading our binit blogs.

we’re hiring

binit illustration community@5x 2

We’re so pleased to announce we have three vacancies open for applications. We’re hiring for positions in sales, bookkeeping and data. With three current vacancies and more openings in the near future, now is a fantastic time to consider joining a growing business with an ambitious team.

The vacancies opened on the W/C 10/02/2021 and have deadlines in the coming weeks. You can find all the information you need here:

binit illustration collaboration@5x
binit illustration nerdy@5x

If you have any questions relating to a specific job role, or anything else, you can contact us and we will be happy to assist. We are hiring again in the near future, so watch this space!

COP26: businesses and the emissions target shortfall

COP26 Blog Post Image

You might feel like we mark COP26 down as another tick-box exercise by our leaders. Echoing recent events, like the Paris Climate Agreement (COP21), COP26 was shrouded with protests, public outcry and disappointing news, such as the ‘phasing down’ phrase that took over headlines. However, before we make our final judgements, it’s worth looking at the bigger picture. That means diving deeper than the geopolitical element of COP26, and asking what are businesses doing? After all, if you want real change, it’s got to be backed by real money. The private sector can help speed the transition required to reach net-zero by making climate positive activity profitable. So, how can the private sector help us reach net-zero?

What is the problem?

According to the IMF, subsidies on fossil fuels amount to $11M per minute! That’s $5,000,000 since you started reading this blog. Subsidies, as we know, distort markets by miss-pricing goods and services. As a result, the total economic, environmental and social cost of 1MW of solar energy, is not equal to the equivalent produced by fossil fuels, despite the actual price of them potentially being the same. The mind-blowing thing is, solar power is now cheaper to generate than most non-renewables! Think, when it comes to oil, the cost of exploration, building rigs to take it out the ground, transport through lorries, ships and containers etc. It’s a completely linear model, but we’ll explore that in a later blog.

The question is, if governments are still subsidising fossil fuels, how can the private sector put us in a position where we do the same with clean energy. Or even better, make climate-positive activity the obvious (often confused with the term ‘cheapest’) option? If you followed COP26, you might think the answer lies in carbon markets. However, the private sector has other ideas.

Carbon Markets

Carbon Markets and credits are an economists dream solution to the issue of reducing CO2 emissions. You set a cap on aggregate emissions, then penalise those who over-produce and reward those who under-produce. How? Well, you make CO2 cost money. Big emitters then pay for credits unused by smaller emitters. Businesses can also offset their own emissions by purchasing carbon offsets, which pays renewable energy producers to make clean energy. Essentially, it’s a plaster on our economic system that rectifies the social and environmental cost of carbon, by making it cost businesses more to use non-renewables.

The question is, who decides what a tonne of CO2 is worth? How do you measure what one business has output and what another has saved? How do you prevent outsourcing your emissions from distorting the carbon market model? And what informs the decision on what our cap on emissions should be in the first place? Shouldn’t it be zero?

What is the solution?

To make up for this outdated model, the private sector is now shifting the flow of money toward investing directly into renewable energy infrastructure. Politicians might argue that this will require trillions of dollars on upgrading our grid systems, as well as installing countless energy storage facilities and outlets at every home in every country.

However, the private sector makes a much more opportunistic argument: if we’re headed in that direction anyway, then whoever moves first will win big. You can see this first-mover advantage already in our current economic system. Tesla is now worth more than any other car company globally. Not only that, but they’re worth more than the biggest competitors combined, despite their sales being less than 1% of the US market. Why? Because Tesla are ten years ahead of any other car manufacturer in the design, engineering, production, maintenance and charging of electric vehicles and, as we know, the world is going electric. Investment firms, pension and hedge funds finally see this and are pouring money in volumes never seen before, in an effort to have a share in the next big clean energy company, electric vehicle manufacturer or alike.

The Economy

Investing in Infrastructure like a more efficient energy grid, or building truly sustainable housing is a win-win for everyone. In the short term, it creates paying jobs (not just free money *cough furlough cough*). In the long run, most infrastructure pays for itself by improving the productivity and efficiency of the population as a whole (think high-speed rail, rapid public car chargers and solar-roof installations).

It’s a late start from the private sector for sure, but the momentum has been astonishing and is set to continue for at least the next decade. The question is, will it be enough? Well, we know already that even if all the promises from COP26 are met, we’re still not on target to keep warming below 1.5 degrees. So it’s fair to say the onus is on the private sector to pick up the slack.

What can I do?

