Government proposes cash rewards for recycling

May 31, 2007 at 10:07 am

Green householders are to be offered financial rewards for recycling under government plans to reduce waste across England. Emphasising the economic benefits of recycling, the 2007 Waste Strategy proposes a removal of the ban on financial incentives for waste prevention and recycling.

The government has decided not to introduce a local variable waste charge, as seen elsewhere in Europe. Instead, it wants legislative change to allow local authorities to design their own reward schemes. These would be revenue neutral in that high recycling, low waste households would get money back while poor performers would pay more (without any overall increase in charges). The government claims that such measures could reduce annual residual waste landfill by up to 1.5 million tonnes.

In Treviso, Italy, waste has fallen by 12% since the introduction of incentive schemes while in Maastrict, Netherlands, recycling has increased from 45%-50% to 60%. A pilot schemes in Ovenden, West Yorkshire saw a 26% rise in recycling over six months when residents were able to earn £25 for local charities for every tonne of waste sent for recycling.

The Local Government Association (LGA) reacted positively to the proposed measures, saying that only local authorities working on the ground had the ability to decide how to encourage residents to take more responsibility for their rubbish. In ‘Can we win the war on waste?’ an online BBC discussion on the issue, householders expressed reservations. Some felt that variable charges could lead to an increase in fly-tipping while others suggested the producers of excess packaging and junk-mail should be targeted before tax-payers.

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Pay as you throw tax

May 25, 2007 at 12:00 pm

The government is about to reveal its new waste strategy which will attempt to reduce the amount of waste being buried in landfill sites throughout England, as required by EU rules. Britain is one of the worst countries at recycling with only Greece and Portugal having a worse record. The government’s aim is to increase recycling and composting from 27% to 40% by 2010 and to 50% by 2020.

The new plan is expected to include proposals for a “pay as you throw” tax on rubbish which means that an average household would be charged around £120 a year to have its waste collected. Electronic sensors would be fitted to wheelie bins to enable the rubbish to be quantified. Last autumn the Mail on Sunday reported that 25,000 chips had been removed by angry home owners in Bournemouth. Critics of the scheme fear that unscrupulous householders will dump their rubbish in their neighbour’s bin or fly-tip.

With only nine years of landfill space estimated to be left, something obviously needs to be done to encourage recycling. In Germany the recycling rate is 58% and a major contributor has been the Green Dot system, whereby manufacturers and retailers have to pay a fee based on the amount of packaging used. This has led to less paper, less metal and thinner glass resulting in a decrease of 100 million tons of rubbish a year – definitely food for thought for us in the UK.

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Mole Valley subsidises purchase of Green Cones and Home Composters

May 24, 2007 at 1:41 am

Mole Valley District Council is helping its residents to finance the costs of a greener lifestyle. They are offering two thousand Green Cones for only £10 as opposed to the normal RRP of £64.95. This price includes everything you need: the kitchen caddy, shaker and 60g of accelerator powder. The Green Cone is an easy-to-use, smell-free food waste digestion system which can be used for all food waste, whether raw or cooked.

Also on offer are home compost bins for as little as £6 for the 220 litre size which represents a saving of at least £20 on those bought in the shops. Others are also available at £10 for the 330 litre size and £20 for the thermo KOMP 250 litre bin. All can be delivered by the council at no extra cost. Home composting is not only an excellent way of reducing what goes into our landfill sites but will also improve the quality of your soil with no financial outlay. For more information on home composting and the Green Cone system you might like to read our article

For more information on all Mole Valley recycling initiatives see the relevant section of their website

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Mayor plans to boost recycling by London’s businesses

May 21, 2007 at 9:13 am

London produces over 18 million tonnes of waste every year, three quarters of which comes from business. Recognising climate change as ‘the single biggest threat to the future development of human civilisation’, Mayor Ken Livingston has published a Draft Waste Management Strategy in a bid to reduce London’s carbon footprint through partnership with businesses and the waste sector.

The Mayor expressed frustration over his limited influence on waste management in London. He suggested that a single waste disposal authority for the capital would enable him to ensure more business waste is recycled or used a source of renewable energy. Advocating a partnership approach, he stressed the need to end dependence on landfill and incineration.

