Every kilogram of waste that ends up in the incinerator releases CO2. And this is exactly where Markus Kämpfer, CEO of werecycle.ch, sees potential to sustainably manage finite resources. Because lots of waste that is sent for incineration does not actually belong there. According to Kämpfer, a considerable amount of the material in circulation could be recycled. And he doesn’t just mean PET and glass containers, batteries or disused electronics, which are already diligently collected and recycled in Switzerland. In the interview he explains where there is still need for action and how companies can do their bit to protect the environment by recycling.
Recycling in business – every kilogram counts
It’s not just at home that waste piles up which shouldn’t just be dumped in the bin. Companies also have great potential when it comes to managing resources sustainably. Markus Kämpfer, CEO of werecycle.ch, explains why every kilogram counts with recycling – not least as part of corporate responsibility.
In Switzerland, we already assiduously collect PET, glass and batteries. In which areas do we have catching up to do with recycling?
Markus Kämpfer: in everyday life, everywhere Let’s just say a medium-sized company sets up a new workplace and has also ordered a new computer. In nine out of ten cases, plastic film and the polystyrene from the packaging end up in the bin. These could just as easily be collected, reprocessed and used again. Packaging from lunch or the empty washing-up liquid bottle can become valuable items to collect too. Separated according to type, plastic can be processed at recycling plants into so-called ‘regrind’ and reused in the form of pipes, containers or bags.
Let’s take a moment to think about things we should be better at recycling: what else doesn’t belong in the bin?
All drinks cartons. We have a state-of-the-art recycling plant for this in Switzerland, but it is not working to capacity because we don’t collect enough drinks cartons. As a result, the operating company frequently has to import material from abroad. Small items of electronic waste, such as cables or mobile phones, are also an area where we can improve. While the return of computers, printers and other larger electronic equipment works well, the small things are often thrown away.
Why is it that much of what ought to be recycled ends up in the rubbish?
Ignorance as a factor Take the example of plastics: many people are not even aware of which plastics can be recycled. Convenience is a factor too Because it is easier to dump waste in the bin without thinking about it than it is to collect, separate, and take it to a disposal point.
In your experience, how important are environmental issues for Swiss companies?
The issue of ecology and sustainability is undoubtedly one of the mega-trends of the present time and will remain so in the foreseeable future. Modern, innovative companies can actually no longer afford to not care about their ecological footprint. More and more customers, as well as employees, are incorporating such considerations into the decision-making process when selecting a product or company. While sustainability strategies have already been implemented in larger companies in many places, smaller companies often find it difficult to come up with viable approaches. We offer an easy way to get started.
The customer takes out a subscription with us, receives recycling bags or containers in the required size and throws all their recyclable materials in without the need to sort – from small items of electronic waste, PET, coffee capsules and drinks cartons to lamps, printer cartridges or plastic containers. Or even aluminium foil, the plastic salad bowl from lunch or an empty chip bag. The filled up bags or containers are then collected on-site and delivered to our partners, who expertly separate the material and deliver it to the appropriate recycling processing facilities. This means that the customer does not have to separate the waste or take it for disposal.
Is recycling not a drop in the ocean?
No. Every kilogram of waste that is sent for recycling rather than incineration saves resources. One kilo of burnt plastic destroys around one litre of oil and also releases around three kilos of CO2. Particularly in Switzerland, one of the richest countries in the world, we have an obligation to deal carefully with finite resources, and this begins on a small scale. Just carelessly incinerating waste, because it does not seem worthwhile separating it, cannot be an option. It’s about changing attitudes – and this is where individuals as well as companies can make a contribution.
About Markus Kämpfer
Markus Kämpfer has been CEO of Recycling Services AG – which offers a collection service for unseparated recycling material with werecycle.ch – since October 2018. The company was founded in 2015 as a start-up by three students from Eastern Switzerland.