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June 01, 2022
Recycling wasn’t really a thing during Matt’s childhood, but he remembers it being implemented maybe during his teen years. One of the most staggering things is how it hasn’t really changed. Recycling is still complicated, cumbersome, and problematic. Wouldn’t it better if we didn’t need to recycle as much?
Matt grew up in a little town called Sedgley in the West Midlands of England. He earned his Ph.D in Molecular Neuroscience at the University of Bristol in the UK. Matt embarked upon and continues an academic career in neuroscience, with post-doctoral training in Louisville, KY and in Recife, Brasil before moving to Johnson City, TN. Along the way, Matt won a number of accolades, including a young neuroscientist award, he received funding from national scientific research bodies including CNPq (Brasil) and the NIH (USA) and has authored or co-authored over 30 publications in some very prestigious scientific journals. Aside from his studies and career, Matt enjoys swing dancing, music and being outside. Hiking is a great stress reliever.
For Matt, it is strange thinking about recycling and sustainability. He feels we have gone backwards. “Let me explain--- I got a job as a milkman when I was 13-14 years old. This wasn’t particularly taxing, I just had to wake up at 3-4 am every Saturday morning, meet Dave the milkman and work until 10-11am. We would drive from house to house in the very early hours delivering bottles of milk (I helped my school team win a competition thanks to my knowledge of milk, but that’s a different story). Around 8-9am, we would pause to get a Steak and Kidney, Chicken and Mushroom pie or a Cornish Pastie from the local butcher on our route. The butcher bought a microwave especially for us, so he could warm up the pies. It was such a wonderful 15-minute break, especially during those winter months when temperatures would easily dip down to 0C (32F).
BUT, aside from some cold mornings and warm memories, I am struck by our regression in sustainable practices. Firstly, the milk float that we drove was electric. I’m going to say that again, we drove around in an electric milk float, carrying over a ton of milk for 5-6 hours. This is back in the early to mid-90’s, we had an electric utility vehicle that was effective. Yet petrol (gasoline) and diesel cars proliferated and continue to do so. Only in the most recent few years have electric vehicles gained popularity. My point is that it makes me sad that we have had the technology to use electric vehicles for many years, but it was only done when it was economically beneficial for certain elements in our society. Secondly, the milk we delivered was in glass bottles. The milk was delivered in glass bottles. The customer would leave empty bottles outside, and we would take away those empty bottles, which would be washed, sterilized and re-used. What a wonderfully sustainable system…. That no longer exists. The milkman now uses a regular combustion engine powered vehicle and bottles are plastic.”
Matt and Kay worked on Green Llama to help reinvigorate some simple, sustainable ideas. With his scientific training, a keen problem-solving mentality and his early experiences of sustainability, Matt thought recycling to be limited, with 300 million tons of plastic produced each year and <9% of this getting recycled… it’s not working and is definitely not sustainable. So let’s implement practices that eliminate this problem. For surface cleaners… Matt helped eliminate plastic from almost every aspect of the Green Llama cleaners.
Matt tells me he has some cool ideas in the pipeline for future products, but right now he says his focus is growing the concept of sustainable cleaning and practices in general. “It really doesn’t have to be complicated”.
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