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Charles: We need to get better at recycling

The prince was speaking at a Waste to Wealth summit in central London.

Businesses and individuals need to get better at recycling to “sort out the mess” and save the planet for our grandchildren, the Prince of Wales has said.

Speaking at a Waste to Wealth summit in central London on Thursday, Charles said: “We are the first generation to understand, in full and terrifying scientific detail, that we are destroying our world. And we are the last to be able to do something about it.”

The prince was speaking as major brands, including Co-operative Bank, Sky, Greggs, Heineken, Iceland and Toyota, signed up to a commitment to double the UK’s resource productivity and reduce avoidable waste by 2030.

Addressing 200 leaders from companies, government and other organisations, Charles said: “If we do not act our children and grandchildren will not be able to sort out the mess.

“So with three much-loved grandchildren and a new grandchild on the way – and some of you may be in the same situation – I do not want to miss that opportunity and I am sure you do not either.

“The small steps we’ve taken towards a circular economy need to become giant strides.

“It is clear recycling is part of the answer. We have become good at making things. Now we need to get much better at unmaking and remaking.

“This is a topic which has interested me for a large part of my three score years and 10.

“Many forward-thinking businesses are, I know, already putting principles of circular economy into practice.

“In the last five years, 12.5 million computers have ended up in British landfill sites. Worldwide, almost 150 million tonnes of clothing and shoes are sold every year. The majority ends up in landfills or incinerated, yet the infrastructure to collect, reuse and recycle already exists.

“One man’s, or business’s waste, can be another’s raw materials.”

Charles’s responsible business network Business in the Community, which is organising the summit being hosted by Veolia, is challenging companies to reduce waste or turn waste into wealth to prevent dangerous climate change.

Firms signing up to the Waste to Wealth commitment are pledging to set targets to improve productivity of resources, work to reduce avoidable waste, redesign the use of resources in products, services and operations, work collaboratively across organisations and report on progress.

Charles added: “Now I don’t have any statistics to prove this but I rather think we have seen something of a sea change (if you forgive the awful pun), in the public attitudes since the BBC’s Blue Planet was shown.”

The images seemed to have “tapped into the deep unease amongst a great many people”, he said.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove welcomed the Waste to Wealth initiative, saying: “We need to cut avoidable waste and start looking at the waste we do produce as a valuable resource.”

Speaking at the event, Mr Gove joked he was “on the edge of being discarded” last week and “used to being in an echoing chamber filled with people talking rubbish”.

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Charles was greeted by Environment Secretary Michael Gove at the summit (Tristan Fewings/PA)

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who also attended the summit, said: “It’s becoming ever more visibly and painfully obvious that the world’s resources are finite. So we would mad to continue wasting them at the current rate.”

Rob Wilson, chief toaster at Toast, a sustainable brewing company that makes ale using waste bread, said: “The prince was surprised to hear the first ale brewed with bread was 5,000 years ago.

“I assured him it tasted delicious but he didn’t try it. I offered some as a birthday present but it was politely declined.”

Gavin Graveson, executive vice-president of Veolia UK and Ireland, who hosted the summit urged the Government to get involved too, saying: “We are trying to build more plants, more jobs, we are investing £1 billion in the next five years, but we need stability in the market and the Government needs to pledge that.”

During the visit, Charles, who turned 70 last Wednesday, also tested Iceland’s new reverse vending machines, which customers can use to return any plastic bottles purchased from the store in exchange for a 10p voucher.

Neil Hayes, the firm’s marketing director, said: “He thought it was fantastic, a really good initiative. I told him about how positive the response has been from customers.”

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Charles tasted a cake to mark his 70th birthday last week (Tristan Fewings/PA)

The prince was also presented with a birthday cake from the bakers Greggs at the end of the visit to celebrate his 70th birthday last Wednesday.

The audience sang happy birthday, stumbling at what to call him half way through the singalong, resulting in laughter.

He cut the cake himself and took a small bite of the Victoria sponge, which was covered with white icing and a blue iced “happy birthday” message.

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