World Environment Day: Perceptions are Changing

05 June 2018 by Antony Gerken

When I was younger, “Environmentalists” were seen as wacky modern-day “tree hugging hippies”, all “as high-as-a-kite” with names like “Swampy” or “Ocean” who protested against second runways and large corporations (I remember Coronation Street having a bloke called “Spider”, who was nothing more than an anarchist who had a problem with any kind of authority figure but who they dressed up as an “Environmentalist”). Now almost everyone seems to be an environmentalist in some shape or form.

Governments have key, headline environmental policies. The UK has a clear and unambiguous 25-year environmental plan, aiming to reduce plastic waste to zero by 2042 and phase out petrol and diesel cars by 2040. Clean air zones, such as the one which has been in force in London for the past few years, are to be the norm in major cities in the next year or two. Every major political party has an environmental representative and strategy; it is widely accepted that environmental issues are of great national and international importance.

Every large organisation has an environmental policy, most have direct environmental strategies. Here at CSG, we take environmental protection and sustainability very seriously. We have a number of environmental specialists (such as myself) employed to ensure our operations not only maintain environmental standards but also help to improve them. In line with the waste hierarchy we aim to follow; Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Recover and Regulate.

Some of our processes that require the most input are:

  • Treating hazardous chemicals, recycling what can be recovered and sending anything we can’t process for onward treatment to a suitable facility.
  • Collecting and treating oily waters, recover the oil and send the cleansed effluent for further treatment to a wastewater treatment works. This is then further cleansed to allow safe discharge back into the water cycle.
  • We operate a large fleet of HGVs but have dedicated staff constantly monitoring performance, saving fuel wherever possible. We use a mix of an electronic PDA system and local knowledge to ascertain the best routes, ensuring our fleet is routed efficiently all day, every day.

It is now possible that you could call any one of us an Environmentalist; An office worker on the way to work, taking a reusable coffee cup into Starbucks; A mother concerned about intensive meat and poultry farming and introducing more ethical, vegetarian or vegan meal options for the family; A company director choosing their new company vehicle and opting for a hybrid; Or one of the many millions of us that watched Blue Planet 2 and became influenced by the ground-breaking documentary to the devastating impact of plastic and are now swapping plastic bags for reusable ones and our plastic straws for paper ones; They are a part of the UK population which cut its disposable plastic bag usage by 83% in 2016-17 compared to the year before!

Perceptions are changing. Environmentalists… we, are driving forward sustainable development in government, business and in households. They are no longer called “Swampy” – they are your neighbours, colleagues, friends and family. Environmentalists are you and they are me.

We are now at the point where even more can be done. Log burners – although incredibly fashionable – are contributing to poor air quality. Old diesel cars could be traded in for newer, more efficient models (or preferably hybrids!). Food waste is also an important topic; the UK still wastes over £13bn a year on food which does not get eaten. Though these issues are being addressed through government, we need to embrace them and address them ourselves.

So from one Environmentalist to all of the others out there – Happy World Environment Day! This is our world, and our environment. There’s much more to be done but for now, keep up the good work!

Antony Gerken, Permitting and Compliance Manager for CSG