Creating a future without rubbish

Following success with single-use plastic campaigns ‘#StirCrazy’ and ‘500ff’, Luke Douglas-Home, founder of the association A Future Without Rubbish (AFWR), talks about the latest campaign and his aspirations for educating young people in the values of a true circular economy.

Luke Douglas-Home delivers a circular economy lesson to pupils.
Humanity will generate just over two billion tonnes of waste this year alone. The World Bank says that within a generation this will almost double – to approximately 3.5 billion tonnes within 30 years.  The world’s consumer economy is linear, rather than circular, with a ‘take-make-use-waste’ approach to using resources. Continuing with this economic model will destroy our beautiful planet, creating a tide of waste that will engulf us.  At A Future Without Rubbish we engineer behavioural change, in schools

A Future Without Rubbish founder Luke Douglas-Home teaches schoolchildren about the circular economy.

Luke Douglas-Home

Humanity will generate just over two billion tonnes of waste this year alone. The World Bank says that within a generation this will almost double – to approximately 3.5 billion tonnes within 30 years.

The world’s consumer economy is linear, rather than circular, with a ‘take-make-use-waste’ approach to using resources. Continuing with this economic model will destroy our beautiful planet, creating a tide of waste that will engulf us.

At A Future Without Rubbish we engineer behavioural change, in schools with councils, businesses and communities. Every single one of us, individually, can act by changing our behaviour towards the consumption and disposal of resources. Once that happens, changes in businesses and governments then quickly follow.

Our approach forges a union between the four entities of schools, councils, businesses and communities. Our project aims to engineer behavioural change. Because by changing behaviour, we believe we can restore our beautiful planet.

One Bag Zero Waste

Our new campaign, which began in February, is called ‘One Bag Zero Waste’ (#1BzW). It has been welcomed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and supported by Queens Park Community Council and Westminster Council. Called “superb” by Wilberforce  school’s headteacher, Claire Macfie, it is backed by local and national government, local businesses and communities it has got off to a flying start.

Educating students in the ‘circular economy’, #1BzW encourages ‘taking-making-using-and-reusing’ materials. The campaign incorporates sustainability into products at the design stage, which is essential for the circular economy to exist. If you are unable to re-use or recycle something when it comes to its end of life, then it is not ‘circular’ – instead its fixed destiny is landfill or incineration.

Currently piloting in Queens Park and Wilberforce Primary schools in Westminster, the ‘One Bag Zero Waste’ campaign involves a bag that is made of recycled plastic that is itself easily recyclable, with students choosing a campaign logo and bag manufacturer based on longevity and the source of the materials. Explaining to pupils the mechanics and economics of recycling plastic and having them decide begins their education in the circular economy. It then incentivises households within their communities to use the bag and get discounts from local businesses.

Gill Fitzhugh, Queens Park Community Council, is behind the campaign, stating: “Every school in every country should do this campaign as it benefits all. It is good for education, good for recycling, good for local businesses and great for the local, and planet’s environment.”

Reduce, reuse, recycle

In a recent environmental assembly, school students sang “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – One Bag Zero Waste!” with Defra’s Deputy Head of Resources and Waste, Dawn Woodward. The school’s Eco-Council gave advice on which bag made from recycled plastic should be bought.

Students are competing to have their school design illustrations on the bag itself. A winner from each school will be chosen by a panel of judges, chaired by Queens’ Park Community Council. The panel includes local architect Jonathan Tuckey and Defra Minister, Rebecca

Pow, who said: “A Future without Rubbish’s’ work to tackle environmental issues is admirable. I am always delighted to hear of new initiatives being launched to help solve the problems the environment is facing and I am keen to lend my support to these organisations wherever possible.”

Cllr Andrew Smith, Westminster Council Cabinet Member for Environment, agrees, saying: “Increasing recycling rates and reducing unnecessary waste is a top priority in Westminster. Clear Public Space’s ‘A Future without Rubbish’ project is already undertaking excellent work in some of our schools, encouraging pupils to reduce their use of single-use plastic and promoting behaviour change amongst our city’s young people.” 

A circular economy in the making

Our projects want to raise awareness to young people of a circular approach to the design, use, reuse and recycling of materials. This reduces the carbon emissions associated with the use of virgin materials in manufacturing and avoids valuable materials ending up in landfill or incineration. The circular economy should become the norm rather than the exception. ‘One Bag, Zero Waste’ is the circular economy in action, for real.

Having already achieved a 36 per cent increase in recycling rates in the Romanian village of Valea Viilor, our ambition is to find businesses to support us and local authorities that wish to implement educational awareness campaigns such as this to enable us to roll this out across the UK and indeed around the world.

Humanity must start designing products with reusing and recycling at the heart of the design process, so that we can begin reversing the incoming tide of waste. Our campaign starts that imperative a little bit. So that the change in thinking and behaviour becomes natural, a reflex, to recycle and think sustainably. And our children act differently and also pester their parents to act sustainably. My daughter already fights to keep the central heating off for as long as possible. 

After all, there is no planet B.