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Accountability and Convenience at the Heart of New Sustainability Initiatives

It’s been an exciting news day in the world of sustainability, with the announcement of several complementary schemes to tackle single-use packaging and the plastic epidemic. This got us talking at Vesta about accountability as an incentive to act in an environmentally responsible way, and about how easy it is to opt out of recycling if the local authority seems to have done the same.

A quick straw poll at Vesta HQ this morning revealed the vagaries of the postcode lottery, with widely different experiences of recycling across the three London boroughs and one county council in which Vesta staff live. Widening it out to family members revealed seemingly limitless permutations of coloured bins, separating, and effort involved, all of which acts as a disincentive to recycle household waste. In addition, blocks of flats and multiple occupancy buildings offer a further challenge, and often see anonymous piles of waste for landfill because services are stretched and there is no possibility of sanctions for failing to designate recycling.

When ease and accountability plummet, so too does the incentive to do the right thing.

The schemes announced today, broadly, are as follows:

  • Consumers will be charged a returnable deposit on packaging.
  • Household recycling will be demystified and streamlined, and county and city councils will aim to eliminate the postcode lottery of waste management services.
  • Businesses will be charged for using polluting and hard-to-recycle materials when producing and packaging their goods.

Done properly, with everyone accepting their share of responsibility for their consumption, these schemes could combine to offer a real alternative to the single-use paradigm. Recycling should be made clear and easy, and in turn there should be financial sanctions for those who fail to comply.

Vesta CEO Tom Mowat has talked here about the ways in which convenience and profitability offer one of the best routes to sustainability. This concept is at the core of our smart refillable containers and of everything we do: seamless services which allow people to make the environmentally appropriate choice.