We speak with Violetta Lynch on the London Waste and Recycling Board, sustainable projects
by Aimee Rigby/8th-March-2021
So, welcome to Zero Waste Kode. Would you like to introduce yourself and your role with the London Waste and Recycling Board?
Hi, I’m Violetta Lynch. I work at the London Waste and Recycling Board, and I’m in the comms team. So, my job role is communications and campaigns lead. So, I lead on the London recycles campaign, but I also work on food campaigns. And I work closely with our local authority support team as well to help them with borough comms.
Could you expand sort of a bit further on what the London Waste and Recycling Board does? So, who are they?
Yes, sure. So, the London Waste and Recycling Board was set up around 12 years ago as a statutory body. So, we work in partnership with the Mayor of London, and the boroughs. And we help them with so I guess, like our overall objective would be to reduce waste in London and reinvigorate recycling, as well as accelerate the transition to a circular economy and zero carbon city by 2030. So, we have two programmes of activity. One of them is the local authorities support team that I mentioned earlier that I work quite closely with. And the other is the business and sector support. So generally speaking, the business and sector support work closely with businesses, and that could be small SMEs, start-ups, and they help them transform their business, and they give them advice. But another element of that part of the business is working with international partners, wider stakeholders, and working on kind of policy developments, and lots of different projects, which I will go on later. We have a lot going on in that area.
Violetta Lynch. Job role is communications and campaigns lead
One of the things you mentioned there was the circular economy model. How are you working to transform London into a circular economy? And we’ve covered the circular economy many times on Zero Waste Kode, but what does it mean in this context?
So I guess, as you all know, this circular economy is about keeping materials and resources in use for as long as possible and at the highest value for as long as possible.
So, in context of what we’re doing in London, there’s a huge amount. So, we have a business transformation programme called Advanced London. And what they do is they support start-ups and SMEs in a variety of ways.
So, they will give them advice on their business models. And they can help them scale up, they can give them advice on certain products. So, for example, we have lots of different start-ups that they’ve worked with. And one of them just as an example is called Notpla. They used to be called Ooho. But now I think they’ve rebounded to Notpla and they have the kind of material that they’ve created is called not Notpla, but one of their products they’ve created is Ooho. And what they do is they basically try to design waste out completely. So, instead of plastic they created this material which is made out of seaweed which they grow themselves in these tanks. And then they use that seaweed to make a kind of flexible material, which they can then contain liquids in. So, for example, at a few marathons, I think it’s probably a couple of years ago, Lucozade worked with them. So, rather than getting bottles of Lucozade along the route, you got these little sachets, with Lucozade in them, and they kind of pop in your mouth. And you can either compost the material if you don’t want to eat it, or you can just eat it. So, yeah, they’ve worked with companies like that. So, they’re really innovative and trying new things. And we focus also on five different business models.
So, we will support businesses that kind of fit one of those models. So that could be servitization. So, products or services. So, that would help us move away from having to purchase items. And rather, we would just be renting them. And in itself, that model actually then incentivizes the companies that provide that service to be as efficient as possible. And to design out as much of the waste as possible, because the onus kind of falls on them rather than the people that buy that product. And then we also support sharing models and models that are designed for durability. So, you know, things like modular approaches, or products that are easy to repair or get the components out.
So, you could, yeah, rather than making items that are basically impossible to repair, we support companies that are looking at alternatives to that. And then also resource recovery. So, making products out of things that already exist, rather than mining for virgin materials.
We focus on five areas at LWARB, so five material areas, and that’s food, built environments, textiles, plastic and electricals. So, within those five areas, we have lots of different work streams and activities and projects happening, which cover all sorts of things. So, for example, for built environment, we have a huge project called Circuits, which is a really big international project. And that is looking at how you could make the built environment in urban environments more circular.
With food, we have loads going on as well. So, we have our food flagship initiative, which is a big three year project. We’ve worked on behaviour change campaigns before as well. So, a couple of years ago, I was working on an EU funded campaign, which was basically looking at, I guess it was more of a comms campaign. But that one was looking at three elements. So healthy and sustainable food, waste prevention, and recycling and composting end of life. So, we basically created a campaign and delivered it in eight different boroughs across London, and tried to explain and inspire Londoners with like practical tips that they could take away, but also trying to get them to understand why doing these acts are important.
And we are also basically just starting out on a couple of new projects as well. So, another EU funded campaign called food wave, which we’ll be looking at reaching young people and kind of creating youth activists. So that campaign will be teaching them what the links are between wasting food and climate change, educating them, giving them skills to be activists and then going out there and spreading the word. So that’s also an International project. So yeah, I guess, whatever we do in London, we want to create London as, a beacon, I guess. So that we can show that all these great initiatives are things that we are leading on. And then we also work a lot with international partners in different cities to share information and show what we’re doing and demonstrate what we’re doing and basically give others the knowledge to replicate what they’re doing in their cities. So, yeah, I could go I could go on for ages, but I guess a few things that are actually in development are; we are creating a training academy, so a circular economy training academy.
So that will be all about creating a programme where we basically have the latest research, and we give others the skills to learn and then take away that that research and implement what they know into their programmes in their in their organisations. We are creating a circular economy directory. So, for that we’ll be collating information about all the products and services in London that are circular, and creating kind of a central hub, which we can then promote to citizens and other businesses, as well so that we kind of promote all the great stuff that’s happening. And also, just raise awareness that, you know, loads of these really cool new business models and products are out there. But a lot of people haven’t heard of them and aren’t really aware. And the other thing that we’re also involved in is a research programme. So we’re collating all the research that has been done already in this field, and hopefully, from that, we’ll have a hub of information and knowledge, and we can share that knowledge and basically pass on the skills that that we have. So yeah, I think that probably covers most of that.
