VIDEO: Lucy Siegle calls for waste industry to sell itself better to the public

BBC's The One Show Lucy Siegle spoke about society's relationship with waste in a keynote speech at Birmingham's RWM exhibition this week, saying that there was still a lot of work to do around public perception and consumer responsibility.

Siegle, a well known environmental champion and journalist, said there was “so much mileage in waste” but that the industry needed to promote itself better to the wider world if it wanted to encourage people to see the value in viewing it as a resource.

“We all generate waste but are very bad at owning up to it. People view waste as a hassle, it annoys them … but consumers have a responsibility for what they buy and how they drive the market,” she told delegates.

She said the “mystical phrases” used within the waste industry such as ‘waste hierarchy’ and ‘waste arisings’ weren’t helpful when it came to public communications. “It’s very difficult to relay this to the public, it’s really hard to sell [waste] stories – I do it by saying it’s a pressing global environmental issue.”

Part of the problem, she added, was society’s deep psychological relationship with waste, one which is commonly associated with dirt, filth and embarrassment. Coupled with that is a general malaise with green issues.

“The green movement is still seen as a bit sad – a bit ‘knit your own tofu’ – people in the mainstream are turned off by it so I’ve stopped trying to make green issues cool, I just try to make them acceptable.”

Siegle added however that there was growing consumer awareness around packaging issues and that the next step on from this was to focus on waste minisimation and reuse through product design.

Referring specifically to the fashion industry, she said that many designers were “still designing for landfill” and that this needed to change. “A lot of fashion is designed from composite fibres which are not fit for disassembly, it is very difficult to reclaim those materials.”

To address this, Siegle said she was currently working with a number of fashion designers to promote more textiles upcycling.

Maxine Perella

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