Park­ing with bot­tles

The Guardian Weekly - - Inside - By Dave Simpson

It seems a great idea: take plas­tic bot­tles along to a car park to re­cy­cle, help rid the world of pol­lu­tion and get money off the cost of park­ing. This is the scheme run­ning at the Leeds Mer­rion Cen­tre Ci­tiPark. For a month-long trial pe­riod, the com­pany is col­lect­ing plas­tic bot­tles of at least 500ml brought into the car park. It will be re­cy­cled and the mo­torist gets a 20p ($0.25) park­ing voucher for each one. But will it catch on?

“It’s been go­ing re­ally well,” says park­ing at­ten­dant Richard Bed­ford. “One chap came in with 30 bot­tles. He only needed 15 to pay for his park­ing, so he’s bring­ing the rest back next week.” Apart from such iso­lated suc­cess sto­ries, though, the car park isn’t ex­actly be­sieged by bot­tle-laden mo­torists. Bed­ford es­ti­mates an av­er­age day’s take at 10 to 20 bot­tles, but be­hind him is a full crate, and he says hun­dreds have been re­cy­cled so far.

It may seem a tiny drop in a very pol­luted ocean – up to 12.7m tonnes of plas­tic end up in the seas ev­ery year and of the 8.3bn tonnes of plas­tic pro­duced since the 1950s, only 9% has been re­cy­cled – but ev­ery lit­tle helps.

“We wanted to give some­thing back to the com­mu­nity and the en­vi­ron­ment,” says Char­lotte-Daisy Ziff, Ci­tiPark’s head of cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. “Park­ing’s ex­pen­sive. Money’s tight. We thought, ‘What can we do to make a dif­fer­ence?’ It’s get­ting more pop­u­lar as word gets out, but we’re con­scious that we need to get the in­for­ma­tion to the pub­lic.”

Bed­ford says “do­ing my bit” makes him hap­pier in his job, and Ci­tiPark does have one happy re­cy­cler: me. I’ve run up a £3 bill, but get a tidy £1.20 of that back with the bot­tles in my boot. DAVE SIMPSON IS A LEEDS-BASED GUARDIAN WRITER

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