In Britain, we take it for granted that we dispose of our unwanted stuff. We have processes and laws to ensure waste is collected, transported and treated safely without impacting our health or the environment. But waste management is expensive (with landfill and incineration costing around £100 per tonne), and avoiding disposal costs is seen as an easy way to make money.

Christine Cole, in The Conversation, cites two waste incidents which are not the victimless crimes they appear to be: arson at a deserted factory used to illegally store 5,000 tonnes of partially treated waste; and fly-tipping of asbestos. In both incidents the perpetrator was trying to avoid expensive waste disposal; in both there were health and safety and environmental risks, and the tax payer had to pay for the clean-up.

As we all know, “where there’s muck there’s brass”. For example, householders can leave unwanted white goods outside their homes knowing that the modern equivalent of the rag-and-bone man will remove them free of charge - and process the waste to make money. But if the parts of these items which don’t have a resale value get fly-tipped, Ms Cole points out that the householder might unwittingly be committing a crime. When it comes to waste textiles, bogus collectors see unwanted clothing left for collection outside houses or deposited in textile banks as waste worth targetting because of the high prices textiles fetch in second-hand markets or even as scrap.

At Oakdene Hollins we have for years been trying to prevent this problem by preventing the waste. When we first got going, we championed resource efficiency (getting more output out of less input) and used landfill tax money to provide free advice to local manufacturing businesses. We were early exponents of sustainability (the practice of producing more today without spoiling the environment and the economy for future generations) and ran the Sustainable Technologies Initiative for the then Department for Trade and Industry. We’ve researched and advised on deposit-return schemes, on take-back schemes, on reverse logistics and on servicisation – a long word which simply means renting a service rather than buying the good that provides that service. We run Uniform Reuse to advise companies on how to avoid the mountain of waste clothing that arises because of seasonal workwear, high staff turnover or re-branding exercises. We set up this, the Centre for Remanufacturing & Reuse – the UK’s first centre promoting the two major practices that avoid wasting the energy and materials that are embedded in manufactured items – and then took the idea to continental Europe where we now run the Conseil Européen de Remanufacture

But most recently, Oakdene Hollins have become pathfinders to the Circular Economy, which is based on the twin principles that one person’s waste output is another person’s raw material, and that we should stop taking it for granted that we dispose of our unwanted stuff.