Above images; Showing some of the activities of LWARB
So, I’m sure like many other businesses and organisations, the pandemic has affected all of your work. How has it, you know, slowed progress or taken you in a different direction?
Oh, well, we all seem as busy as ever. So, I don’t think it’s affected us in that sense, but it’s definitely changed our priorities. And so, for me, especially for the local authority support team, last March, we had the next few months of activity planned out, and we kind of had to put everything on pause and focus completely on COVID. So, with COVID, we actually we actually did a lot for that.
So, for the London recycles campaign I worked on, we collaborated with local authorities in London, and the Mayor of London and other stakeholders to see exactly what was happening, how waste was being affected, if services were being affected. And from that, condensing all the information down into five key messages, which we then went out with Londoners with these five messages, and basically helped them to understand what was happening, if their services were being affected, and showing them what they could do to help. So, what we saw, definitely a lot more during the first lockdown was that the commercial services were really badly affected, because all of a sudden, all the offices were closed. And so the commercial services, all of a sudden, they had hardly any waste to collect, whereas the council services, all of a sudden, they were drowning under lots more waste being created as people were at home. So, we help to provide a platform, like a resource sharing platform, where commercial services could say what availability they had in terms of like spare vehicles or spare staff and local authorities could go on there and say like: Oh, well, we need, you know, this many people to help us because like, you know, our staff are sick, or they’re on furlough or whatever it would be. And so, we helped to set that up and help in that sense. And since then, we’ve created commercial toolkits. So, it’s basically a waste adaptation toolkit for commercial services that are probably still being quite badly affected. And we’ve also produced a London Learning Toolkit. So, all the lessons from the first lockdown, we put them into a document so that should the situation happen again, which it has done, local authorities can download that toolkit and see the lessons and potentially see if we can help them in any way or if they can implement any of those learnings into their services. And for the comms campaign that I did, we made all the creatives that we produce, we made them accessible to anyone, so they can go on our website and download them and use them as they wish. So, it’s definitely been very busy but just I guess, busy in a new way.
And could you tell us a bit about sort of the London Waste and Recycling Board’s business plan going forward into 2021? To 2025? Because a lot of what you do is business plans for London and the organizations.
Yes. So, our business plan; it covers from 2020 to 2025. Our focus is very much on reducing consumption-based emissions. So, that is at the core of our plan. And the way we intend to do this in London, is to put a renewed emphasis on reducing waste, and also reinvigorating recycling. So, I guess pretty much everything we do kind of drills down to reduce waste, reinvigorate recycling, and also focus on the circular economy principles, so that we can accelerate the transition in that sense.
I guess the way that came about was an Ellen MacArthur report that came out probably a couple of years ago. Now. In that report, it showed that 45% of global carbon emissions come from the management of land and the production of things. So basically, all the stuff around us, so not just products, but also the foods that we consume. And the other 55% is energy. So, we felt that the energy kind of side of things, is, you know, there’s been a lot of focus on that, lots of organisations are really focusing on net zero and zero emissions. And there’s loads going on in that space, but there hasn’t been as much focus on consumption-based emissions. And that’s basically half of all emissions. So, if we don’t do anything to tackle, you know, our attitude to the stuff that we have all around us, then we just won’t meet those targets, to cap emissions at 1.5 degrees.
So, with the 45%, the way that we can tackle that is through the circle economy, because that is all about new ways of creating stuff, and different, like alternative business models. So, you know, going away from the taking, the making, the disposing, and taking, moving away from the idea that you need to buy and own all your stuff, and moving more towards a future where we have different relationships with the things around us. So, we could actually release ourselves from the burden of ownership, and actually have the freedom of renting or leasing, or sharing what we have.
So yeah, that’s, that’s what our focus will be on. And with our business and sector support, that’s a lot of the focus will be on supporting those innovative companies and start-ups. But there’s a lot of work that we’re doing, which is looking at the policy drivers, and ways to actually create new policies and implement those because, you know, it’s basically, to create this, this future is going to take a lot of different things. And we need basically a radical shift to a new way of doing things. So, we can’t just focus on supporting those new businesses, we also need to look at the policy drivers and interventions and the behaviour change. So yeah, I guess it’s a focus on systems change, behaviour change, and then supporting those innovative innovators. So yeah, it’s quite exciting. And I think this year, especially has been, it’s kind of raised a lot of awareness in the general population, as well, of how things need to change, and it’s a really good opportunity, I guess, because everything’s kind of been on pause for the last year and so now is the really good opportunity to stop and take stock and make plans for a green recovery. So, coming out of this, our intention is to help London become a greener city and a fairer city. So, yeah, quite exciting, actually.
Really nice sort of inspiring note to end on. So, if our listeners want to find out more about you and the things that the London Waste and Recycling Board are doing, how can they get in touch?
So, we have our website, which is lwarb.gov.uk. We also are on Twitter, which is @lwarb. And on our website, we have a contact form. So yeah, people can go on there and find our email or phone number. Actually, we also on there we have a circular economy podcast, if that’s of interest. It’s called the Circle Economy Playbook. And on there, we interview different organisations that we’ve worked with and just generally talk about circular economies. So that might be of interest to some people.
Fantastic. Well, thank you for all of the information that you’ve shared with us today and for joining us.
Thank you. Thanks for having me.