Recycling is on the increase! And with it an awareness of the many different ways in which we can protect our planet’s precious resources. Julian Richards runs Milestone and has been in the kitchen business for 18 years. One night he was talking with his wife about where all the plastic and bottles they recycled were going. It sparked an idea – wouldn’t it be good if we could make a recycled kitchen.

Two years later and the recycled kitchen looks set to become a major part of Milestone’s business. To date six kitchens have been installed and the company is already looking to expand, seeking contractors on a national basis. I spoke to Julian to find out more.

Recycled Kitchen

Recycled Kitchen

What’s the recycled kitchen made of?

This fully recycled kitchen, the first in the UK, uses only materials of 50-100% recycled content. Although it was difficult for Milestone to design, all of the materials have been sourced from within Britain.

  • Worktops were 100% “post-consumer” coffee cups
  • Cupboard doors were recycled yogurt pots (about 700 pots to make one door) flecked with silver from their foil lids
  • Cupboard carcasses were once transportation pallets and fruit crates
  • Sink and door handles are stainless steel which, because of the high cost of extracting metal ore versus the ease of reclaiming metal, has always featured a high recycled content.

“We collect all these materials in our kitchens,” says Julian, “so it’s absolutely appropriate that they should return as kitchen furniture. When we are so obsessed with recycling, why shouldn’t we have something to show for our efforts?”

“Our materials list may seem a little bizarre but by using waste yoghurt pots, vending machine coffee cups, wooden pallets, fruit crates, packaging and trimming from saw mills, we have produced a good quality, attractive, contemporary kitchen and have done it well within most peoples’ budgets.”

Is the recycled kitchen expensive?

“Cost is a significant factor governing peoples’ purchases, sometimes at the expense of our planet’s welfare and recycled materials are more expensive then their virgin material equivalent. As a guide, a standard 500mm recycled base unit costs £169; a complete kitchen upwards of £7,500. So you decide.”

The recycled kitchen is deliberately targeted at the middle market. “It means we can reach more people” he says. He even has the opportunity to branch out into recycled furniture and has one possible order for recycled rabbit hutches!

We can be a wasteful nation and it’s still not the norm to recycle products. This idea is great as it has a full circle approach creating sustainable living. Talking to Julian you can hear his passion for the product and his concern with consumerism and the way that managing recycling in the UK is approached. He really wants to bring his product to market and change peoples’ view points on recycled products in terms of value and quality.

The kitchen initially has one design but Milestone are working with recyclers to source new recycled materials giving greater choice in terms of colour and design. Julian is also looking for a greater volume of recycled products to fuel the increasing demand for the kitchen.

What challenges have there been?

“It has been an uphill battle trying to source everything from within the UK but the result has been worth it thanks to the clever and economical use of our chosen materials. The biggest challenge now is to source the material to meet the demands for our product. Only by increasing our data base of materials can we create increased consumer choice and hopefully arrive at a situation where people will actually prefer their kitchens and other fitted furniture to be made from recycled materials.”

“More reprocessing of our recyclable waste material needs to be encouraged to bring down the cost and increase the sites around the country where goods can be produced. From our research it would appear that the UK is a long way behind most countries in this area. In Europe and the US materials are much more widely available and composed of more diverse ingredients such as hemp, straw, paper, sunflowers, plastics and plastic / wood composites. We need more UK suppliers of recycled content board or plank material to contact.”

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Recycling is evermore important in the 21st century. Legislation in the UK is at a peak and in order to meet EU legislation we need to ensure that we are making a difference. I used to work in the recycling industry and from experience know that we need more people like Julian who understand the challenges ahead of us and come up with innovative solutions like the recycled kitchen  to combat them.