The draft strategy envisages 70% of commercial and industrial waste being recycled or composted by 2020, with recycling and reuse levels in construction, demolition and excavation waste expected to reach 95% by 2020. The Mayor aims to raise awareness of sustainable business practices and the financial savings they can bring.

Consultation on the draft strategy will now take place with the London Assembly and functional bodies of the Greater London Authority.

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Plastic Fantastic – The benefits of polymer recycling

May 14, 2007 at 12:50 pm

Disposal of waste electrical equipment is currently a hot topic, with the recent introduction of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive. There were fears that WEEE would cause the price of electrical goods to rocket, as manufactures reclaimed the cost burden of recycling from the consumer. But now a UK company, Axion Recycling, has developed a recycling process to handle the polymer waste stream produced by the primary treatment of WEEE. Saving energy as well as money, this new technology is good news for manufacturers, consumers and the environment.

The process

Thanks to a £3 million investment, Axion’s Salford plant is at the cutting edge of plastic recycling. Since it opened for full-scale production in February 2007, the plant has processed hundreds of tonnes of “co-mingled” plastic waste. The plastics are mechanically sorted, contaminants (including metal, wood and chemicals) are removed and the polymers sorted using separation techniques such as gravity separation, electrostatic separation and dry or wet separation. The sorted waste is converted into high quality polymer compounds, and the resin is then ready to be used to make new components.

Axion has been refining the process for many years, working together with DEFRA and the Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP) to find a complete solution for the recovery and recycling of WEEE polymers. A stumbling block was the safe removal of additives, such as Bromine Fire Retardant (BFR). BFR is known to produce harmful dioxins during reprocessing, but Axion is developing techniques to remove the contaminant. Paul Davidson, Plastics Technology Manager at WRAP, believes there is “…an increasing need to respond to the issue of removing BFRs” and to “create a workable, commercially viable solution for industry before the problem becomes acute. The development of a feasible treatment process will help to encourage increased recycling of WEEE polymers and divert waste from landfill.

WRAP expects BFR polymers to be recyclable in under four years, facilitating closed-loop recycling for virtually the whole WEEE waste stream. The industry is excited about the potential of polymer recycling and recyclate, and Axion is continuing to invest in research and development to refine its processes.

The benefits

– Cheaper
Compared to virgin polymers, recyclate is less costly. New products can therefore be produced for less as manufacturers needn’t shell out for raw materials.

– Greener
Virgin polymer production uses five times as much energy as the production of high grade recycled polymer. The amount of carbon dioxide released is only one tenth when compared to virgin raw material. Separation and treatment of the polymer waste stream also means less plastic ends up in landfill or incineration units.

– More efficient
For the manufacturer, the revenue generated is motivation enough. As Keith Freegard, technical Director at Axion, says: “Given the impending WEEE Directive legislation and rising volumes of waste generated, what better way for OEMS to get some payback for footing the bill for end-of-life waste than by re-using recyclate in new products?“. Having recovered polymer from WEEE waste, state-of-the-art UK recycling plants can then sell the recyclate on for export to European markets.

– Socially responsible
Freegard is one of many who believe that shipping WEEE waste abroad, where safe disposal cannot be guaranteed, is simply “not a viable option“. Although the export of hazardous materials, including WEEE waste, is prohibited in the EU, there is evidence that e-waste ends up in Asian scrapyards. A 2005 Greenpeace report highlighted the ease with which toxic chemicals, including heavy metals, find their way into the workplace and surrounding environment in India and China. It is hoped that by developing cost-effective closed loop recycling solutions here in the West, electronics manufacturers will no longer have the incentive to ship waste abroad.

What is the recyclate made into?

Axion produces different grades of polymer, depending on the end-product for which the material is intended. The polymers are suitable for re-use in injection moulding and extrusion processes, and their versatility and low cost ensure they appeal to manufacturers of computer, electrical, electronic and automotive components. Recycled polymers might end up in a car dashboard, a fridge or a washing machine – the range of applications is huge and, thanks to Axion, likely to keep growing.

