Herts council to charge for excess non-recyclable waste

December 13, 2007 at 11:47 am

Broxbourne Council in Hertfordshire has begun to charge householders who generate too much non-recyclable waste in a six-month trail which began in November. The pilot scheme will cover 3000 homes, whose residents will be given 26 purple waste sacks, free of charge.

Waste put out for collection in bags other than the official purple ones will be left for the householder to dispose of and they could also face enforcement action. The council, however, recognises the time it can take for residents to establish a recycling routine and is taking a lenient view in the first 4 weeks of the trial. Extra bags will be available at various outlets at a cost of £2.80 for ten.

Broxbourne’s current recycling rate, excluding green waste, is 13% and the council would like to see this increased to at least 20%. The council’s website explains that this result could be achieved if every household in the pilot area recycled an extra 2 newspapers, 3 glass bottles and 2 food cans each week. They say that only about 50% of householders in the area are currently recycling properly.

Although Broxbourne restricts kerbside recycling to paper, cans and glass, there are 26 Neighbourhood Recycling Centres which cater for cardboard, plastics and textiles. Those resistant to the recycling message may well wonder if their council has the force of the law behind them, but under Section 46 of the Environment Protection Act of 1990, councils can require their residents to “place the waste for collection in receptacles of a kind and number specified.”

A spokesman has said that the council aims to make recycling easy for its residents and that the pilot is to be viewed as a learning process, from which feedback will be sought. If successful, it will be introduced throughout the area.

Other parts of England have introduced schemes to limit the amount of residual waste going to landfill, with varying degrees of success and popularity. Several councils have introduced compulsory recycling with good results. Schemes such as having fortnightly collections have proved unpopular because of bad smells, especially in summer, and the risk of rodent infestation with its implications for public health.

Perhaps one of the most successful schemes is that of Eden council in Cumbria. It was introduced in 2004 and has been responsible for increasing Eden’s recycling rate to an impressive 40%. It applies to 80% of its households and works again on the principle of charging for bags over and above the 2 blue ones provided free of charge each week by the council. Large households of 6 or more are entitled to an extra blue bag per week, as are those who have a medical condition which generates extra waste. Paper, cans and glass are recycled kerbside in all but rural areas where this is restricted to paper and cardboard. There are, in addition, 70 recycling centres in Eden for recycling items as diverse as engine oil, books, textiles and foil.

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Fly-ash recycling a potential in the UK

December 13, 2007 at 11:14 am

Fly-ash is produced from burning coal in power stations and consists of the small particles collected in the filters of the power stations’ chimneys. In the past, fly-ash was taken up by flue gases and released into the atmosphere, causing health and environmental problems. Currently, the majority of fly-ash is dumped in landfill sites but, with the associated financial and environmental costs, recycling the product has become increasingly important.

35% of fly-ash is recycled worldwide, with a variety of uses:

  • Replacing Portland cement in concrete
  • Engineering uses in constructing embankments
  • Stabilising soil for use in building roads
  • Making “flowable fill” used instead of compacted earth or granular flow
  • Using as a mineral filler for the voids in asphalt concrete
  • Making roller-compacted concrete for the construction of dams
  • Manufacturing bricks, although problems occur when the bricks come into contact with moisture and expand
  • Turning human waste into fertilizer

The UK sends some 66% of their fly-ash to landfill or uses it in lower value applications such as earthworks and road construction. This compares with only 5% in Germany, where the lion’s share is used for high value applications, such as concrete, grout and cement.

Thomas Duve, the chief executive of Evonik Power Minerals, thinks that the UK needs to monitor the quality of its ash better, as well as create a network with other European countries to exchange know-how and sell the product. By having proper control systems in place and possibly blending it, the fly-ash would become a far more marketable product in the construction industry. Mr Duve also suggested that the UK’s lower value fly-ash could be exported to those parts of Europe where it is in high demand for reprocessing, whilst importing better quality fly-ash into the UK from abroad to create demand.

Since January 2007, Evonik have been working to help UK power stations market their fly-ash. The company, which has helped over 50 German power stations market over 4 million tonnes of fly-ash per year, sees fly-ash not as a waste product but as a valuable by-product which can “help reduce the carbon footprint in this energy sector”, according to their marketing advisor, Hans Peter Ickemeyer. He explains that, because the production of products such as cement is so energy intensive, using concrete made from fly-ash for a third of the product could have a highly beneficial environmental impact.

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Ribena to use 100% recycled bottles

December 11, 2007 at 3:46 pm

It may not always be great for our teeth but now our favourite blackcurrant friend Ribena is taking notice of recycled packaging. Ribena, who are owned by the drug company GlaxoSmithKline, announced that they are putting plans into operation for all of their plastic bottles to be made from recycled plastics and remain 100% recyclable afterwards. The ready-to-drink bottles are now ready-to-recycle as of October this year, and Ribena are to roll out the same for their squash concentrate bottles too.

Ribena are by no means the worst in this field, with 40% of their bottles being made from recycled materials and a plastic called Polyethylene Terephthalate. Why raise the bar? It’s a costly venture but one Ribena feel is well worth it. Managing Director of Ribena, Anne MacCraig, says:

“This hasn’t been without its challenges but it is a major step forward for sustainable packaging. With nine out of ten consumers saying they think it would be good if packaging contained recycled plastic, we’re confident that they will welcome the move to 100 percent recycled plastic.”

