I came to West London Waste Authority (WLWA) for work experience as I am interested in pursuing a career within the sustainability and environment sector, and with university applications looming, I wanted to be certain this was something I was interested in so I spent a few days in August with the Waste Minimisation Team.
It’s easy to throw something in the bin without thinking about what will happen to it or where it will go, and I’m sure we have all been guilty of throwing something away which could have been recycled, or forgetting to take a bag to the shop and having to ask for a plastic one. Before coming to West London Waste Authority, I had no idea about how much effort went into changing attitudes towards waste and educating the public about reducing, reusing and recycling their rubbish.
Taking part in one of their library tours I noticed how many people were unaware of all the different materials that can be recycled. What I personally found most fascinating was the concept of reusable nappies. At first, I incorrectly assumed that these would be unsanitary, but on closer inspection I realised this was ingenious and actually very hygienic. Nappy waste costs £700,000 to bury or burn each year, so making the switch to reusable has financial benefits as well as environmental. The kits are free for loan to west London residents, to show them what a great idea it is! This is just one of the handy products WLWA are promoting, another being a spaghetti measurer, which helps residents to reduce food waste at home.
During my work experience I also attended a swish event. I learnt that textiles are a key waste stream to reduce and recycle due to the high carbon content and resource-intensive nature of the industry.
Clothes swapping was completely new to me, but seeing clothes that could have ended up in landfill being given a second chance had me converted, and I hope to attend the next swish event! WLWA also give out lots of tips and facts on caring for your clothes and even offer free sewing workshops to teach residents sewing skills.
On my third day of work experience, I was given a tour of Transport Avenue. This is where waste for all 6 boroughs of west London is deposited and taken away to the SERC plant near Bristol. The amount of waste left here was staggering, and it was shocking to see things that could have easily been recycled or reused being sent to landfill or incineration.
Overall, I have a much better understanding of how waste is managed, and I have learned that it is everyone’s responsibility to reduce, reuse and recycle their waste when they can. I also believe that attitudes towards waste will change with all the work WLWA are doing, including all the events such as swishes, sewing classes and library tours!
Author: Leila Gunnewicht
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