It is easier for us to further this impact than you think. If society values businesses that are actively involved in being climate positive, then those businesses will flourish. But you can do more than just buy from a socially responsible business. You can make your money work for you. Pension funds and other financial institutions have to get their money from somewhere, and a lot of that is from us. So next time you’re reviewing your savings, take a look at where it’s being invested! Perhaps your pension shows you what projects your money has helped build. Maybe your bank or financial institution offers a clean energy investment account. Whatever you choose to do, it starts making a big impact when others get involved.

So, was COP26 a final whimper before we doom ourselves. Well, perhaps for our politicians, but businesses still have a few tricks up their sleeve. Only time will tell if it’s enough…

Ethan Taylor

Where does my recycling go? Part One: Cardboard

We are always asked: “So, what happens to my recycling then?” It is a fair question to ask. The recycling process is one shrouded in mystery and unless you’re in the industry, you can bet no one will give a straight answer. Or have an answer at all!

I recently got the chance to visit the Exeter Materials Reclamation Facility (MRF) with our apprentice, Jodie. We learned a lot from Matt Hulland, the Resource Recovery Manager for Exeter City Council. In the UK, Exeter is unique as it is one of the few local authorities and run and own their own MRF. In this blog, I will tell you all about cardboard and its recycling process.

If you are a Binit customer in the Exeter area and you source segregate your waste (i.e: have a card bin) you are helping us recycle card in its purest form. It is important to keep waste streams as clean as possible so not to lose the value of the material. This way it can be circulated back into the economy. If you put your card in our mixed recycling bins, do not fear, these are also being recycled at a high quality. I will also tell you exactly how it is being separated from other recyclables.

For someone who is interested in the waste industry, the Exeter MRF is an exciting place to be. This was my first time at a MRF. At university I did modules based on circularity but seeing how it all works in real life has brought a lot more insight. In this blog I’ll separate the card streams into two categories.

A: Card from card bin | B: Card from mixed recycling bin

Phase 1: Collection and tipping

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Main tipping hall.

A: If you have a card bin, the process is simple. The card will be tipped straight into a vehicle by a member of our crew → brought to the MRF → baled.

B: If the card is in our mixed recycling bin, the card goes on a bit of a journey. Your mixed recycling gets tipped and compressed into the lorry → brought to the MRF → tipped at the main tipping hall.

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Pre-sort cabin.

Phase 2: The Separation Process

B: Card from the mixed recycling is fed through a machine by a digger → sent to the Pre-sort Cabin where materials are segregated by hand and quality controlled → cardboard is taken off at this stage.

There may be some remaining cardboard after the Pre-sort Cabin in which it will be taken off at the next two cabins: 1) where the plastics and cans are sorted and 2) where the paper is sorted. All the cardboard will then be baled.

Phase 3: What happens next?

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Baled cardboard.

A & B: The quality controlled baled cardboard is stacked and ready to be circulated for sale in the market. Around three to four million tonnes of card is processed in the UK per year. This month the cardboard from Exeter will be sent locally in the UK to Kent.

If you enjoyed this blog, next month I will be posting about the plastic stream!

Sara Azizi

Binit’s Big Breakfast: COP26 and the environment bill

Philippa Robers giving a talk on the U.K’s new environment bill and COP26

At Binit, we go beyond the bin. Sometimes that means treating our customers to free breakfast (Trust me, it’s not a bribe!) in an effort to inspire and educate. At this breakfast event, we talked about COP26 and the U.K’s new environment bill.

Our customers learned a fair bit about the intricacies of COP26. Philippa spoke extensively around the U.K’s environment bill, and of course, many croissants were eaten. How then, did we influence our customers from a one-hour breakfast and talk? Well, let’s first tell you what we told them:

The Climate Change Conference of Parties (or COP) is an event bringing together heads of state, climate experts, campaigners, scientists and many other influential people to bring about real change in the global economy. But you already knew that (well, maybe not what COP stands for but, still.)

The bad news:

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What you might not know, is that even if all the promises made were met within the set timeframe, we’re still not on track to keep warming below 1.5 degrees. What’s worse, many of the promises made were based on the development of technology that doesn’t even exist yet! That includes carbon capture technology. Other targets set have no requirement to begin actioning change until man-years down the line. For example, One of Brazil’s environment ministers said: “There’s a very good reason Bolsonaro felt comfortable signing on to this new deal. It allows another decade of forest destruction and isn’t binding.” The Amazon makes up half the worlds rainforest, and 60% of it is in Brazil.

