The group of four, Maria Razquin, 17 from Spain, Aaron Laidig, 18 of Germany and Francis Good and Tom Atherton, both 16 and from Wirral (attending Birkenhead School) spent two weeks as part of their Economic syllabus researching, discussing and developing innovative ways to reduce waste. The initiative was organised by Birkenhead School and funded by the British Council and the European Commission.
The issue of waste is an important one for Hankinson who estimate some 8,000 litres of waste paint and 15,000 containers need to be disposed of annually. The Company has implemented a Group-wide Environmental Management System (EMS), highlighting their commitment to continual improvement and pollution prevention, and are keen to develop this with new ideas and innovations to combat these issues further. Under this latest environmental initiative, the students worked closely with several of Hankinson's team members as well as partners and suppliers, including Dulux, who shared their wider concerns with the Group concerning product waste on an international scale.
Student Tom Atherton said: “This has been a brilliant project to be involved in. We have worked closely with Hankinson, and many of their partners, who have helped us build a clear picture of the scale and size of the issues surrounding waste. From this, we have had to try and build relationships with major businesses and develop realistic solutions that would make a difference.”
Presenting their findings to Group Chief Executive, Stephen Hankinson and his team, recommendations varied from the sole use of metal containers rather than plastic with metal proving easier to recycle, partnering with specialist cleaning firms that are able to clean the containers leaving zero residue and ready for re-use, whilst other ideas focused on storage and recycling. It was also recommended that waste paints be mixed and dyed to create black emulsion and sold on to industrial sector clients. A partnership with Newlife, a company that re-use waste paint to create new products, was suggested as part of a wider sustainable move, as well as an urge to buy recycled paint products where possible.
Amy Rosser, Group Health, Safety & Environmental Co-ordinator who co-ordinated the project on behalf of Hankinson explains how they are planning to use the students’ ideas as part of their own green initiative: “We were impressed by the group’s presentation and will be taking their advice on improving our waste storage by using Immediate Bulk Containers (IBCs) for our paint waste as opposed to drums. For the future we will be using separate waste contractors for our waste streams, in particular those who can offer metal and plastic recycling services and are local to each of our premises. “We will be contacting Newlife Paints to investigate potential re-use of our left-over water-based paint. An important part of the project has been to highlight the need for collaboration with our suppliers such as Dulux, to make our waste more environmentally sustainable for the future.”
John Clark Headmaster of Birkenhead School said: ““We believe our European Research Project is unique in offering 24 students from Birkenhead School and our partner schools in Germany and Spain the opportunity to learn how to live and work together, undertaking genuine scientific and economic research in the field of sustainability.
“We are delighted to be working with Hankinson in this ground-breaking project. As well as the two-week hands-on research, the groups are learning to exploit communications technology to plan and develop their work, ready for a presentation weekend in Spain in January. The ability to work in multi-national teams is going to be crucial in solving global problems and this project provides our students with an excellent insight into that process.”
Stephen Hankinson, added: “The four students have been a fantastic group to work with and their findings have certainly encouraged us to re-look at how we manage our waste. We try to recycle and reuse wherever possible and are always keen to consider and explore new options – we’ll definitely be trialling their recommendations in the coming months and if successful, incorporating them across the wider business. We were also delighted to work with Birkenhead School who is a major client of the North West Office of Whittle Programmed Painting on this important initiative that gives students a real taste of the world of business.”