Be a Planeteer: recycle - we do. Because “The power is yours” (Captain Planet and the Planeteers)
Recycling - we all know we should do it. In fact, you probably recycle at home. But how about at work? We bet you’ve thrown more than one beautiful art case into the skip and wished you could do something with all that beautiful timber!
ArtTechSpace sat down with Martinspeed Director Simon Sheffield and Recycling Manager Ian Rogers to talk about making sustainable choices and how they’ve been doing good for the planet and their local community.
Onion with Nikolas in the background
If you work behind the scenes in the art and artefact world you’ll have seen the huge amount of waste we create. Most of it is packing and storage materials - in particular the shipping cases that keep art and artefacts safe. And because we care about the works inside, they’re nearly always made from quality timber, plywood and strong plastics, and lined with foams or polystyrene - oh and don’t forget the card, papers and polythene that keep works all snug and cosy.
Martinspeed see a lot of this waste. They’re specialists in art handling services for artists, dealers, collectors, museums and galleries across the world. And as you’d expect from a large handling and logistics company, they work with a lot of art and objects daily which creates a lot of waste.
Four years ago Martinspeed decided to do something about it - they started their recycling initiative to reduce their waste and to operate a more environmentally conscious organisation. They now recycle 40,000kg every 3 months. ROUND OF APPLAUSE PLEASE!
But why do it?
In short it was a decision made with the heart that had a positive impact financially.
In the UK businesses are required to do all they can to reduce waste and recycle. This makes it expensive to get rid of waste. Director Simon Sheffield with a now retired employee Albert were seeing how much waste was going to landfill and the associated high costs. “The waste is horrific, cases are beautiful things and should be saved. They are works of art in and of themselves.”
So how’d they do it?
Simon and the team started small - by reducing the size of the waste. Less volume = fewer skips that have to go to the tip.
They began with the card and paper. Installing compactors at each of Martinspeed’s warehouses that crush the card waste into bales, which are then sent to a specialist card recycling company.
The next step was to tackle the big stuff. In particular, what to do with all of those beautifully constructed cases.
This is where things get interesting
One thing they considered was reusing cases by retrofitting them. But space is money in an art logistics business, and storing empty cases pays a lot less than clients storing art.
So instead of reusing the cases for themselves, they decided to give them away to people who could.
And Martinspeed Recycling was born
Yes, give them away. For free.
Martinspeed warehouse yard with planters made from cases, brimming with plants.
Recycling Manager Ian Rogers is an artist, who became an art handler at various organisations over the years such as Momart as a transport manager, who has organised exhibitions at the Royal Academy, and teaches art. Ian is the guy who runs the recycling team.
They collect all of their waste and sort it into things people might want and stuff they compact and send to recycling companies.
They break the cases down, and separate out the good stuff.
They take photos of the materials - timber and ply are particularly popular.
And they post them to their Facebook page or directly contact connections they have made who they know want specific materials. Those wanting the materials can pick them up from the Peckham warehouse or Ian and his team can deliver them, as they make drop offs every day/two days.
They also give away things that clients don’t want such as chairs, lamps, furniture, that kind of thing.
As Ian said ‘We are helping to create a cleaner world and enabling people to grow food, create, and the freedom to do what they need to do.”
Loads of great community groups use Martinspeed’s recycled waste including charities such as Crisis, Mind, Green Lab, Nomadic Community Gardens, Rosendale Allotments, Lorn Road Allotments, The Wimbledon Guild, Royal College of Art Students Union, artist studios, architecture firms, furniture makers, Chelsea College of Art for the Art Handling short courses.
Hold on - what about health and safety?!?
That’s what most of the companies we’ve worked for have used as an excuse for not giving away their cases and packaging.
Martinspeed Director Simon: ‘That really is just an excuse. What you need is sensible, knowledgeable people – if they can handle a case with a painting in it, they can handle one without a painting in. Where there’s a will there is a way, simple.’
I still don’t get it - you do this for free?
Yes really, they do.
Simon again: ‘Companies can weigh up the waste costs versus the cost of a technician or two for one or two days, a vehicle and a small amount of space. Start off with a compactor and build it up, pick the low hanging fruit to start with and build it up from there.
Have the courage of your convictions and look at what you are spending. The cost of what we were spending in waste disposal was £35,000 to £40,000 a year and we are now spending much less, created an environmentally conscious company, all whilst helping people.’
Making good choices for the environment, can be good business and good for the community.
Some facts: 95% of Martinspeed’s waste is currently being recycled, an example of materials they have recycled since October 2016 to January 2017 is:
Wood/ply and general = 28,351 kgs.
Polystyrene = 580 kgs.
Card = 8000 kgs.
Polythene = 800 kgs.
Black polyurethane foam = 650 kgs.
And they’ve not stopped with recycling. Last year, solar panels were fitted on their Heathrow warehouses. In summer Martinspeed gets 90 / 95% off the energy for their warehouse from the panels.
They’ve also done little things too, including fitting beehives and owl nesting boxes at their warehouse in Sussex and planter boxes at all the warehouses where they grow vegetables and flowers. It’s sometimes the smallest acts that can make a difference.
Want some stuff?
Martinspeed offers free materials to artists, designers, architects, gardeners, carpenters and community projects. So get in touch through their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/martinspeedrecycling/