‘There’s no point in throwing away if you can fix it’: a day out with the recycling van

‘There’s no point in throwing away if you can fix it’: a day out with the recycling van

‘Protest organisation’ that collects recyclable waste from thousands in Brighton sets sights on the future

It’s 8am on a damp Brighton morning and I’m joining Rob Jones-Mantle on his recycling round, but the second-hand batteries on Magpie Co-op’s fleet of repurposed electric vehicles are still charging. If only they could plug into Rob himself, we’d be on the road instantly: at 56, he’s a one-man renewable energy source in high vis and what he tells me are a pair of restored Edwardian steam engine firefighter’s glasses.

Rob and Magpie started out in 1990 when recycling was not really high on the political radar, although there was growing awareness of the amount of waste going into landfill: “The climate situation has been with us since the 1970s. We lived locally, we saw what was happening locally.” Working initially in partnership with the council and on a shoestring, a small group of concerned volunteers started a modest kerbside collection, which surprised them with its swift popularity. “We did cash for cans, we got the council’s clean up round, we got 5000 customers.”

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