What do the FIFA World Cup and recycling have in common?


Whether you’re a fan of the round ball or not, it’s difficult not to get pulled into the passion that surrounds the FIFA World Cup. It’s great to wave the flag and shout out about the national team.

This year, there’s already been fast-paced exciting play, great teamwork and good-quality football. And, even though football is an everyday talking point for fans, the World Cup elevates the game for many more of us.

I see analogies here with the future of recycling (and waste) in the UK. Recycling has been with us a lot longer than football, but its development in recent years has outpaced the beautiful game, with technological innovations such as vehicle tracking, material recognition devices and recycling robots equipped with artificial intelligence. Now, similarly to how we use goal-line technology in football, we need to start reviewing what we’re doing with waste, whether we are making the right decisions, and how we can recycle better.

We are all users of recycling services, but often, both at home and work, it’s in the background. While many think of recycling as just another way of disposing of unwanted products, an increasing number of businesses are looking at how they can help make a real difference to the future – how to make raw materials work better, achieving sustainable outcomes and reducing the cost of products. In recycling, this is known as the circular economy  and, much the same as the World Cup, it’s getting global engagement. This is important as we approach Brexit, because the UK needs to trade more both inside and outside of Europe. There are many opportunities to export worldwide if we get the quality right. Nobody wants a second rate product and this is true in recycling. Getting the best out of waste material starts at its source – and this is why we all need to be engaged, working together as a team, at home, work and as a wider network of businesses. Team spirit can make all the difference to winning or losing.

What can we all gain? It’s easy to see where we can score goals. Recycling conserves our natural resources, and using recycled materials reduces the cost of the products we buy, as well as cutting down the energy and water used to manufacture new products. For all of us, recycling helps protect the environment. To add another point on the scoreboard – it also has a real feel-good factor.

We are all players on this global field, our blue and green, round planet. We can all make a difference. So, we can either kick the ball around with little effort or, even worse, score an own goal. Or, we can aim high for the other end’s net, and start scoring win after win.  Let’s choose the latter – let’s recycle rather than send to landfill, make new out of old, and let’s keep that waste out of our oceans. It’s our turn now, so it’s time to do this right, and positively set up the game for tomorrow.

Foot(ball)note: The Japanese football fans gave us a real display of great cultural behaviour, when they cleaned up waste and recycling from their stand, following each match they’ve played so far. It would be a game changer if we all did the same.


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