Eco Hero: Ed Douglas Miller
Admin | 01.08.12
Ed Douglas Miller is a successful entrepreneur and businessman and is this week’s Eco Hero.
Ed set up Remarkable, an eco-manufacturing and retail business, in 1996 with the aim of recycling UK waste materials back in to something useful. He started with the concept of turning waste plastic cups from offices into pencils, which could be used in the same offices. Remarkable has scooped numerous awards over the past 16 years and now offers a whole range of products, from clothes to torches, office equipment to Frisbees.
As well as being an environmental visionary, Ed is also a passionate philanthropist and has appeared on Channel 4’s Secret Millionaire.
What inspires you?
The main driver is to put value back into the huge amount of packaging and waste we are throwing away every day. We want to show people how easy it is to recycle and turn waste back into useable products. There is a huge sense of reward when you recycle something and bring it back as another product and we have been doing this for nearly 20 years.
What makes you angry?
A lack of understanding about the environment. We live on one planet and we are going to use all of its resources in the name of growth but in fact the destruction of the environment is going to be the end result. I hate the fact that we produce so much waste and the planet, the environment and the eco-system has to pay.
I really hate pollution when we can avoid it. We are not the only species on the planet but we live in comfort and pursue growth at the expense of others.
Why do you do the job that you do?
I’m driven by environmental issues and highlighting how waste materials can be re-used through our products. It is a crime to throw so much away.
Our pencil products define what we do at Remarkable. We take waste from consumers and office environments, recycle it and put it back into the office environment. It really carries the story of what Remarkable is all about and what it is here to do. We’ve sold 250m pencils since we started creating the product in 1996.
Is there anything that you are doing workwise that you want to shout about at the moment?
Everything we do at Remarkable is worth shouting about.
At the moment we are updating and introducing a whole raft of recycled products into our range, which is an extension of core activity. We’re trying to offer our customers an eco-lifestyle choice by selling renewable energy torches, to bags to lifestyle products. We’ve also joined forces with Smile to manufacture a range of recycled architectural boards.
We’re always looking to expand, develop and create new partnerships. We’re increasingly working with large corporations to assess and manage their waste, and also turn the waste into new products they can use.
For example, we recently worked with one of the leading supermarkets to recycle their office chairs and turn them into stationery.
We’re a UK manufacturer and need the support of the British public to ensure we survive. People can sometime be nervous about buying recycled products but there’s such a feel good factor when you do.
If you were Prime Minister, what would be the first thing you'd change?
Education. We need better education and knowledge so that we can be flexible and adapt to different careers. We also need to know how to be adaptable for sustainable growth.
I’d also look at health and the green growth economy. I’d change George Osborne too.
Can individuals really make a difference?
Most definitely; everything is made up of individuals. It is the person not the concept that makes the difference.
What’s more urgent: changing things from the inside or starting a revolution on the outside?
You need both to create change.
You have to give people and businesses the freedom and support to be creative. Support for new innovations in the early stages is crucial if it is to become a viable business in its own right.
In 1996 we had support when we suggested turning plastic cups into pencils. Now we provide support to other initiatives.
Can you describe a typical workday?
My days are pretty diverse. They tend to be a combination of practical manufacturing and management of factory, coupled with something different every day - I like to take a risk every day. Above all my day-to-day job is to make sure we provide all the services we need to make the business run smoothly.
What challenges do you currently face?
The struggling economy is our biggest challenge.
Imported Chinese products are also bad for our business. I find it extraordinary that in Britain we have such a tight control on employment law and health and safety yet we buy so many products from China and challenge their human rights and environment policies.
What’s the best advice anyone’s ever given you?
Make a decision – it is all about action.
What’s your favorite book or film of late?
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.
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