Founder of NiftyBins, Stephen Corcorhan, shudders when he hears the word ‘rubbish’.

Appreciation of material starts with the language we use, which is inspiring. Waste implies it’s no longer required. “We need to lose the vernacular: general waste; rubbish; garbage; trash, litter, and sewage. There is no such thing as waste”. He explains. It’s a circular economy and we’re not doing it properly.

Instead ‘material’ means value – as it can be reshaped, reused, and resold. Targeting zero waste creates savings for your pocket and the environment. In the world of large music events, Stephen was involved in litter picking. Folk from each county, across the UK were using different coloured recycling systems, making life confusing. He realizes a new universal system is needed.

Stephen explained the difference between hard and soft plastics, and that even chewing gum can be recycled! What was shocking was that only a very small proportion of recycling collected at the kerbside by our local councils are recycled. “In the UK we just aren’t ready for recycling – we don’t have the proper infrastructure to deal with the enormity of our throwaway culture”.

Discover some exciting ideas that have been created with the left over (rubbish), material found on the beaches, gutters and hedgerows of the UK.

Trashy Bags are based in Winchester, Hampshire, England and they are creating bags from discarded drinking water sachets that litter the streets of Accra, Ghana’s capital city, in West Africa.

White sunglasses frame with protective cork case

Following the crowd

Human waste has become a massive problem in our natural environment, containment is long overdue. Through his work at major music festivals (pre-Covid-19), Stephen enabled inebriated party-goers to recycle and dispose of their waste appropriately, with his colourful, easily identifiable recycling signage system. Nifty Bins even light up at night, which becomes part of the party vibe. 

Fitting in is part of our social survival. Forcing change to behaviours is rarely effective, so how else can we change people’s thinking so that they want to be better? This is something Stephen recognized and leveraged. His theatre-trained volunteer teams act as Agents of Awareness (AoA), giving party-goers clear information about the benefits of a zero-waste system – ensuring vessels are used correctly and congratulating them for the change. The AoA keeps an eye on traders’ – making sure they are sustainable. And the proof is, it works. People like recycling.

Pictured top handmade from 100% recycled plastic that has been locally sourced and processed on the UK’s south coast, made by Brothers Make.

Pictured above, no cards are the same. This handmade ‘love and woofs’ card is adorable, made by Flora Brathwayt, owner of Washed Up Cards. Proceeds help her clear up just a small proportion of the mess on the beaches, which she uses to create this little gems.

Simple in its form, informative in its language

Using colourful and consistent symbolic messaging – it’s easy for people to grapple. Have you ever stood over the recycling bin wondering whether it should go in?

Stephen has been banging on the doors of our government for over a decade, and until very recently, he has begun to make some progress. What better way to see what he’s been chanting about than to see the evidence? Dividing these materials into clearly labelled vessels that are ergonomic to their environment is fundamental.

Pictured above, creating awareness about chewing gum litter, Gum-Tech has produced something people want, from something nobody cares about.

Nifty Bins Zero Waste solution is simple, be bold, be obvious, be clean, be portable, be universal.

The festival management love it – as it saved time and expense on the litter-picking post an event. The organized containment of separated materials is collected, with minimal sorting before on-site bailing and departure. This individual containment creates revenue as part of the circular economy because every material now has value. Within all modern societies across the globe, waste materials are the same and therefore only a moderate amount of separation is urgent. 

It’s estimated that 40% of our plastic waste ends up in landfill, 32% ends up polluting the environment, 14% is incinerated, with only 14% entering the recycling system.

According to Vox, BP expects plastics to represent 95% of the net growth in demand for oil from 2020 to 2040. According to CNBC In 2020 Petrochemicals comprised 13% of ExxonMobile’s annual income, 6.5% of Shell’s, the polluting fossil fuel industry is counting on our reliance on plastic to grow.

Müll Club are tackling the problem in London. Combined with their South East London refill shop, with a mission to reduce plastic consumption and recycle those unavoidable plastics; Müll Club is a good example of recycling with a plan to collect London’s waste and transform it into beautiful, useful objects. Pictured below Charlie in the workshop and beautiful pink rings made from type 2 (HDPE) and type 5 (PP) plastics. 

Which is why the separation at source is the key to a successful non-contaminated, maximized recovery rate of all recyclable materials.

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