Welsh recycling plant to generate power and jobs

September 28, 2007 at 12:09 pm

EnviroParks Ltd, a company based in the Welsh valleys, is hoping to get planning permission for a recycling plant which will create renewable energy from waste. The plant could be operational by 2009 and would create 200 jobs as well as £50 million of investment in the former mining region.

The plant will occupy a 17-acre site at the Tower Colliery near Aberdare – a coal mine where extraction will soon cease. The new plant will perform two functions – breaking down waste and generating energy.

The waste treatment technology in question is known as plasma arc gasification. This works by using a high-energy electrical arc to superheat the waste material. As temperatures reach 13,000°C, the majority of waste is broken down into basic elemental gases and a solid by-product, or “ slag”.

The process generates electricity, while the slag can be used as an aggregate. Although organic waste could be gasified in the same way as mainstream waste, it is proposed that a separate, anaerobic digestion plant be built on the site. This is to help ensure Wales meets its national target for recycling compostable waste, which is set at 25%. The anaerobic digestion plant would produce biofuels, providing a further source of revenue for the company.

A major advantage of both plasma arc technology and anaerobic digestion is the diversion of waste from landfill. The plasma method also creates none of the hazardous emissions associated with incineration. Until recently, plasma arc facilities have only been built for small-scale or niche waste markets. The Welsh plant will be the first in the UK to handle mainstream waste and will process up to 250,000 tonnes a year. The material will be a mixture of “black bag waste,” compost from domestic gardens and commercial food waste.

David Williams of Enviroparks Ltd believes the plant would “deliver 100% diversion from landfill, making the park a key strategic recycling location for southeast Wales and the Heads of the Valleys region.”

EnviroParks Ltd has promised extensive public consultation (to begin this week) and an environmental impact assessment. The scheme has the backing of the Welsh Asssembly Government, but Rhondda Cynon Taf Council is the body which will ultimately have the power to give the go-ahead or not. If the project is a success, more large-scale plasmas facilities could be built in the UK to meet the need for green waste disposal and energy generation.

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Smash and Grab – Not Just For Criminals!

September 24, 2007 at 2:11 pm

Disposing of used glass bottles has always been an expensive and problematical matter for pubs and restaurants. They account for a large percentage of a pub or restaurant’s waste, and the licensed trade as a whole generates 600,000 tonnes of glass or around two billion bottles each year, much of which has previously ended up in landfill sites.

Now, thanks to the innovative firm Smash and Grab, the problem may have been solved. Their Little Smasher machine, which they have been developing for two years, looks as if it will be the answer to the prayers of green minded restaurateurs and publicans alike.

This top-loading machine is smaller than a dishwasher, is easy to use and fits neatly besides the crates and bins. It will take between fifteen and twenty bottles at a time and smash them in less than six seconds, reducing the volume of glass by 80%. Smash and Grab’s own collection team then collects the crushed glass at a time to suit the licensee. A £50,000 grant has recently been awarded which will be used by Smash and Grab to purchase their own collection vehicle rather than using the two hired trucks currently in operation.

At the moment, the glass collected is used for road fill and aggregate (none is sent to landfill) but the company hopes to interest glass reprocessors in recycling the material into new bottles, bringing great savings in the quarrying of raw materials. For each tonne of recycled glass used, 1.2 tonnes of silica and lime is saved. For this to be possible, the company will have to collect at least 2500 tonnes a year. Currently 800 tonnes a year is collected, which is in itself an encouraging fourfold increase in just twelve months.

The development of the Little Smasher has been made possible by advice on franchising, legal matters and marketing through the Enhance programme, in conjunction with the London Development Agency, London Remade and the London Community Recycling Network. Kate Nelson, the Senior Project Manager for London Remade, said: “Smash & Grab is an innovative company making a big impact on recycling within the hospitality sector… The Little Smasher is sure to be welcomed with open arms into many more licensed retail establishments. This will stop huge amounts of glass from being sent to landfill.”

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Milton Keynes leads the way on street recycling

September 21, 2007 at 2:58 am

Better known for its “New Town” status and plethora of roundabouts, Milton Keynes is also leading the way when it comes to recycling. The local authority is one of the UK’s most successful in this area, recycling over 35% of all household waste.

Elsewhere in Britain recycling rates are much lower, due in part to the lack of public recycling facilities. Milton Keynes Council is tackling the issue by placing recycling bins in public areas to allow residents to recycle litter when they are on the move, and providing street cleaners with the facility to sort rubbish as it is collected. These measures have already diverted 12 tonnes of waste from landfill.

