Lancaster University join forces with Lancaster City Council and local businesses to reduce city’s waste

 Lancaster University’s Centre for Global Eco-Innovation is working with local businesses and Lancaster City Council to create an action plan to tackle the growing problem of the city’s waste.

After councillors voted to support a motion to tackle the vast amount of plastic ending up in landfill and polluting the world’s oceans, Lancaster City Council approached Lancaster University for help. The University was able to issue this as a challenge for business leaders working on an initiative called the ‘Low Carbon Innovation Forum’.  The Forum, which is run through the Lancaster University Management School, supports local business leaders and aims to provide small and medium sized businesses with the tools and techniques they need to innovate and reduce their carbon footprint.

Eight business leaders from the Low Carbon Innovation Forum visited Lancaster City Council for a meeting with Chief Environment Officer, Mark Davies, and members of Lancaster University Management School. They saw the scale of the problem when they visited the Waste Transfer Centre in Middleton and were greeted by a mountain of plastic – a fraction of the 28tonnes of recyclables collected just that morning. Afterwards, the team took part in a workshop to brainstorm innovative ways to tackle the problem.

The Chief Environment Officer for Lancaster City Council, Mark Davies, said: “Landfill across the UK is running out and is very costly. Reducing waste and finding more sustainable, environmentally friendly waste management solutions is an absolute priority – but the problem can’t be tackled by Councils alone.

“Lancaster University is also supporting us from a research perspective to help achieve our ambition of reducing waste in the district. However, a serious problem that needs to be tackled right now is the excessive use of plastic bottles and single use coffee cups– so we asked the University to help us create a taskforce to put some energy and innovation behind the problem. An initiative allowing a group of local business leaders to see and respond to the challenge was a first step in our collaborative efforts to solve the problem.

“Working closely with the Low Carbon Innovation Forum makes perfect sense. Participants are a diverse mix of business leaders from the local area – with some from local retail and coffee businesses that we really need to engage with to generate ideas for sustainable, practical solutions for the future. The over use of plastic and single use coffee cups is something that’s affecting the globe, not just Lancaster – but I hope that by working with business, academics, schools and local residents, Lancaster can find an innovative way forward.”

According to the national recycling campaign, Recycle Now, around 35.8 million plastic bottles are used every day across the UK but only 19.8 million are recycled – so 16 million plastic bottles end up in waste every day. More locally, we are finding little appetite for recycled plastic in the marketplace, which means we are only able to recycle around 7 per cent of the plastic we collect daily.

Helen Wilkinson runs the Low Carbon Innovation Forum at Lancaster University. She said: “The Forum supports Lancashire SMEs to develop low carbon ideas and solutions for their own business whilst thinking about global problems. The visit to Lancaster City Council provided real food for thought and although we were all aware of the challenge that plastic poses, seeing mountains of it on your doorstep was a shock. The group will all meet again in a few weeks’ time to put forward their ideas for the Council and wider community.”

The Centre for Global Eco-Innovation offers both research and development opportunities for business to develop emerging technologies and management support through the Low Carbon Innovation Forum.  Funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) the Low Carbon Innovation Forum is open to small and medium sized businesses from across Lancashire and is an excellent first step at engaging with the University. Launched in June this year, it aims to provide local businesses with the opportunity to understand and capitalise on the eco-innovation market – estimated to be worth £2billion to the regional economy.

Through these initiatives businesses have access to research and development support from across the scientific disciplines and management support through the Lancaster University Management School.  The University is also working on this project together with the Natural Environment Research Council’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, and Liverpool John Moores University to further broaden the understanding available to local businesses.

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