Lords’ Committee report sees waste as an opportunity

March 13, 2014 at 10:57 am

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee have just released an important report, titled ‘Waste or Resource? Stimulating Bioeconomy’. This report calls on the Government to change their negative view on the ‘problem of waste’. The basic undertone of the report suggests that waste should be seen as an opportunity rather than a hindrance.

The report proposes that the Government take steps to encourage waste management companies to create an alternative solution that will allow the country to turn waste into a valuable resource. Chair of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee Lord Krebs, said: “There is a huge amount at stake here, economically and environmentally, and no single department appears to be leading the way.”

The main issue outlined is that, despite efforts by the Government to encourage a decrease in waste, there will always be a certain amount of unrecyclable and unusable waste produced by households and commercial entities. This should be seen as an opportunity to create a bioeconomy. Companies have already started addressing this issue and it is not only proving successful, but also profitable. For example, one company is utilising microbes to break down waste gases from steel mills to produce jet fuel. Not only does this create money, the jet fuel is also more eco-friendly, producing 60% less carbon than its fossil fuel counterpart. Moreover, the report shows that technology now available to the UK can produce 4% of the petrol used every year. This is a total financial gain of £2.4 billion.

The conclusion of the report is that the Government is neglecting to see the economic benefits of waste and should be starting to do so. By incentivising sectors in this field and crowning a ‘Waste Champion’ for finding the best solution, the Government can help to produce a more financially beneficial bioeconomy.

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Uk hits target for carpet recycling

February 10, 2014 at 12:55 pm

The 25% target for recycling of carpet has been smashed two years early.

According to statistics released by Carpet Recycling UK (CRUK), carpet recycling has increased by 21% in the last year. The figures show that in 2013, UK recycled, reused, and recovered 107,000 metric tons of carpet.

This is extremely important with the landfill diversion target looming, set to be reached by 2015. However, due to the large increase in recycling over the previous year, CRUK has stated that the original target has already been exceeded two years earlier than planned.

Set in 2008, the landfill diversion target for carpet was 400,000 metric tons of scrap carpet to be recycled or reused. This resulted in the formation of CRUK to deal with the costly issue of scrap carpet. Their push has been successful, shown by the enormous increase across the UK.

However, rather than sit back and revel in success, the organisation has given itself a brand new goal of 60 percent by 2020. Luckily, valuable raw materials can be extracted from carpets, which creates an interest in the goal for commercial businesses.

CRUK’s director, Laurance Bird is extremely happy with the progress and believes that the new goal is entirely achievable, especially with the new commercial interest in raw material extraction. He believes that with technological advancements this interest can only increase. He comments, saying “Possibilities are growing all the time as entrepreneurs from a complete cross-section of manufacturing and commercial enterprises continue to push the boundaries of what can be achieved.”

The next steps to meet the new target focus around local authorities. Not only has the total amount of recycled carpet risen, the number of local authorities providing services for this process has increased dramatically too. Over the past 18 months, the number of local councils collecting and segregating waste carpet has grown from 15 to 45: a 200% increase. Instrumental in assisting the removal and recycling of household carpets, Bird feels that the need to encourage local councils to improve these services is imperative, as domestic residences are the main source of carpets. By improving services, residents will be able to access the services more easily, encouraging carpet recycling and the achievement of the goal. Equally, CRUK intend to put pressure on those local authorities not offering these services at all currently.

Commercial sources are also a huge focus for CRUK, especially since Scotland has implemented compulsory material segregation for commercial waste. With local authorities being able to see the benefits of this policy, Bird believes that this may spur areas in England to introduce a similar strategy, helping with the overall carpet recycling goal.

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Nappy recycler Knowaste to find large plant

February 7, 2014 at 12:41 pm

AHP Recycling Giant needs a new site in order to keep up with the demand.

Knowaste, the world’s first nappy recycling company, is looking for a larger UK site to complete its recycling treatment of absorbent hygiene products (AHP). Having opened the first AHP recycling facility in the UK in September 2011, the market demand has increased so radically that a new location is needed to supply the service adequately. Since the plant’s opening, Knowaste’s statistics show that the plant has recycled over 77 million nappies.