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Gardening goes green for compost-awareness week

May 9, 2007 at 12:35 pm

Gardeners across the country are putting extra efforts into recycling in response to national compost-awareness week. Run by The Compost Association (TCA) and the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), this seventh annual initiative encourages householders to recognise the benefits of home composting and promotes the use of peat-free compost made from recycled garden and kitchen waste.

Compost Awareness Week started life in Canada in 1995 and was brought to the UK in 2001. It aims to present a serious message through fun events. Recycling and composting road shows are being run by local councils across the UK. Special farmers markets, open days and competitions will also help spread the composting message.

Figures from WRAP show that around 56% of UK gardeners understand the role that recycling gardening waste can play in helping to combat climate change, but only 34% regularly home compost.

Composting can be a great way of reducing the amount of waste you send to landfill while improving the quality of soil in your garden, but it’s important to keep your compost balanced and avoid adding non-compostable nasties. Good things to compost include shredded paper, animal bedding, grass cuttings, egg shells, teabags, leaves and fruit and vegetable peelings. Don’t put meat or fish, nappies, dairy products, cooked food or diseased plants in your compost bin.

Find out more about composting on our special composting page. You can put your composting knowledge to the test by playing Recycle Now’s composting game. To find out about events taking place during compost-awareness week use WRAP’s search facility. You can also find the nearest place to get your hands on a cheap composting bin and find out if you have a local Home Compost Advisor on the Recycle Now composting pages.

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Mobile phone companies step up to recycling responsibilities

May 4, 2007 at 11:46 am

Though every year British people throw away 11.3 million mobile phones, only a third of these people have ever recycled one. There is a huge potential for recycling and reuse here: while British mobile phone users replace their handsets on average every 18 months, the working life of a phone is as much as eight years. Like other electrical devices, the majority of unwanted mobile phones simply end up on landfill sites, leeching the dangerous chemicals found in their batteries into the surrounding soil. In a shocking statistic, the cadmium in one mobile phone battery is sufficient to pollute 600,000 litres of water. Being made of plastic, a mobile thrown on a landfill will take thousands of years to properly decompose and in addition handsets commonly contain precious metals such as gold, platinum, silver and copper.

In an attempt to redress the balance, the five main mobile phone companies – Orange, O2, T-Mobile, Vodafone and Virgin Mobile – as well as the Dixons Group that includes The Link and Currys, have signed up for European wide recycling programme Foneback, run by Shields Environmental. This system is in line with soon to be fully implemented European Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) regulations, which requires companies to be responsible for the successful disposal of toxic chemicals in their products and encourages them to recycle what they can. Recycling handsets could prevent 1,500 tonnes of waste being simply buried in the ground.

The system is extremely simple. Once you have finished with a handset, all you need do is return it to any of the 10,000 retail outlets participating in the scheme. These outlets include every high-street shop that sells mobile phones as well as places like Sainsbury’s and The Body Shop. Either your phone will be added to the stores’ collection directly or you will be given a free-post envelope to send it off. As well as these outlets, you can take your phone to the shops of the 200 charities and local organisations that participate in Community Fonebak project, who receive £4 cash per phone they return or £5 in vouchers for Dixon Group stores.

Once sent to Fonebak, the handset will be safely disposed of in a number of ways. If the handset is in useful working order, they are refurbished and sent out to developing nations to be re-used. In the case of one of the poorest countries in Europe, Romania, previously owned mobiles can retail for a third of the price of a new handset, enabling those with the lowest wages to keep in contact with their friends and families. If the phone is too old or broken, the handset is reduced to its components and each of these is recycled. Mixed plastics, those containing metals, are used in waste-to-energy incineration, where the metals are extracted with almost zero carbon emissions. Metals from this process and the batteries are used to make products like power-tools and saucepans. Other plastics make buckets, garden furniture and traffic cones. Since reuse is prioritised over recycling, the environmental cost can be almost nothing, other that which is incurred in the shipping itself.

In addition, for each phone that it recieves, Vodafone will give £10-20 to the National Autistic Society depending on the handsets potential re-sale value. The National Autistic Society is a registered charity that helps sufferers of autism and their families and carers to cope with this long-term developmental disability.

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