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A hop, skip and a jump to a greener way of life

The journey to carbon neutral

I’m writing this article in the shadow of the recently aired BBC 1 show, ‘Extinction – The Facts’, writes Alan Rance MICME of Midas Pattern Company Ltd. This UK terrestrial channel has again given a primetime slot to Sir David Attenborough who, along with numerous scientists and distinguished experts, succinctly describes how approximately one million species of insects, plants and animals are on the brink of extinction, a fact reiterated and reported two days later by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

I note these events because Attenborough’s previous explanation – ‘Climate Change – The Facts’ is the reason that the #MidasGreenInitiative began back in April 2019, It was the impact that programme had on me that caused me to change my life both personally and professionally, it inspired me to prove that any manufacturing business, even one that could be conceived to be  ‘environmentally unacceptable’ (we manufacture large polyurethane castings), can be a force for inspiration and change when it comes to tackling climate change and therefore carbon emissions.

Sadly ‘Extinction – The Facts’ had no similarly positive effect on me, it was a distressing and polarising reminder that neither climate change nor species extinction can be reversed unless governments around the world put these issues at the top of their agendas, and I don’t see this happening any time soon!

However, that doesn’t stop individuals and businesses doing everything they can in the absence of positive leadership; indeed the one thing that seeing the horrendous potential for global ecological loss inspired me to do was not to sit back and accept what may be inevitable, but to drive on the changes at Midas that prove businesses can become carbon neutral. Additionally, it is crucial that we use the ‘green platform’ we have created to do our very best every day to raise the issue of climate awareness and show what can be done by responsible caring individuals if they #ActNow!

A common thread that runs through carbon reduction projects is the positive financial benefits that arise when processes are reviewed from both carbon and environmentally responsible perspectives. A great example of this happened at Midas very early on in our green journey, when not only were we able to make a huge environmental difference overnight, but we made changes that impacted our bottom line immediately and continued to drive and inspire further ongoing improvements within our business.

At Midas we ship over 2,000 precision polyurethane mouldings every month, which have always been packaged by wrapping in plastic bags, foam sheet and bubble wrap and then put into cardboard boxes sealed with vinyl packing tape. One of the first initiatives we pushed through was the eradication of single use plastics. Consequently, vending machine cups, mixers, spoons, stirrers, bin liners, plastic sacks etc. were quickly highlighted, but it was obvious our packaging was a major problem.

The solution was simple – we have a huge amount of cardboard coming into Midas so why not repurpose that, paper based solutions are already available? Materials like brown paper replaced packing foam, biodegradable starch bags replaced plastic bags, paper tape replaced vinyl tape, so why not just ‘change everything’? Not only does it ‘green’ our packaging overnight, it sends a very clear message into our customer base, ‘we can do this so what’s stopping you?’

We bought a large industrial cardboard shredder and two large capacity paper shredders, all incoming cardboard was reprocessed into bulk fill ballast, all waste paper and magazines etc. were shredded and used as fill media in biodegradable bags, we told our neighbours and they happily gifted us their waste cardboard and that was it, within a month (July 2019) we had completely replaced all bubble wrap and plastic packaging in our process, with a sustainable, green, responsible alternative. Costs for tape and paper were comparable BUT we stopped purchasing approximately 40 large rolls of plastic bubble wrap/foam a month and replaced it with shredded media that was FREE, that equated to roughly £2,000.00 per month! Payback on the shredders came within six months and from there we put all that saving straight onto the profit margin. Net result: we demonstrated our green intent and inspired customers to ‘Think Green’ and we saved £24,000.00 pa!

The nice thing is it didn’t stop there, by thinking responsibly we saved money, that made us look further afield. Like most businesses we use a local company to take away a skip that contains general waste, even though none of that waste goes to landfill (it is all recycled or burnt for RDF – refuse derived fuel), we still had to empty our skip once a week. Now that we were shredding all of our cardboard, our waste volume reduced dramatically, we were able to reduce the skip empty to once every two weeks, that saved the cost of one lift (approximately £130.00 week) and it saved one 50-mile round trip for a carbon intensive and air polluting skip lorry!

Even though we were very happy with a 50 per cent reduction in waste volume and lorry movements, we didn’t stop there, we thought if we could reduce the volume in our skip even further we could potentially reduce the number of lifts to one per month, how to do that? We researched and trialled a number of waste compactors, after a couple of months we invested in a waste compactor/baler that sat between the factory and the skip. All waste was compressed before being loaded into the skip and there it was, carefully loaded bails of compacted waste optimised the skip capacity and we had it –

one lift per month was possible. We saved around £400.00 per month on skip lifts and saw payback on the bailer within a year, but most importantly we reduced the number of skip lorry journeys by 75 per cent, another massive win for the #midasgreeninitiative and another great example of what can be done when you make the effort to #actnow.

Alan Rance MICME, Midas Pattern Company Ltd web: www.midas-pattern.co.uk