Things aren’t better closer to home, as the U.K’s biodiversity has decreased by 50%. That’s the worst in Europe! But before you accuse us of giving a talk that might as well be a eulogy to ourselves, we did in fact share some redeeming news.

The good news:

Over 100 countries agreed to cut methane emissions by 30% before 2030. Methane has 80X the warming power of C02. It’s a brilliant way to get ahead of the curve in the fight against time. However, Carbon Dioxide lasts longer in the atmosphere. This means methane is a quick fix, not the solution.

In the spirit of positivity, it’s also humbling to know that an overwhelming number of businesses, trade groups and financial institutions made significant climate pledges too. This includes sectors where cutting emissions is particularly difficult, like the concrete industry. The Global Concrete and Cement Association committed to cut their emissions by a quarter this decade and reach net zero by 2050.

Further, following commitments from Nestlé, Tesco committed to a market-leading 1.5C aligned science-based target ahead of COP26 that covers its whole supply chain. And on top of all this, 60% of FTSE 100 businesses have adopted net zero emissions targets as part of the United Nations’ Race to Zero initiative.

Screenshot 2021 12 24 at 15.18.43

Time to celebrate?

So, that’s it then. Job done! Not just yet my friend…

As mentioned earlier, there is still a long way to go in the development of technology that will help reduce our carbon footprint. Carbon Capture and storage projects do exist, but they’re a long way from being commercial and scalable. The worlds largest carbon capture plant can remove up to 4,000 tons of C02 per year. Only 36,699,996,000 tons to go!

Further, Hydrogen (Fuel cells and cars) are still in the early days of development when compared to electric vehicles. And electric vehicles still only make up a fraction of the worlds total cars. Then there’s the worry of runaway climate change. Remember how methane is 80X more potent than C02? Well if we continue on our current trajectory then eventually, significant amounts of wetland and permafrost will release unprecedented amounts of sequestered methane back into the atmosphere, massively reversing any progress. The same will also happen to re-planted forests which sequester carbon if wildfires continue to become more common.

Some inspiration for our customers

Now you’re a little more up to speed on our talk, you might be wondering how this inspired change in our customers. Well, one customer: Eat the bird, who already champion vegan take-out in Exeter, are going even further with their waste. Taking drastic action now, like cutting methane, means significant behaviour changes, such as reducing meat intake. Agriculture is directly responsible for up to 8.5% of all greenhouse gasses. Therefore, increasing the availability of delicious vegan options on your menu has a massive impact.

But they haven’t stopped there. After our talk, Eat the bird got in touch to say they’re looking for new ways to recycle their ice cream cartons (they also make a banging milkshake). If that isn’t enough, they are also considering waste reduction in their supply chain as they open new stores!

Though Eat the Bird are just starting their journey, it is exciting to know we succeeded in inspiring change. We’ll keep you updated on the progress at Eat the bird. For now though, we hope this inspired a bit of change in you too.

Ethan Taylor

Jodie Floyde wins Apprentice of the Month

Starting as an apprentic during Coronavirus…

I began my customer service apprenticeship with Binit in September 2020. Since then, we have been in and out of lockdown, making the introduction to work-life difficult. Now, I am back in the office and near the end of my apprenticeship; about to start my End Point Assessment. So it couldn’t have been a better time to find out that I have been awarded Apprentice of the Month!…

Part of my initial covid experience was the fact I didn’t get a chance to sit my GCSE’s and had to leave secondary school in March. This was strange for me as I didn’t have a chance to think about what I wanted to study in college. As I was starting to panic one of my family members suggested doing an apprenticeship as I never really enjoyed studying hard in a classroom. It was at this point I found Binit advertising for a customer service apprentice on the Exeter College website. They stood out for me as I didn’t have much knowledge on waste and recycling, so it was something I was interested in learning more about, especially as there was such a focus on sustainable practices. They also seemed like a nice team to work with.

Why I enjoy binit

I love being an apprentice at Binit because every day is different and no one knows what we might get up to. All my colleagues are so supportive, and if I ever get stuck on a task then they do not hesitate to help me. Even when we were all working from home and I had only just started they would stay in touch every day to make sure I was comfortable. I think that this was part of the reason Binit was awarded employer of the month.

Alongside employer of the month, I was awarded ‘apprentice of the month’ too, which was a big surprise for me. I had always tried to ensure my college-work balance was manageable but Binit also played a role in ensuring I was doing the best work I could. I have grown my knowledge in the business environment and developed my skills in customer service. The skills I learned from college are also transferable in my job role. For example, managing customer expectations, multitasking and time management.