DEFRA (the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs) is hoping to encourage other local authorities to follow suit, through a scheme called Recycle on the Go, which is being run in conjunction with ENCAMS. The environmental charity believes public spaces – high streets, parks and entertainment venues – could be transformed into cleaner, greener areas through the introduction of recycling bins for paper, glass and cans as well as other rubbish.

The Voluntary Code of Practice on Recycle on the Go has not been given the go ahead just yet. A consultation is happening before Ministers make a decision. There certainly seems to be demand for improved street recycling facilities:

“92% of people recycle to some extent already,” said Ian Clayton, Deputy Chief Executive, ENCAMS. “It makes sense to make it easy to do so when people are out shopping or going to the cinema.”

Whether the public will use the recycling bins properly remains an issue, however. Some kerbside collection schemes have recently run into problems, as the proportion of recyclate which is contaminated with other waste has risen.

Although public recycling bins have been in place for years on the continent, particularly in Germany, they function well because the public is well-educated about recycling and how to sort rubbish. With widespread confusion about what can and cannot be recycled, it is likely that an awareness campaign would be needed to accompany roll-out of the bins. And with anti-social behaviour seemingly on the rise in the UK, will good recycling behaviour triumph, or will the bins simply become an easy target for vandalism?

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Wales to host the largest mobile phone recycling plant in Europe

September 19, 2007 at 9:27 am

The future is coming to Wales in the shape of mobile phone recycling. A company called Excel Fortune Holdings have recently announced their plans to build the largest mobile phone recycling plant in Europe in the valleys of South Wales. The site is 120,000 square feet of former furniture factory space and the region will drastically be affected by the building, creating at least 250 new jobs and putting them on the map in terms of recycling across Europe.

An estimated £6 million has already been put forward towards the venture and it is hoped the facility will be able to recycle up to 500,000 mobile handsets each month and generate turnover of £15 million. Excel is fronted by Chief Executive Mike Bandeira, formally of BT and ntl, and he commented: “We will offer a complete end-to-end solution for the collection, recycle, re-use and distribution of phones… With Europe currently contributing around 125 million phones per year to a growing stockpile of unused goods, the need to convert them into reusable stock has become increasingly urgent.”

The project has also been part-funded by the Welsh Assembly and is certainly a very good indicator to the rest of Europe that Britain, and particularly Wales, is more than doing its bit for recycling. It is estimated that, in recent years, 110 million handsets were in circulation as more and more users demand the latest model.However, from an estimated 20 million newly used handsets per year, only 5 million are being recycled.

Excel hopes to improve on that statistic, with up to 95% of handsets being recycled when the facility is fully operational. The handsets are collected and then sold to developing countries such as India, Pakistan, Dubai, Bolivia and even China, where they were probably originally assembled. The condition, age and model type will measure how much money people could receive for donating their old handsets but often the money from the return will be given to charity.

The facility has been officially announced to the press, and to the local area around south Wales, but an official national TV advertising campaign will go out later in 2007 encouraging people to consider recycling their mobiles. Excel also plan to position collection points in stores of various leading supermarkets and high street shops by the end of 2007.

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UK Ministry of Defence promises to recycle more

September 5, 2007 at 11:04 am

The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) has published a challenging set of environmental targets in its latest Sustainable Development Action Plan, including a promise to recover and recycle more waste than they send to landfill by 2012. Defence Secretary Des Brown said that Environment and Defence were “by no means separate issues” and that the MOD must work to understand and limit the environmental impact of all defence operations and activities.

With an annual procurement budget of around £16 million and an estimated £19 million spent each year on waste, the MOD is well aware of its environmental ‘footprint’. Key targets included in the plan include:

  • ’Waste Management – Some MOD sites already recycle up to 70% of waste. Following a recent MOD waste study, they will now aim to recover and recycle more waste than they send to landfill by 2012 and work towards become a zero-waste to landfill organisation by 2020.
  • Climate Change – The MOD aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from buildings by 15% by 2012 through higher energy efficiency, reduced energy consumption, and investment in sustainable technologies.
  • Water – The MOD claims to have saved over three million cubic metres in annual water consumption in 2006 through leakage reduction. They now aim to reduce their annual water consumption of 24 million cubic metres by a further 25% by 2020.
  • Biodiversity– Owning vast amounts of land in the UK, the MOD is responsible for 174 Sites of Special Scientific Interest. 81% of these are already in good condition according to targets set by the government. The MOD aim to increase this to 95% by 2010.

Expressing an ambition to become a national leader in sustainable development by 2012, the MOD said this was particularly important as an organisation operating in places where access to scarce resources contributes to conflict and communities are directly affected by environmental problems. They said there was now an established link between climate change and instability and that this would have implications for future operations.

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