The process, known as autoclave technology, seeks to separate the plastics and fibres from the human waste. This ensures that 100% of the AHP can be recycled into new materials. Often these materials are used for extrusion products, additives to concrete productions, and flood defence systems. They’re even sometimes used to create containers which hold nappies themselves.

Recycling AHP has provided local authorities with cost-effective and environmentally-friendly solutions to landfill or incineration. Equally it provides an abundance of reusable materials to assist local businesses and to increase the revenue of local authorities. The success of this in the small area surrounding the plant has led to an increased number of local authorities and hygiene companies following suit, in a bid to reduce their own disposal costs and meet recycling targets.

The issue currently posed for Knowaste is the crucial determination of the new site. As an eco-company, they need to be located near an adequately large source of sustainable energy and water in order to meet the increasing demand for their unique services. Having closed the previous site at the end of last year, the search is reaching a critical point.

As per the demand, not only will Knowaste’s new site be able to cope with larger amounts of AHP waste, it will also incorporate new, state-of-the-art technology to improve their method. The new technology will optimise sterilisation and material separation, creating a more stream-lined process and higher quality end-products.

However, the shut-down of the current plant at West Bromwich has left the field open for alternative AHP recyclers. Envirocomp, a direct competitor of Knowaste, has now opened a plant in Rochester, Kent to do the same job. Envirocomp, however, use a different technique closer to composting, which does not produce the same quantity of reusable goods. Nevertheless, with Knowaste closed, Envirocomp has had the opportunity to poach customers.

Despite this, Paul Richardson, director of business development at Knowaste, is not perturbed, saying: “I think that competition is always good and we both have our own areas of expertise.”

Focusing on a location situated between Luton and Oxford, Knowaste claims that the new site is the first step towards opening various recycling plants across the country, which will create the healthy competition that Richardson believes will benefit both businesses.

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Food waste energy plant opens in North East

February 4, 2014 at 12:36 pm

An £8 million plant opened in County Durham is to turn food waste to energy.

County Durham has opened the doors to the first commercial food waste anaerobic digestion (AD) plant in the north east of England. The plant is said to be able to power around 2000 homes/small businesses every year using commercial food waste from all types of organisations, including schools, retailers, and food packaging companies.

The plant is a huge leap forward with the operating company, Emerald Biogas, confident that the plant will bring about change in food waste disposal in the north east of England. The plant is said to be a step towards eradicating food waste in landfills, as well as providing a reliable and valuable source of green energy and bio-fertiliser. The project was funded in the main by the Rural Development Programme for England, which in turn is funded by both Defra and the EU. HSBC also provided a significant investment.

Director of Emerald Biogas, Adam Warren, was keen to mention in his speech at the opening ceremony that the north east has been struggling to deal with the large amount of food waste dumped in landfill sites every year: around 800,000 tonnes. As a company, Emerald Biogas has taken the time to provide a solution that is both dynamic and practical. Warren stressed that the plant will not only provide a sustainable solution for disposing of food wastage, it will also provide a renewable and cost-effective energy source for local businesses.

Moreover, the bio-fertiliser produced as a secondary bonus from the food waste will be distributed to local agricultural organisations and independent farmers. This bio-fertiliser will help to establish a stronger agricultural community in the north east by re-enriching the soil with the nutrients it has lost from years of industry.

Not only will the plant function as a solution to food waste, it will also serve as a centre of learning. A campaign has been launched which will facilitate visits to the plant to encourage young people to understand the processes of recycling, as well as the importance of leading a greener life.

Waste Minister, Dan Rogerson, speaks openly about the extra benefits that new waste disposal techniques bring about: “Dealing with waste properly not only benefits the environment but will also help create jobs and build a stronger economy.” With the current job slump and damaged economy in the north east, this mass creation of jobs will help ease the stark figures of unemployment.

With such large investors supporting the plant, it seems this innovative step is set to make a huge impact on the north east. HSBC finished off the launch evening by praising the staff and looking forward to the plant’s development in the future.

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Recycling giants ECO Plastics and Viridor sign major agreement

January 30, 2014 at 12:35 pm

UK-based recycling giants, ECO Plastics and Viridor, have recently signed a multi-million pound agreement in which Viridor will supply 10,000 metric tons of plastic bottles to ECO Plastics during the remainder of 2014.

