The Work

Brighton and Hove is trying to move towards a future free from waste. As part of its commitment to One Planet Living, the emphasis is on reducing waste, reusing where possible and sending zero waste to landfill. The city and surrounding area is involved in a number of exciting initiatives which are working towards this goal.

Whether within small projects or as part of large international companies, the numerous initiatives working to reduce the amount of waste produced in and around Brighton and Hove are inspiring, innovative and forward thinking.

Individuals and organisations may have different motivations for doing what they do but they all play a role in the reduction of waste in the city of Brighton and Hove. A strong commonality is that many projects rely on a specific chain of events, or on other people behaving in a certain way in order to be successful. There are symbiotic relationships evolving which bring an inevitable sense of community, connectivity and collaboration.

This project addresses the variety, intimacy and emotional connection between people and the materials they re-use and recycle. The connection between individuals and their wider community is one which is passionate and tangible.

People and groups all over the city are working energetically and innovatively with new technology and old materials, creating ideas to produce something which can be re-used, brought back to life and given a new and exciting future.




This photo essay is generously sponsored by Freegle.


  • The Materials Recovery Facility at Hollingdean handles and processes the majority of Brighton & Hove’s household recycling. There are some materials which cannot, as yet, be recycled here.

    However, the 60,000 tonnes per year that can, is sorted by machine and by hand, separated, and sent to be used by various industries.

  • Reuse depot, with re-usable materials collected by Cat Fletcher, Brighton & Hove.

    “I have a few tonnes of vinyl ‘streetlamp advertising banners’ waiting to be ‘upcycled’ by local artists, over 4 tonnes of salt (1,200 x 2kg blocks), 253 school chairs and 78 filing cabinets. My aim is to create opportunity, to add value to things that exist, it’s a no brainer.”

  • “I want to create a facility for everyone which can be used as a reuse depot. We’re not interested in just preaching to the converted. The beauty of re-using is that anyone can be part of it, and it’s approachable at every level. From buying an antique piece of furniture, to picking up a pair of second hand shoes, it’s all part of re-use.”
  • Fire wood, chopped by Tony. The Wood Store sorting centre, Southwick, Brighton & Hove. “It’s therapeutic work. It’s satisfying. I had a period of depression and coming back to work was a struggle. I came and worked here and it’s changed my life.”
  • “In 2011 I stumbled across a project called the Greenhouse – a building made of waste, perched on the tip of Sydney Harbour – and was introduced to its creator Joost Bakker. He and I went on to create the world’s first Zero Waste restaurant in Melbourne – Silo. I have returned to the UK to create the next evolution of Silo here in Brighton."

    Douglas McMaster, founder of Silo - Brighton & Hove’s first zero waste restaurant.

  • Oyster mushrooms grown from compost and waste coffee grounds in drainpipes at Silo.
  • Veolia Newhaven Energy Recovery Facility, Newhaven. This facility, located about 10 miles from the centre of Brighton & Hove, processes about 210,000 tonnes of nonrecycled household waste per year.
  • General household waste which is not re-used or recycled is brought here where the waste is shredded and burned to be used as fuel to produce electricity.
  • Medisort, Littlehampton. Potentially contaminated end-of-life medical equipment is treated in steam sterilisation autoclaves at Medisort, prior to being recycled.

    Medisort specialise in the collection, treatment, recycling and disposal of healthcare waste collected from hospitals and other healthcare providers in Brighton & Hove and the rest of the UK.

  • Potentially contaminated medical waste machinery after being treated and partially melted in steam sterilisation autoclaves, and prior to being recycled.
  • “This is a place where people can dare to dream to create something, and to share it with people - that’s what this place is to me. It can mean different things to different people, depending on the day.”

    Mei-wah Tang, community composting co-ordinator at Hanover Community Garden.

  • Hanover Community Garden is home to one of Brighton & Hove’s first community composting schemes. There are over 30 such schemes, led by local people, helping over 1000 households compost their vegetable peeling, fruits, tea bags, coffee grounds, cardboard and shredded paper.
  • “I started coming here as part of my university course and have just kept coming back since then really, because I love it.”

    Tegan, volunteer, Hanover Community Garden.

  • “I’ve never been here before, I came today because of Tegan – I’ll come back, there’s a really great atmosphere. It’s a good way to relax during exam time. Today I’ve planted raspberries, peppers and strawberries.”

    Lola, volunteer, Hanover Community Garden.

  • “I come here for the community aspect, I like organic farming and I’m interested in doing some of that here. I’ve done some paintings here in the garden too. I like the combination of wildlife and the city, this place has that.”

    Jackie, volunteer, Hanover Community Garden.

  • “I used to have an allotment, and this is how I manage to carry on gardening in the city, it’s much more interesting to do that with other people.”

    Lesley, volunteer, Hanover Community Garden.

  • “We collect waste paint which people want to throw away, and we create something new – a new product, a recycled paint which comes in a range of colours, you can buy it in B&Q. Right now not enough people know about recycled paint.”
    Keith Harrison, New Life Paints, Littlehampton, West Sussex.
  • Colour mixing, New Life Paints, Littlehampton, West Sussex.
  • “We give wood a new life here – it goes on to become something else. People sometimes want to buy a little piece of Brighton pier to put on their mantlepiece – or these sea defences to put in their garden. There is a story there – and that story is important.”

    Christian Bernard, Director, The Wood Store.

