Creative approaches to recycling: Manchester’s war on waste

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If you’ve been on Oxford Road recently you can’t have missed the eleven giant coffee cups which have been installed there for recycling drinks cups.

Taking on the oft-chucked coffee cup is a big thing. On average, 272,602 disposable paper cups are used every day in Manchester, playing a big part in the littering problem which costs the council £7.5m every year.

Launched by the charity Hubbub last week, the coffee cup bins will prevent up to 20,000 paper cups ending up in landfill and put them to good use. The cups will be converted into a unique polymer and turned into 15,000 plastic flower pot holders for community use.

The coffee cups are just one example of how people and businesses are becoming more responsible with their rubbish.

Beer Nouveau, which used to be the smallest commercial brewery in England before it moved to larger premises, was “All built from what would otherwise be scrap,” according to owner Steve Dunkley.

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“The hot liquor tanks, mash tuns, coppers and fermenters were all made from eco-kegs to start with,” says Steve.  “They’re single-use kegs and pubs had no way of getting rid of them, so I took them off their hands and built the brew kit out of them.

“The insulation on the mash tuns was bubble wrap and those heat blankets you get when you’ve done a 10km run. The benches were also made out of old pallets and fence panels, and the insulation on the wall was being thrown out by another brewery.

“It was a very good move for us as it meant we were able to go commercial on a very limited budget. We didn’t have to get investors in to help buy big shiny kit.”

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Steve still uses the original tiny brewery for test batches – and incorporates recycling in the bar area.

“The tables are old pallets with broken casks as their legs, the bar is old pallets and someone’s roof panel. We’ve not tried to hide this – we’ve made it a feature!”

Other Manchester brewers and bars are also embracing recycling. Bark MCR is a live music promoter which built its new bar using bits of palates and salvaged wood. And Northern Quarter pub Gullivers have used old beer bottles as part of their light fittings.

When it comes to food, the Real Junk Food Project takes food that would otherwise be thrown away and, with the help of staff, volunteers and chefs like award-winning Mary-Ellen McTague, create delicious meals at pop-ups and collaborations at venues across the city – and are aiming to open their own cafe.

There are even plans for a waste beer in collaboration with Beer Nouveau. There has been positive response to a test batch which means that you could be enjoying a pint before too long.

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