by David Smith
I grew up in the United Kingdom at a time when environmental affairs were far from the top of people’s agendas. The country faced concerns during the 1970s and 80s that were considered far more pressing than the conservation of natural resources or the appropriate recycling of waste. I was always conscious of adhering to environmentally friendly practices. As a child, I remember looking out ruefully at a top-heavy landfill site along the road near my home, wanting to do something about it but unable to think of anything I could do that would not end in my arrest for trespassing.
Noticing this site and experiencing the less-than-green attitudes of others in my community made me all the more determined to educate myself further about eco-friendly waste disposal. I wanted to try to persuade others to change their perceptions and actions. I convinced my family to set up a designated bin for recycling at home, and I continued this practice when I moved to a residence of my own. Within a few months, we found that our waste disposal bills reduced significantly because we were sending less waste to landfill sites. Visitors to our home would notice the separation of general and recyclable waste and would naturally inquire, so when we enlightened them about our waste disposal habits, they seemed genuinely interested. Some declared an intention to follow suit in their own homes.
I worked as a janitor in schools and volunteered with environmentally oriented community groups in my early adulthood, but in the early 2000s, I decided that I wanted to implement eco-friendly practices in my work. This led me to founding The Cleaning Services Group. When assembling the team for the company, I wanted applicants to show me that they were as passionate about environmentally friendly practices as I was. In everything we do, we are committed to disposing of waste in the correct manner. This isn’t something I’ve had to drill into the team. I hire individuals who hold this mindset naturally and demonstrate it in every assignment they undertake. Some of the eco-friendly initiatives used in our company include:
- The incorporation of microfibre technology to eliminate the need for chemicals insofar as possible.
- The use of paper products and bin liners from sustainable sources only.
- The inclusion of environmental responsibilities in employee inductions.
- The placement of a chemical spill clean-up guide where cleaners’ rooms are provided.
- The use of new technologies whereby chemical and water usage can be reduced.
At home, I have raised my children on eco-friendly practices, including a compost station in addition to the recycling options I had in my childhood home. The commitment to greener waste disposal is being passed on to another generation. Thankfully, schools are doing infinitely more today to educate pupils on environmental issues than they did in my school days.
A few weeks ago, I visited my parents’ home and drove along a stretch of road that I knew from my childhood. When I drove past the landfill mentioned above, I noticed the site is still there, but it is now a well-maintained facility where the volumes of waste are far less conspicuous than they had been 20-30 years ago. I continued on my drive a very happy man in seeing that waste disposal activities have evolved to a point I could only dream of in my childhood days.
That drive to my parents’ home, and the long-standing desire to educate others as to eco-friendly waste disposal practices, inspired me to create an infographic on what happens to the different types of waste after we have finished using them (see below). For instance, medical waste is no longer just lumped into a landfill along with everyday household rubbish. I produced the infographic in the hope that it would spark the interest of people who write about environmental topics, as well as educating children in schools (and indeed university students in relevant courses) on this important topic.
When I advocated eco-friendly waste disposal and recycling as a school student, I was the voice of a maligned minority. Today’s schoolchildren are adopting such beliefs naturally, with the willful encouragement of teachers, and that is so refreshing to see. I no longer feel in the minority.
Bio: David Smith is the owner of Cleaning Services Group in the United Kingdom. For more than 15 years, he has run one of Britain’s most diverse and reputable cleaning companies, in addition to writing regularly about industrial cleaning topics. He created this infographic for people to use, so feel free to use it, as long as you give him credit.