Five closed loop solutions you didn’t know

For many, sustainability begins with the recycling symbol and ends at the recycling bin. But this is just the start. At Veolia we’re focused on retaining maximum value from end-of-life products, supporting the Mayor of London’s Environment Strategy, and building a more sustainable community for everyone. So how do we do this? Well, we focus on developing UK-based closed-loop solutions. This Global Recycling Day, learn about five closed-loop solutions that contribute to London’s circular economy:  

1. A milk bottle with endless lives

When you purchase a milk bottle from your local supermarket, it’s likely to have been used multiple times before! Veolia’s Dagenham Plastic Facility processes milk bottles many times over, turning them into pellets and sending them on to big brand dairies.

FUN FACT: The Dagenham facility alone processes 300 million milk bottles annually and produces over 10,000 tonnes of high quality food grade HDPE pellets per year.  

2. Using food waste to generate renewable energy

Some food waste is inevitable - egg shells, banana skins and tea bags are all unlikely to feature on the menu. However, these scraps have more potential than you may realise

Once Veolia collects food waste, it goes to an anaerobic digestion plant to produce biogas, which is captured to generate renewable electricity for the grid. Anything left is used as a valuable bio-fertiliser which helps to grow more crops.

FUN FACT: Every tonne of food waste recycled by anaerobic digestion as an alternative to landfill prevents between 0.5 and 1.0 tonne of CO2 entering the atmosphere.

3. ‘Cupcycling’ coffee cups into shopping bags

Been to Selfridges recently? The iconic yellow shopping bags have a new (and not so secret) ingredient: coffee cups. 

Veolia processes and bales the coffee cups, before sending to paper manufacturer James Cropper to convert into the kraft bags, closing the loop on a previous waste stream. Not only that, the bags can still be recycled for years to come in a standard paper recycling process.

FUN FACT: Coffee cups can only be recycled when they’re disposed of in a dedicated cup recycling bin. This is because the paper cup is lined with plastic. While designed to make cups both heat and leak proof, separating the two materials for recycling requires a specialised recycling solution.

4. Using glass bottles to conserve energy 

What happens after the champagne pops? Aside from a fun night, your recycled glass will be used to help keep you warm in winter and cool in the summer. Yes, we turn glass bottles and jars into energy-saving insulation for UK homes. 

Once Veolia collects it, glass is crushed into tiny pieces called cullet, and sent to a glass cullet facility to be made into Glass Mineral Wool insulation.

FUN FACT: Our partnership with Knauf saves the equivalent of 350 million bottles from being wasted every year.

5. Using bio-waste to create rich organic compost

Composting is nature’s way of recycling. Compost keeps soil strong and healthy by reusing and recycling organic materials in a ‘zero waste’ cycle.

After collecting garden waste from London homes and businesses, Veolia creates the optimal conditions for microorganisms to break down the organic matter. After four months, we have the final product - Pro-Grow. This is used in turn to help new plants grow. 

FUN FACT: Pro-Grow compost is 100% peat-free, making it a greener, sustainable and renewable alternative.  

Global Recycling Day is an opportunity to recognise, and celebrate, the importance recycling plays in preserving our precious primary resources and securing the future of our planet. Although recycling levels have increased over the last decade, there is still so much more potential to retain value from end-of-life products. We estimate that around 85% of an average bin can be recycled, yet London's recycling rate is just over 30%.

By segregating waste streams and putting the right thing in the right bin, we can achieve the London Mayor's target for 50% of local authority collected waste in London to be recycled by 2030.

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