Throughout this project I spent every Wednesday afternoon as a volunteer at the Tayside Recycling Centre in a bid to understand the habits and thoughts of true environmentalists. Unfortunately, with the exception of Dougie, none of the staff that work there hold particularly ‘green’ values. However it was interesting to see how a recycling business was run, and the day to day tasks they perform


Staff Profiles


Dougie is one of the founders and is in charge of the recycling centre, and is key to keeping staff motivated and issuing them with instructions. He is a very passionate environmentalist and is always busy.

Pete is usually found in the centre of the store, amusing customers with his anecdotes and humour. When he is not dealing with sales he spends his time fixing, testing and calibrating electrical appliances such as hoovers and televisions. Peter previously ran a butcher before coming out of retirement to help Dougie in the day to day running of the recycling centre. He is not particularly environmentally inclined.
Joe is the floor manager and generally organises where the massive amounts of stock are to be placed, presented and priced.

Robert deals with the scrap metal at the recycling centre - dismantling objects and stripping cables.

Shawn deals with the waste paper - sorting it by hand to ensure it is suitable for recycling. He sits among a mountain of waste paper painstakingly filtering out any types of paper which are unsuitable for recycling. He kindly showed me the process he uses.


My Tasks


Student Needs:
The initial weeks Dougie was keen to use my knowledge of students to gain an understanding into what art students were looking for when visiting the centre, and use that to reorganise the entire upper floor of the centre. I found, through speaking to visiting students, that their needs where very diverse, buying everything from paper to ornaments, depending on the assignment they had been given. Most of those spoken to where simply looking for interesting, sculptural objects.

Rather than targeting existing students which already visit the centre, I suggested it might be a better idea to target freshers: creating ‘starter packs’ from the excessive amounts of kitchenware at the centre - new students aren't particularly fussy about matching crockery. This scheme would help find a use for crockery as well as raise awareness levels of the centre among students. This scheme is being considered for the new term.

After this Dougie learnt that I was able to set-up and calibrate computers. Their previous computer specialist had recently left, so I was drafted into to take his place. I was required to set up the old computers, ensure they are working and document their specification for pricing.

Furniture Delivery
I was also occasionally called upon to assist with furniture delivery and carry some of the heavier objects.



New Skin

Peter explained to me that the computer specialist used to come in and replace the beige outer casing from old pc’s and place a new, modern black one on them. They were able to sell these for around £100 more. It became clear that the value of the recycling centres products were being diminished purely because they where contained in out of date housings.

After reading and gaining inspiration from the book “Sustainable by Design” by Stuart Walker: (2006) I started exploring if it would be possible to create new housings for their products which would be both desirable, cheap, easy to make and use limited materials. I tested the use of a wooden frame to suspend the electric components contained within a outer fabric skin. The idea was that the fabric would flexible enough to accommodate different sized electronic items whilst providing the opportunity for modernisation and customization to personal tastes.

I tried this on both a phone and a computer monitor - two types of product which are abundant at the centre. I found that the housing on the monitor was difficult to remove and was specifically designed to support the internal components and operational buttons. Therefore a standard wooden frame would be unable to support different types of monitors.

The phone showed more promise, although it was problematic to ‘hang up’ the phone through the ‘skin’ . Overall I found that product housings are too specific to individual products to be replaced by a standard wood and fabric shell.
Copyright Andrew Ross 2008