Another drinks manufacturer, Innocent, were the first company ever to produce and sell a packaged product that is 100% recycled PET, meaning that every single material has come from a previous recycling process. Innocent signed up to an agreement called the Carbon Trust, which is another scheme to keep companies’ carbon footprint in check. Innocent expect to also see a 55% reduction in their own footprint through the use of these recycled techniques.

The co-founder of think-tank and consultancy agency SustainAbility, Julia Hailes MBE, commented by saying:

“I’m delighted that the makers of Ribena are leading the way in moving to 100 percent recycled plastic in their bottles. This is really significant in terms of saving energy and reducing waste. I hope other food and drink producers will follow suit.”

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Reverse vending machines to reward recycling

December 11, 2007 at 3:37 pm

Plastic bottles account for an annual 23,000 tonnes of waste, much of it arising from drinks consumed away from home. With the Government keen to boost recycling rates in public places in an attempt to reduce the waste ending up in landfill sites, the so-called �reverse vending machines� are arriving at just the right time. Shoppers in Milton Keynes and Peterborough shopping centres now have the opportunity to do their bit for the environment and be rewarded for doing so.

The public can post their plastic bottles into the machine, which will determine whether it is made of PET (polyethylene terephthalata, a thermoplastic polymer resin which is part of the same family as the polyester used for man-made clothing). If so, it will be crushed by rollers and dropped into one of two internal compartments. Each of these compartments hold up to 400 bottles, depending on size and when they are full, staff at the shopping centres will be alerted so that the machines can be emptied.

If the bottle is non-PET and therefore not recyclable, it will be rejected and deposited into a side-compartment where it will be analysed to see what materials the public are trying to recycle. When a recyclable bottle is deposited, the shopper is rewarded by a voucher offering money off or offers for goods.

The vending machines are made by Recycling Options Ltd, based in Staffordshire, and the six month trial is funded by the pharmaceutical and healthcare firm, GlaxoSmithKline. The scheme is being managed by the charity Recoup. The project officer, Lucy Shields, says: "We believe that in areas with high public through flow, selling ‘food and drinks’, large quantities of plastic bottles, other packaging and food waste will exist. This trial will bring the opportunity for everyone to engage in recycling out of the home as well as in the home."

Shopping centres considering installing one will be pleased to know that they are also easy to install, requiring only a standard 13 amp socket and plug, and a telephone connection for recycling data to be transmitted. They require very little maintenance, are not noisy, only cost around 15p worth of energy to run each day and are not dangerous. The aperture has various sensors to detect any hands or arms and can immediately stop the rollers, which are in housed sufficiently deep in the machine to avoid any risk of accident or injury to users.

If the pilot scheme in Milton Keynes and Peterborough proves successful, perhaps the day will come when every venue with a vending machine will have a reverse vending machine situated close by, enabling us all to do our bit for the planet.

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Recycling impact on fly-tipping

December 11, 2007 at 3:18 pm

Recycling schemes are all very well but what effect do they have on fly tipping? No-one likes to see rubbish strewn all over their streets or blighting the countryside but unfortunately, this is an increasing problem in many parts of the UK. Sadly not everyone is a good citizen, and when councils start restricting kerbside collection of non-recyclable waste from householders, then the temptation for the unscrupulous to fly-tip seems too enormous to resist.

During the year 2006-2007, local authorities spent £76 million clearing up fly-tipping mess and over three-quarters of that came from householders. Figures from Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) indicate that the number of fly tipping incidents rose by 5% from 2005-2006 but that more action was being taken by local authorities and government alike to address the problem. 1371 prosecutions were carried out and 94% of these were successful.

It seems that the worst offenders are in Liverpool, where the city council had to fork out a staggering £15.6 million last year to clear up 1.3 million incidents. The way forward, according to a spokesman from Defra, is that “initiatives to boost recycling should be supported by fly tipping strategies aimed at preventing the illegal dumping of waste.”

Businesses too are guilty of irresponsibly dumping waste. However, figures show that the problem has actually decreased by 10% from 2005-2006, with the number of illegally dumped black bags of commercial waste dropping from 59,630 to 53,566. This may be as a direct result of local councils more than doubling the number of inspection visits made to businesses to monitor the situation.

The District of Easington Council in County Durham has excelled in its attempts to tackle fly-tipping, not only reducing the number of incidents from 473 (2005–2006) to 422 (2006-2007) but also increasing the number of enforcement actions from 164 to 197. Ian Hoult, the Environmental Enforcement Manager, said that their success had come about by erecting signs warning people of the consequence of their actions, and by increasing patrols and surveillance work.

As of last year, the council has had the power to stop and search any vehicles which they believe may be carrying waste without the proper waste carrier registration. Anyone found to have fallen foul of the regulations, can be fined up to £5000 and have their vehicle confiscated. George Patterson, an Easington District Councillor, points out that householders must also take responsibility and, when having work done on their houses, should ensure that the waste is disposed of by a regulated carrier or they too may face a fine.

Other councils which have done well with their fly-tipping initiatives include Islington, Milton Keynes, Sheffield and Worthing, and the Minister with responsibility for recycling and waste, Joan Ruddock, would like to see other councils follow their example. She adds that members of the public and businesses alike must do their bit and report fly-tipping in an attempt to tackle the problem together.

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