Operation CoBRA


First Cornwall – then the UK: Mark David Harwood’s award winning recycling scheme is set to go national

Portscatho-based Mark David Hatwood might be a successful composer and author, with credits under his belt including a highly-regarded novel based on his own award-winning movie script, but he is rapidly becoming better known as a visionary social entrepreneur who is changing the face of British recycling.

Through providing an easy, web-based route for councils and the general public to get involved, Hatwood’s concept of a sustainable collection infrastructure for waste batteries has become a practical and effective reality. He is also the first to acknowledge the specialist environmental help and funding he’s received via Business Link’s Convergence programme, which aims to help the county’s most innovative and ambitious businesses.

In the CoBRA™ (Community Battery Recycling Alliance) scheme, a volunteer first finds an appropriate site and then picks up a specially designed ‘tube’ from the council, into which local people can deposit batteries. When it is full, the volunteer simply takes it by car to a local Household Waste Recycling Centre. From here the batteries are distributed to specialist sites across the EU, where waste metals are extracted and waste materials dealt with in accordance with EU regulations.

Critically, the CoBRA scheme is entirely free for councils to administer, meaning no additional burden for hard-pressed budgets and taxpayers.

Hatwood launched the scheme in Cornwall in 2008. Since then volunteers have collected over 35 tonnes of waste batteries, which otherwise would have gone to landfill, from over 60 sites throughout the county. CoBRA has already been taken up in Hertfordshire and Torbay as well, and shows every sign of being adopted by other councils right across the UK. In addition, Hatwood is now considering extending the scheme to collect other forms of durable household waste.

But despite all these achievements, Hatwood believes that contacting Business Link was the most important step he has taken in ensuring a future for the scheme. As he says: “As an author by profession, I never planned to create anything as significant and demanding as CoBRA. But it rapidly took on a life of its own, winning three national environmental awards at a very early stage in its development, and gaining the support of the Environment Agency, the media and the public.

“I quickly realised that I needed help on a number of fronts, including financial advice on how I should charge for consultancy as well as funding support for the CoBRA website and production costs of the DVD that is part of the knowledge and information training pack I have developed. This is particularly important for explaining the scheme to potential council partners – otherwise I’d be constantly on the road making presentations right across the UK.”

Hatwood has been delighted with the help he received from Business Link Convergence Advisers Sally Sandford and Alison Miles. he adds: “This proved to be enormously helpful, settling the cost issues I had and successfully applying for funding.

“As a result, the scheme now has a much more sustainable future and its benefits can be delivered in a more environmentally sound way. This is substantially thanks to the hugely comprehensive and in-depth web presence I have been able to develop, which goes live this month. Through this, it’s easy for CoBRA volunteers nationwide to administer the scheme efficiently and with minimum effort. Sally and Alison’s fast and efficient – not to mention friendly – service and support will prove to be an invaluable asset to the scheme’s future successes.”