  • Veolia In-Vessel Composting Facility, Whitesmith, East Sussex. Garden waste from household waste recycling sites in and around Brighton & Hove is processed and made into compost.
    This facility is capable of processing up to 60,000 tonnes of biodegradable waste each year.
  • Compost at different stages of decomposition at Veolia In-Vessel Composting Facility.
  • The flame of the furnace at Veolia Newhaven Energy Recovery Facility, Newhaven burns at 1000C, heating water and powering turbines to generate, at capacity, around 19 Megawatts of electricity per hour. By comparison, the average capacity of a wind turbine is between 2 and 3 Megawatts per hour.
  • “We collect a lot of things here which can’t be recycled anywhere else in the city. You only see the tip of the iceberg – we are a one-stop shop for all things in Brighton which can’t be collected by the Council. We might look small but this is a network, connecting many people, supply chains and materials.”

    Mel Rees, The Green Centre, Brighton & Hove.

  • Medical waste after being sterilised by an autoclave process at Medisort.
  • Milk bottle tops ready to be collected for recycling at The Green Centre.
  • Plaster dentistry moulds, containing gypsum which cannot be sent to landfill, are recyled at Medisort.
  • Sophie Gerrard: Zero Waste at the Waste House, Brighton Sophie Gerrard: Zero Waste at the Waste House, Brighton
  • Sophie Gerrard: Zero Waste at the Waste House, Brighton Sophie Gerrard: Zero Waste at the Waste House, Brighton
  • Sophie Gerrard: Zero Waste at the Waste House, Brighton Sophie Gerrard: Zero Waste at the Waste House, Brighton
  • Sophie Gerrard: Zero Waste at the Waste House, Brighton Sophie Gerrard: Zero Waste at the Waste House, Brighton
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The Photographer

Sophie Gerrard

Sophie Gerrard is an award-winning documentary photographer from Scotland pursuing contemporary and social stories with a strong focus on environmentally sensitive themes. Born in Edinburgh in 1978, Sophie began her career as an environmental scientist graduating from Manchester University. Her creative passion for documenting environmental and social issues then led to a photography degree from Edinburgh College of Art and an MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography from The London College of Communication. Sophie works regularly for NGO and editorial clients including The Guardian Weekend Magazine, The Financial Times Magazine and Telegraph Saturday Magazine, The Independent on Sunday, Save The Children and Greenpeace International.

A recipient of a Jerwood Photography Award, Fuji Bursary and Magenta Foundation Award, Sophie has completed commissions, assignments and personal projects in India, Mexico, Myanmar and The UK.
Her work is held in a number of private and public collections. Sophie’s work has been exhibited internationally including The Jerwood Space, Flowers East Gallery and The Photographers’ Gallery in London, Streetlevel Photoworks in Glasgow, Paris Photo and a solo show in The Arbetes Museum Sweden.

Sophie is a co-founder of Document Scotland, a collective of internationally acclaimed photographers dedicated to chronicling the social, cultural and economic life in Scotland. She is also a lecturer in
Editorial photography at Edinburgh Napier University.

She is represented by The Photographers’ Gallery in London and Eyevine.

Photographer Approach

Individuals, as well as materials, are at the heart of this project. My aim, as a documentary photographer, is to seek out individual stories in order to talk about larger issues. With this work, my aim was to present images of people, materials and their environments alongside each other in order to communicate the numerous elements of inter-connection which exist.

This project began by exploring the numerous waste reduction, recycling and processing projects taking place in and around Brighton & Hove. As I met increasing numbers of creative and committed individuals, it became apparent that the emotional connections and emphasis on community and collective working was an integral driving force. Capturing this element of intimacy and passion was a key part of the project for me.

One of the first locations I photographed in was The Wood Store, where I was fascinated by the emotional, and in certain cases, personal motivation some individuals had for buying disused and recycled wood. They spoke of the object’s history, its story and of giving it a new life. Many of the locations photographed contained a beauty which was important to communicate; natural surroundings and fascinating locations, piles of unidentifiable materials and patterns of waste waiting to be processed in industrial locations. For me, the aesthetics of the images invite the audience to take note, to look closer and to question what they see.

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The exhibition

Exhibition Info

Dates: 01/10/2014 - 31/07/2015
Times: University of Brighton opening times 9am - 5pm
Address: Waste House, University of Brighton, Brighton BN2 OJY
Link: Link

Waste House, University of Brighton

Following three months in production, twelve months on site, the installation of 20,000 toothbrushes, two tonnes of denim jeans, 4,000 DVD cases, 2,000 floppy discs, 2,000 used carpet tiles (to clad the facades) and the hard work of 253 students and apprentices, The Brighton Waste House opened in June 2014 at The College of Arts and Humanities at Grand Parade. It is a ‘live’ research project and permanent new design workshop focused on sustainable development and is the first permanent public building in Europe to be constructed from (approx. 90%) waste, surplus material and discarded plastic gathered from the construction industry, other industries and our homes. The idea, developed with Cat Fletcher of FREEGLE UK, is to test the performance of these undervalued resources over the next few years and prove that ‘there is no such thing as waste, just stuff in the wrong place.’

The Brighton Waste House (BWH) is a ‘One Planet Case Study’ cited within the original Brighton & Hove City Council Sustainability Action Plan. From being built as an almost energy neutral building, to recycling rainwater, to supporting many different types of wildlife through the preservation of existing hedges and trees and the addition of bird boxes, BWH satisfies all 10 One Planet Living principles. BWH also hosts community oriented sustainable design workshops and other related events curated by designers, artists, makers, builders, scientists, writers-in-residence; whoever is interested, as well as helping to deliver University of Brighton’s Sustainable Design MA on campus.

Access Information

How to get there:

Please enter via University of Brighton Cafe, walk through the courtyard and follow signs to the Waste House

Closest train station: Brighton

Bus: nearest stops include North Road, Grand Parade, & Edward Street – pls refer to

Cycle: racks available nearby

Wheelchair accessible: yes



One Planet City: Professional Commissions

Ten photo essays responding to the ten sustainability principles of One Planet Living with ten site-specific installations in public spaces across Brighton & Hove.