My apprenticeship at Binit has helped me to build my future, as I have more experience in what I enjoy, which helps me understand what I want to achieve in my career. I am looking forward to continuing my career with Binit and seeing where my role takes me.

Jodie Floyde, 17 – 2021

is net zero just a buzzword?

I’ve been around long enough to have seen a few fads come and go in the environmental sector. I might have got into bins because of the fact that plastic in the oceans was killing leatherback turtles. But back then, recycling was all about saving trees. Now it’s about being carbon net-zero.

In recent years we’ve seen companies go plastic-free, declare climate emergencies, join climate rebellions, move to one-planet living, go climate neutral, and carbon neutral. More recently, it’s been all about going carbon net-zero. All these different terms deal with one simple fact: modern living damages the planet’s ecosystems to such an extent that future generations will not be able to enjoy the same standard of living.

where does carbon net-zero come from?

The Paris Agreement was signed in 2016 at COP21 as part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. 196 countries agreed to keep global average temperature rises to less than 2 degrees and to limit that increase to 1.5 degrees. Ideally, thius is the level at which we think we can handle the impacts of climate change. We’ve been talking about this since Kyoto was signed back in 1997 and since then global emissions have increased. In Paris, it was agreed that the only way to meet these targets was to be net-zero carbon emission by mid-century. The UK has led the way in being the first country to put this into law, and so companies are following suit. (Whether or not you think we’ll make it is another matter).

However, being net-zero something is just a sum; add something, take something else away and make sure the result is zero. When we talk about climate change, some take it to mean carry on as normal, do some offsetting and hope the net result is no extra carbon being released. Unfortunately, while the market price of carbon is still low, it is easy for some companies to offset business as usual and greenwash it as something positive. Or net zero.

What are we doing?

At Binit we want to be clear that for us, and for other responsible companies that we work with and support, net-zero means reducing our carbon impact first and foremost. We are working now on calculating our Scope 1 and 2 emissions so we can set ambitious reduction targets by 2025. Scope 3 is harder, as anyone who has tried to calculate them will know! However, we’re working on a plan to reduce these too and while we’re doing this, we will offset. But offsetting is the temporary sticking plaster, it’s not healing the cut. As far as I’m concerned, even when we are net zero, we’re still bleeding. And the bleeding won’t stop till we stop using fossil fuels altogether. If we can’t do that, then there ain’t enough space on this one planet to plant all the trees that will be needed to stop climate change. 

Is net zero a buzzword? Can I ‘cop’ out and say it depends on who uses it and how? After all, it’s not what you say, but what you do that counts. 

Want help in going net zero? Give us a shout.

How to make electrical waste collections carbon net-zero

The problem:

One of Binit’s core aims is to reduce the impact of heavy vehicle movements. Many of Europe’s cities are still built on medieval layouts and we are increasing efforts to ensure pedestrians and cyclists feel safer in urban areas. Unfortunately, the most efficient way to collect waste is in a 26-tonne bin lorry. Electric bin lorries are finally appearing on our streets. But demand is high, supply is low and it will be a while before it’s the norm. In the meantime, diesel is the fuel of choice and this will prevent waste collections from reaching net zero.

Binit worked closely with InExeter (the Business Improvement District) to find out what valuable materials contribute to this problem. Small electrical equipment was the obvious waste stream, mainly because of the high environmental impact of landfills or energy from waste. Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) can also have a high value. This is why we focused on methods that minimise damage to the materials while reducing carbon footprint from collecting it on a commercial scale.

The solution:

The solution was staring us in the face: cargo bikes. Agile, zero-emission and with minimal cost to function; they make the ideal transportation for materials without adding to congestion. Binit partnered with Co-Delivery, Exeter’s local cargo bike delivery firm. We have a particular love of Co-Delivery as we met Jenny, its founder, on the Exeter City Futures Accelerator programme when we were setting up back in 2017. To make the dream come true, the final step was to market our solution and get people on board. To make this happen we delivered gorgeous woven bags-for-life, embroidered with simple information on what to recycle and who to contact. Easy!

This net-zero waste solution takes us one step closer to a circular economy. Co-Delivery collect small electrical items from businesses in the centre of Exeter. They take these to a central bulking point where they are moved out of the city by van. The cargo bikes are whizzing around all day making deliveries so collections are made on the existing routes. A little more effort in planning means that we have made massively less impact with our collections. Simple.

