Charity Branch Out to make cash out of trash

SIXTY per cent of all our household waste can be recycled or composted. Yet across the country we re-use less than 20 per cent. Each tonne of recycled paper could save 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, three cubic yards of landfill space and 7,000 gallons of

SIXTY per cent of all our household waste can be recycled or composted. Yet across the country we re-use less than 20 per cent.

Each tonne of recycled paper could save 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, three cubic yards of landfill space and 7,000 gallons of water.

Now, with district and county councils nation-wide facing heavy penalties for filling up the rubbish tips, the race is on to get us all to become environmentally friendly.

An army of Cambridgeshire's recycling volunteers are already helping to cut the county's waste mountain and many householders are visiting the bottle and newspaper banks.

LESLEY INNES looks at the drive to go green which is saving money, making money and improving the environment.

TEN years ago Littleport's Branching Out charity began turning rubbish into cash.

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Now their recycling services bring in £8,000 each year to support the centre, which helps 37 people with learning difficulties.

By recycling aluminium drinks cans the students have been able to finance a whole range of projects, from providing a holiday to paying for sports equipment.

They take control of the funds and decide amongst themselves how the cash should be allocated giving them their own independence.

The charity also looks after bottle banks around the district, including those at the Angel Drove Tesco store, recycles newspapers and catalogues, computers and collects clothing, bric-a-brac and furniture for its charity shop.

Students make composting bins and recycle disused wood supplied by local companies which is turned into kindling or logs.

The cash helps to support the centre and provide facilities for the students.

"Without this extra money we would have been facing extreme difficulties," said Branching Out general manager, Susan Wiggans. "It gives students a feeling of being part of the community and gives them some independence."

Across Cambridgeshire, 220 residents have been trained and actively work as part of the county council's Master Composter Programme.

It was set up five years ago and aims to encourage home composting to reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill sites.

Since its launch, more than 6,750 compost bins have been sold at subsidised prices and the recycling rate in the county has almost doubled from 22 per cent in 2001 to 43 per cent in 2005.

The scheme has been acknowledged nationally by the Compost Association with two awards in 2002 and 2005 and internationally by the Green Organisation with two Green Apple awards in 2004 and 2005.

Now Cambridgeshire County Council and its partner, Garden Organic, has recognised the efforts of the volunteers with a special birthday party including a cake in the shape of a compost bin.

Sutton Master Composter Joy Owen was one of the first to join the scheme.

She combines the role with her job as a charity care support worker and spends on average two hours a week encouraging villagers to recycle.

Joy has held talks with Sutton Conservation Society and organised a recycling stall at the village cricket ground, urging villagers to be more environmentally friendly.

"I am very interested in recycling and composting and thought this was a good idea," she said. "Now, because people know I am a Master Composter, they come to me with their questions.

"Mepal School got in touch recently saying pupils were reluctant to put their apple cores onto their compost heap because it was wet and smelly. I encouraged them to use shredded paper to soak up some of the moisture."

Cambridgeshire County Council waste policy manager, Mark Shelton, said: "The Master Composter volunteers provide us with an invaluable resource to reduce the amounts of waste generated in the county. The stricter targets on organise waste, which Cambridgeshire now has, will only be achieved if more composting is done at home and we use the kerbside bins and bags for food waste and garden trimmings.

"It's a time to celebrate the efforts of enthusiastic residents who are so committed to making their communities a better place to live."

# Making recycled paper instead of new paper uses 64 per cent less energy and 58 per cent less water.

# Every day American businesses generate enough paper to circle the earth 20 times.

# One tree can filter up to 60 pounds of pollutants from the air each year.

# In Britain, more than nine million disposable nappies are used every day.

# Only one per cent of the world's water supply is usable - 97 per cent is in the sea and two per cent is frozen.

# Battery maker Duracell built its new international headquarters using materials from its own waste. Flooring is made from crushed glass and broken light bulbs, ceiling tiles from recycled newspapers and roofing from recycled aluminium.

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