Hot 100 2019: Reuse champion Cat Fletcher named as 2019’s Legend of Waste
Cat Fletcher, Co-founder of reuse network Freegle, has been announced as the winner of Resource's Hot 100, our annual list of influencers in the resources and waste industry.
This year, the number of nominations and votes we received from the public was unprecedented, making it harder than ever to get into the top 100. A number of last year’s top 10 held their own, with Mary Creagh, Chair of Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee, coming in at number nine and Andy Rees, the Welsh Government’s Head of Waste Strategy, rising to number six. Moving back into the top 10 were SUEZ’s Stuart Hayward-Higham (number eight) and zero waste blogger Rachelle Strauss (number seven).
The 2018 winner, Mike Webster of WasteAid, came in at number four, while Sir David Attenborough maintained his second place spot, reflecting his ongoing impact on wider public attitudes to plastic waste. Environment Secretary Michael Gove rose up the ranks to number three for his work leading the UK Government’s waste policy into a new era.
This year there were also a large number of new entries to compete with, and straight in at number five were Sophie Walker and Tom Passmore, co-founders of Dsposal, an online platform set up in 2016 to connect waste producers with licensed disposal companies.
This year’s theme was Legends of Waste, and the overall winner of the Hot 100, Cat Fletcher, certainly fits into that category. Fletcher surged to the number one spot on a remarkable wave of support from voters; with more than 1,000 unique votes and upwards of 500 comments, she has set a Hot 100 record and is a worthy winner for 2019.
Fletcher co-founded Freegle UK in 2009, a network of more than 350 reuse groups where thousands of users share unwanted goods for free with others around the country. In a voluntary capacity, Fletcher is not only Director and Head of Media for the network but runs the Freegle group for her community in Brighton. As Materials Coordinator with the University of Brighton, Fletcher also helped to create the Brighton Waste House, Europe’s first building made from over 85 per cent ‘waste’ material, including old plastic razors and toothbrushes, denim jeans, DVDs and video cassettes.
Many of the comments from voters spoke of the impact Freegle and Fletcher have had on their lives. The words “inspiring”, “tireless”, “dedicated” and “passionate” cropped up more than once as voters shared stories of their interactions with the network. “Freegle has helped me and my family give dozens of redundant items to people who can reuse them, keeping them out of landfill,” said one commenter. Another concurred: “Freegle is such a brilliant initiative. Vital for keeping things that could have a new lease of life out of landfill and a fabulous community resource.”
The community-building aspect of Freegle is as significant as its waste-reduction benefits. The positive results of local reuse are clear from comments, with many stating that Freegle is about much more than just recycling. “Cat is committed to making a positive change in her community,” one voter said. “She is a passionate, positively influential and motivating example of doing your best for the environment and your local community."
“Cat walks the walk, isn't afraid to speak her mind and will always challenge an idea to make sure the best is being done within the limitations of each circumstance.”
With policy-makers beginning to turn their attention to reuse as a solution to the waste problem – the Welsh Government especially has been providing funding for community reuse projects in the past year – it seems right that 2019’s Hot 100 recognises someone who has been championing that solution for many years already.
At the Kit Strange Memorial Lecture in London on 7 March – where last year’s winner Mike Webster gave a speech – Fletcher expressed her surprise and delight in winning the award. “I’m absolutely in shock that I’m apparently the most influential person in the waste industry in the UK, but it’s fabulously wonderful and when the announcement was made, and Michael Gove was number three and David Attenborough was number two, the last person in the world I thought would be number one was myself!
“It’s a huge honour and it’s lovely to know that so many people have voted for me. It reflects the diversity of projects that I’m involved with, which are all about trying to prevent waste, help citizens try and be more resourceful and trying to join up corporates, SMEs, charities and getting some real circular economy collaboration happening across all sorts of different materials and goods.
“Of course there’s lovely Freegle, which is 10 years old now. We’ve been around for a long time now, we have 2.7 million members and I’m hugely proud that it still exists and it helps people to not throw stuff away and extend the life of their products.”
The rest of the top 10
"The one person who has probably done more than anyone else to highlight the problem of plastics, and has used his influence to help drive a step-change in government thinking."
Though the impact of plastic waste on marine environments had already been one of 2017's hot topics, by highlighting it on the BBC's flagship Blue Planet II series Attenborough took the fight to new heights, prompting Environment Secretary Michael Gove to chase policy changes on a number of fronts.
Environment Secretary, Defra
"Under his leadership Defra has finally produced some policy on waste and resource management that contains some ambition!"
Michael Gove MP was named Environment Secretary in June 2017, a decision criticised by many, including Green Party Co-Leader Caroline Lucas who called him 'entirely unfit' to lead Defra. Since, he has set his department to work on the Resources and Waste Strategy, announced plans to introduce a deposit return system for single-use beverage containersIn the months and lead action against ocean plastics. However, his attention has been almost entirely taken up by Brexit in recent times, especially as Defra has the most work streams in preparing for the UK's departure from the EU.
CEO, WasteAid UK
"For his continued excellent work with WasteAid and putting the issue of proper waste management in lower income countries on the agenda."
Mike has led the establishment of WasteAid, which in its first year trained 363 recycling entrepreneurs and positively impacted the lives of 124,000 people in developing countries. The charity most recently won funding for a plastic recycling project in The Gambia, and saw its 'Making waste work' toolkit named as one of the top three publications of the year by the International Solid Waste Association.
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Putting tech to work to help everyone find the right place for their waste. Brilliant ideas, skillfully executed – just what the waste industry needs.
Head of Waste Strategy, Welsh Government
"Driven and knowledgeable with timeless patience."
Andy is Head of Waste Strategy for the Welsh Government and works on the transition to a circular economy in Wales.
Blogger, My Zero Waste
"A mine of information (and a deep well of passion) for zero waste living."
Rachelle is the founder of the annual awareness campaign, Zero Waste Week which encourages householders, organisations and schools to rethink 'rubbish' as a resource - helping them save money and protect the environment.
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Technical Development Director, SUEZ recycling and recovery UK
"Deeply knowledgeable and a superb ambassador for the sector."
Stuart has extensive knowledge of emerging technologies and has overseen SUEZ's move to self-sufficiency in electricity.
Chair, Environmental Audit Committee
"For speaking out and holding the government to account."
Labour politician Mary Creagh has been MP for Wakefield since 2005, and was elected to chair the cross-party EAC in February of 2015, having previously held the role of Shadow Environment Secretary from 2010 to 2013. She was re-elected as Chair last year, unopposed. The EAC has taken the government to task over the issue of plastic microbeads, called for the establishment of an independent environment watchdog post-Brexit, compiled reports on disposable coffee cups and single-use plastic bottles, launched an investigation into the sustainability of the fashion industry and provided scrutiny of the government's 25 Year Environment Plan.
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Chairman, Eunomia Research & Consulting
Dominic is Founder and Chairman of Eunomia, and has worked for over 25 years on environmental issues seeking new approaches and thinking.
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