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Garage2green tees off circular thinking for golfers

Geoff Sampson is a man with a mission. 

After spending over 20 years in the waste and recycling sector, he believes it’s time for organisations, wherever they sit in the supply chain, to start thinking about and dealing with waste in a very different way. But old habits die hard and Geoff knows that achieving such a paradigm shift isn’t going to be easy.

Fortunately, as a keen innovator, Geoff always has an eye out for opportunities that might demonstrate the sort of new approach that is needed to help bring about change. One such opportunity was unexpectedly inspired by his love of golf: “I was speaking to my local golf pro and we got to talking about how golf clubs often end up gathering dust in spare rooms and garages,” explains Geoff. “Even with online selling possibilities like ebay, lots of people either don’t have the time or motivation to do anything about them, which means they sit there unused, losing value; ultimately they can end up in landfill.”

It struck Geoff that golf clubs were a classic example of the traditional cradle-to-grave linear production model. What if it were possible to rescue these redundant clubs from people’s garages and give them a new life, either through re-use or remanufacture?

By applying his knowledge of the complexities of waste recovery, Geoff started working on how he could bring together the various partners that would be necessary to make such a scheme work. The concept was straightforward – reclaim the golf clubs that people no longer use and either make them available for re-use or remanufacture them into new products. Recycling is also a possibility for many components of a golf club –   but not all, due to the complex mix of materials involved.  “This is where a flexible approach is needed, so we can weigh up product and material value with technical feasibility,” says Geoff.  If successful, he believes a re-use, remanufacture and recycling scheme of this nature in sport could be a world first.

Already familiar with the work of Zero Waste Scotland through his consultancy work in the waste industry, Geoff successfully applied to the Zero Waste Scotland Circular Economy Investment Fund, which is supported by the Scottish Government and the  European Regional Development Fund, to secure just under £56,000 investment for a pilot project to test his idea for a scheme that will inject new life into unused golf clubs while raising money for charity.

“If it wasn’t for the support and funding from Zero Waste Scotland garage2green may never have got off the ground, and if it did, it would have been on a much smaller scale. Scotland, as the ‘home of golf’, also seemed the ideal place to launch the scheme,” continued Geoff.

“We’re working in partnership with Scottish Golf, the body that oversees the sport in Scotland and the charity Blythswood Care, who will help us collect the clubs, before selling a large percentage of them in their stores to raise charitable funds,” explains Geoff. “Scottish Golf has been instrumental in helping us identify golf courses in the Inverness and Glasgow areas who have progressive policies on environmental issues and who were keen to work with us.”

The pilot will see containers located at the golf courses for members and visitors to donate unwanted golf clubs to the scheme. “We’re expecting up to five tonnes of clubs to be collected during the pilot, and if it’s successful, we’ll be looking to scale up.” One of the priorities for the pilot is to assess the quantity and type of materials in the reclaimed golf clubs, which would dictate suitability for remanufacture. Some materials such as graphite, popular in many modern golf clubs, have no commercially viable recycling route so understanding options for remanufacture will be key.

Another important element of the pilot will also be measuring the carbon being saved through used clubs being given a new lease of life. “By understanding the carbon footprint reductions achieved through re-use, remanufacture or recycling, we hope to be able to demonstrate how brands can make a difference to their carbon footprint by adopting a circular approach.”

By targeting a specific sport such as golf, Geoff believes it is a way of sparking interest from brands and players in what happens to their products at the end of life “There’s a lot of discussion by some about Extended Producer Responsibility as part of the European Circular Economy Package, and there are some pioneering companies such as Phillips who are doing interesting things in the lighting sector, but I’m not aware if this is being discussed much in the golf industry, if at all.” says Geoff. 

“As a society, we can no longer afford to look the other way when it comes to waste. Manufacturers in particular need to start thinking through the whole life of their products and what happens to them when they reach the end of their first life cycle.”

The ERDF-funded Circulogic Golf pilot, operating as garage2green runs until the end of 2018.

For more information, please visit www.garage2green.com.

Zero Waste Scotland leads on delivery of the £73 million Resource Efficient Circular Economy Accelerator Programme, which aims to improve the economic performance of SMEs while at the same time reducing the impact of economic activity on the natural environment, supporting Scottish Government and EU policies.

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