Wales hits recycling targets a year early

September 25, 2009 at 1:29 pm

Welsh councils have hit their recycling targets for sending waste to landfill a year early. This will mean they will not face European Union financial penalties if they continue to recycle at the same rate next year.

The new EU initiative begins in 2010, and states that the rate of biodegradable waste such as food, cardboard and paper being sent to landfill must be down by 75% compared to 1995 levels. By 2013 this will be reduced by a further 50%, and will go down another 35% by 2020.

During 2008/09, Wales buried just 599,703 tonnes of biodegradable waste in landfill, marking a huge reduction of 154,879 tonnes in just two years. The Welsh Landfill Allowances Scheme allows for 788,000 tonnes to be buried each year, so this amount is 24% lower than the target. But more importantly it is 16% below the 2010 EU allowance, meaning if authorities continue at the same rate then they will not receive the heavy financial penalties for burying too much biodegradable waste.

It marks a huge turnaround for Wales. In 2008, only 11 of the local authorities were looking likely to hit their EU targets. But now they have beaten their targets a year early which is a great success for recycling in the country.

The Welsh Assembly Government has recently provided £24 million in funding for household waste collection and treatment across the country. In total, 18 authorities now have a food waste collection service up and running.

Environment minister, Jane Davidson, said that it was an “excellent achievement”. She said that simply burying waste to rot is something “from another era” and highlighted the possibilities it provided to “generate renewable energy through the use of anaerobic digestion”.

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Doggy bags to clear nation’s plate

September 18, 2009 at 1:55 pm

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, real-food campaigner and presenter of the River Cottage series of TV programs, has backed a supermarket campaign to reduce food waste by three million tonnes a year by asking diners to take uneaten food home with them.

In its official magazine, Waitrose supermarket implored readers to overcome their shyness and ask waiters for a doggy bag – a box or bag of leftover food.

William Sitwell, the author of the feature, took umbrage with the volume of waste produced by UK restaurants, calling it “appalling”.

An estimated 20m tonnes of leftover food items end up in landfill sites every year, according to figures published by government pressure group WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme).

Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall was quick to point out that chefs like to see their food eaten, not thrown in the bin: “I have asked for doggy bags in Michelin-starred restaurants. This isn’t something that is frowned-on."

Hugh’s enthusiasm is not universal, however. Several UK restaurants have banned doggy bags altogether, fearing legal proceedings, bespectacled lawyers and salmonella’s grubby fingers.

Visitors to the BBC website noted that today’s culture is too quick to seek compensation for minor infractions. Some restaurants may even ask customers to sign a legal waiver before handing over a doggy bag.

Despite the popularity of the phenomenon in the US, few UK restaurants are equipped to provide a ‘takeaway’ service.

The Love Food, Hate Waste website offers free recipes and advice for people who want to cut down on the amount of food that they throw in the wheelie bin.

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Department for the Environment less than average in its recycling rates

September 14, 2009 at 2:47 pm

A recent parliamentary question has revealed that the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has only managed to recycle 29% of its waste during 2008.

Defra is the government agency charged with ensuring Britain meets its target of recycling 50% of its waste by 2020 as part of the Government’s ‘war on waste’ campaign and its vision of a more sustainable UK. However, the Department’s inability to generate higher recycling rates has left it lagging behind similar institutions. This is most striking when Defra is compared to some Local Authorities as some of these have been able to recycle more than 60% of their waste.

Perhaps the most worrying aspect for Defra should be that even companies such as Boots have been able to achieve recycling rates of 50% or more, demonstrating that the Department is lagging behind both the public and private sectors in its endeavours, leading opposition parties to attack the effort the Government is making in setting an example by achieving recycling rates as high as possible within its own departments.

In response to these claims, Defra has maintained that the figure does not take account of the fact that 64% of office waste is recycled. In addition the Department argues that a large proportion of the waste it generates cannot be recycled because it comprises hazardous materials, with a large proportion of these being incinerated to generate electricity.

This whole episode demonstrates both the improvements that have been made and the challenges that remain for the UK as we endeavour to reach our recycling targets and create a more sustainable society.

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Carpet composting considered

September 4, 2009 at 4:16 pm

As the UK looks to cut down on the quantity of products ending up in landfill sites, Carpet Recycling UK has come up with a novel idea for composting woollen carpets.

At present the idea is in its trial stage with Derbyshire-based composters Vital Earth looking to see whether wool-fibre carpet can be composted successfully. The idea of composting carpets marks a change of focus on how best to recycle woollen carpets, with previous ideas exploring its insulation value amongst other things.

The original idea seems to have come from research conducted in New Zealand and, if the idea passes the trial stage, it has the potential to divert at least 35% of carpet material that has come from domestic waste towards composting to create a good quality fertiliser.

However, before the agricultural sector can look forward to the benefits of carpet composting, the UK Environmental Agency wants evidence that the carpet’s backing is biodegradable and will not cause harm to the environment. As well as this, there are fears that chemicals such as bleach that are used to treat fibres mean that the final product may not pass the PAS 100 accreditation that would enable it to be used as feedstock.

Despite this, the project can only be seen as a positive development as the UK moves towards a more sustainable society and as such it has received the support of the Environmental Agency. Whether the initial trials are successful or not, Carpet Recycling UK can already be pleased that their work is generating interest in carpet composting that was previously unseen.

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