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Cardboard to Caviar

Challenge

Close the recycling loop for waste cardboard in a fully sustainable business model.

Problem

With the introduction of The Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 1997, the Green Business Network (GBN) recognised a need to deal with a large amount of cardboard packaging waste that was previously going to landfill.

Solution

The ABLE (Andrew Barker Lepton Employment) Project was set up to deal with cardboard recycling while at the same time providing employment opportunities for young people with a history of substance misuse from the Wakefield area.

Trials into the shredding of cardboard and using this for animal bedding proved to be very successful, and it was then found that once mixed with manure the cardboard bedding was ideal for composting. A composting operation at Huddersfield Community Farm was set up, which combined both bedding use, and composting in a specially constructed wormery.

Vocational Enterprises, an organisation providing sheltered employment opportunities to disadvantaged groups, agreed to house and staff a shredding machine and supplied the Community Farm with bedding.

This scheme was subsequently replicated and expanded, both at ABLE and at the Ponderosa Rural Therapeutic Centre, where the compost is used in the horticultural area to grow food for the trainees’ lunch. Excess worms are fed to the fish in Ponderosas large fish ponds.

The idea for the ABLE project was to take this recycling one step further, by creating a sustainable use for the used animal bedding. Following the donation of a site at Lepton Equestrian Centre, near Huddersfield, a pilot project was set up. Composting beds were established, using worms to break down the soiled cardboard. An innovative fish tank system was set up to produce fish (Siberian Sturgeon) that would eat the excess worms from the composting beds. When the Sturgeon reached an appropriate size they would be harvested and sold as food for human consumption, with some being raised to sexual maturity with the long-term ultimate objective of producing caviar. Hence the scheme’s nickname: From Cardboard to Caviar.

During the initial pilot phase of the project, 10 trainees with a background of substance misuse benefited from a full-time employment opportunity for a period of 12 months. During this time they gained work experience and marketable work skills in a supportive environment. Yorkshire Water were so impressed by the pilot project that they offered the 34-acre site at Caldervale sewage treatment works on which work progressed in August 2003, and where the project is now based.

Benefits

Value added to various waste streams
Societal benefits through new employment opportunities to disadvantaged people
Reducing the volumes of waste going to landfill
Saving money for both local businesses and Huddersfield Community Farm
Revenue generated from the sale of waste derived products (compost, plant-food, and worms to local anglers)

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