The Bioregional Development Group is an entrepreneurial, independent organisation that develops commercially viable products and services. The aim of Bioregional is to demonstrate that it is possible to significantly reduce our ecological footprint in areas such as wood products, paper, textiles, food, transport and housing to a sustainable level, and maintain a high quality of life.
Particularly aimed at improving the rates of small businesses, the scheme is based on the idea of a traditional laundry service. Businesses fill plastic sacks with their dirty office paper and cardboard waste, which is collected each week by The Laundry team.
The waste paper is then taken to M-reals New Thames Recycling Mill in Sittingbourne, Kent. Here it is turned into the 100% recovered paper brand Evolve. Companies recycling with The Laundry can then buy back their cleaned up paper at a discounted price.
The Laundry launched in Soho in June 2003 and now more than 290 businesses in the central London area are using the groups facilities, generating a collection of 3.8 tonnes of office paper and cardboard waste every week. Project manager Ben Maxwell says: With no minimum pick-up requirements, The Laundry operates a flexible recycling scheme that is suitable even for the smallest businesses and which is less expensive than throwing it away as commercial waste with the council. We have already improved the local office paper recycling rates because none of the companies that are now using The Laundry recycled before.
Maxwell says that what really makes the scheme stand out is that it is trying to close the recycling loop. The Laundry not only picks up the paper waste but also works closely with paper manufacturer M-real and Osman stationers to encourage businesses to buy back a 100% recycled brand, which in turn can then be recycled again and again. The Evolve range, which comprises Evolve Business and Evolve Office, is totally chlorine-free and uses biodegradable soaps.
The system behind The Laundry is incredibly simple. Companies get their blue laundry sacks from The Laundry, which cost 55p each, and fill them with all types of paper, including envelopes, magazines and Post-it notes, and leave the sacks in the doorway outside the office and The Laundry then picks up the sacks. If an office is recycling cardboard, they just create a bundle and put a blue Laundry sticker (also 55p) on each bundle.
Seventy percent of The Laundrys target market was graphic designers, advertising agencies, marketing consultants and PR agencies. Research carried out by The Laundry showed that these companies were not recycling because they were cynical about the whole process and did not value the environmental justifications. Subsequently, the organisation chose not to mention the environment in their promotion. By using an irreverent tone, The Laundry has sought to de-worthy recycling and the strapline detox for paper reinforces this concept.
However, getting businesses involved in the scheme in the first place has clearly had the desired effect of making them think about how much waste they are generating and also about sourcing material responsibly in the first place.
The days when recycling was simply trendy have long gone, says Paul OShaughnessy, key account manager at M-real UK. People now appreciate the importance of reusing materials in order to support sustainability and divert some of the south-east paper waste from landfill. We are delighted to be working with the team from The Laundry, which is helping to change the way companies think and support their move towards recycled pro