5 things that make recycling confusing

We know that recycling can be confusing, so we collected some of the most common areas that can be easily fixed. If you want to up your recycling game, read on!

1. confusing coffee cups

You’re about to have your daily dose of caffeine at a coffee shop but realise you forgot to bring your reusable cup. Never mind, you’ll have it in a takeaway coffee cup and then put it in the recycling bin. That way it won’t harm the planet, right? Well, let us tell you something.

Despite your hardest efforts to recycle, most regular takeaway coffee cups end up in landfill. Landfill decomposes anaerobically (without oxygen) and produces methane. Methane is 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide. This is because hot drinks are typically served in paper cups with a thin inner plastic lining that prevents leaking. Unlike cups made of PET or polypropylene (PP) that are widely recycled in the UK, these tricky ‘paper’ cups can only be recycled at two specialist facilities in the country.

Sadly, only two specialist recycling plants have the capacity to process all discarded cups. Most cups do not make it to these facilities. As single-use cups are usually used on-the-go and there are not enough recycling bins for coffee cups, customers are likely to throw them in the general recycling bin where it could contaminate other recyclable materials.

So please just try and remember to have your reusable cup with you at all times!

(more…)

Compostable cups. It may not mean what you think

It is hard to think of anything less popular right now than a styrofoam cup. A plastic straw perhaps? We think compostable cups are the solution…but think again.

It’s taken us a while to realise, but every part of the natural world is contaminated with discarded single-use plastics and the chemicals that once made them. Used once, but with us for lifetimes. Our awakening to the damage they are doing has made single-use plastics, once epitomised as the ultimate in convenience, a shameful pariah.

Nowhere has the kickback against single-use plastics been felt more than around the food and drink industry. How do we retain the convenience that made us fall in love with single-use plastics in the first place, whilst removing the downsides?

Perhaps we are asking ourselves the wrong question. But I won’t stray into that can of worms here!

From edible water containers and food sachets made out of seaweed, to compostable cups and plates made from corn and vegetables, the race has begun to find alternatives that mean we can stick to old behaviour; use and throw away, business as usual.

compostables. the solution?

A new wave of single-use ‘compostable’ products have hit the market. For those making their living in the food industry, particularly those offering takeaway food and drinks, these products offer an environmentally friendly alternative. One that gives the consumer what they want — a guilt-free sandwich, a coffee without the lasting legacy.

Across Exeter, we have watched as our customers have swapped to these alternatives, kitting out office kitchens, serving up takeaways in boxes made of corn starch. All at a cost to them and all out of a desire to do their bit to minimise their footprint.

These ‘compostables’ end up in food waste bins, because they are compostable, right? That means they biodegrade, doesn’t it? 

If only it were that simple.

The Problem

On the whole, these products do not break down in a home composter. They don’t even break down in a landfill. They need high temperatures and specific conditions in order to degrade. Conditions that are only found in an industrial composting plant (which produces a high-grade compost from food waste) or an Anaerobic Digestor (which produces energy).

Whilst these processes have the benefit of creating a valuable product from the waste going into them, there is no guarantee that the compostables put in with food waste will even enter the plant! Councils around the UK are reporting that compostables are being taken out of food waste streams before they are digested because it is not possible to tell the difference between compostable and plastic products at the front end of the process. It is all pulled out as contamination. Instead, many households and businesses are being told to throw out compostables with general waste.

This arguably renders compostables, marketed as a practical solution for food-contaminated disposable packaging that would otherwise be incinerated or landfilled, redundant. Even though they are plant-based, so don’t leach nasty chemicals, they still create bulk that needs to be disposed of, with no value in their ‘waste’ whatsoever.

Added to this, uncertainty amongst businesses and households around what to do with these items means we risk them getting into every waste stream, from dry mixed recycling to food and garden waste, to residual waste and contaminating them.

alternatives

It’s not impossible for operators of AD plants to bolt on an additional process to digest compostables alone. Binit is working with the University of Exeter to investigate just this as part of a circular economy project in the South West. Compostables should afterall, be part of the regenerative, restorative economy. But will it be worth the investment?

So, before taking the decision to switch to compostables, it’s definitely worth considering some alternatives as well:

1. Washable, reusable crockery and cutlery

2. Stainless steel straws

3. Reusable coffee pods for your machine

4. Home compostable alternatives

5. Encouraging staff and customers to bring in their own containers

Have any questions? Or committed to compostables and want to figure out a way to dispose of them, please do get in touch or email home@binituk.com