This agreement is the latest in a growing trend within the recycling industry in which re-processing plants have moved away from the practice of random, spot trading and instead develop long-term collaborations with established raw materials providers. The stability and confidence created by these agreements have allowed for companies, like ECO Plastics, to invest in the creation of new technology, further developing the UK’s waste infrastructure.

The supplier, Viridor, operates over 320 facilities across the UK and is one of the UK’s leading recycling, renewable energy and waste management companies. Each year, Viridor transforms over two million tons of materials into high-quality raw materials, also known as recyclate. Yet more of these raw materials are converted into over 760 gigawatt hours of renewable energy.

In total, Viridor safely manages over eight million tons of recyclables and waste materials for customers from all sectors across the UK. This current agreement will enable Viridor to provide approximately eight per cent of ECO Plastics’ total recycling capacity.

ECO Plastics is the UK’s leading re-processor of recyclable materials. Through ECO Plastics’ Hemswell plant, the company has the capability to process 150,000 metric tons of mixed plastics each year, which equates to roughly 35 per cent of the recyclable plastic bottles collected in the UK every year. Currently 35 per cent of ECO Plastics’ raw materials are supplied through partnerships similar to their agreement with Viridor. The company hopes to expand this to 70 per cent by the end of 2014.

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Daily Mail accuses DEFRA of conning UK citizens

April 26, 2013 at 4:15 pm

The Daily Mail has accused the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) of lying to citizens about what happens to their carefully collected recycling. The newspaper points to documents recently released by Defra stating that millions of tonnes of UK household recycling is being dumped abroad, despite that being illegal.

The headlining story entitled ‘The Great Recycling Con Trick’ alleges that most of the waste shipped abroad for recycling is so contaminated it cannot be used and instead ends up in landfill in countries like China, Indonesia and India. The paper also stated that household recycling was not the only problem: old audio-visual equipment ends up buried in West Africa and rubber tyres in China.

Defra have issued a counter-statement in direct response, claiming that the vast majority of recycling sent abroad is in fact re-processed into usable materials. Owen Paterson, the head of the government agency, said that they will be clamping down on UK ports and imbuing authorities with the necessary powers to intervene in the trafficking of illegal waste.

Nevertheless, the Mail alleges that Defra admitted in their own report, that once the recycling is out of UK waters, it is out of their hands and in most cases they do not know what happens to it.

Contaminated recycling is a result of poorly performing household recycling, or poor handling by the waste collection authorities. One way to combat the problems, says Defra, is to introduce stricter controls and penalties at this level.

The new EU Waste Directive, which came into play this year, also put pressure on the UK to export vast quantities of recyclable waste abroad.

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UK and Ireland show the greatest increase in recycling out of all EU member states

March 28, 2013 at 8:53 am

The UK and Ireland showed a dramatic rise in recycling rates during the first 10 years of the new millennium, according to a new report from the European Environment Agency (EEA).

Despite getting off to a bad start with only 13% of household waste recycled in 2001, the UK now resides nearer the top of the European charts at 43% in 2013.

Experts say that this puts us on form to reach the EEA directive of 50% of recycling all waste by 2017 three years ahead of schedule. Wales is even further ahead, recycling 54% of household waste and already exceeding the European directive by 4%.

In 2010, out of all EU member states Austria continued to hold the top place at 62.8% while Germany (61.8%) stole second from Belgium (57.6%). Meanwhile Romania, Turkey and Bulgaria continued to languish around the 1% mark, with the latter recording 0% recycling of waste.

Executive director of the EEA Jacqueline McGlade said that the current demand for recycled products should make a clear economic case for recycling, especially in those countries where such resources are going to waste.

Recycling conserves valuable resources and can significantly reduce the emission of greenhouse gases from municipal waste. Between 2001 and 2010, changes in the way waste is managed has prevented 38 million tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere in Norway, the UK and Switzerland alone.

According to the report, the widespread improvement in recycling rates is due to improvements in infrastructure and process, as well as emerging trends in using recycled materials. There has been much less progress in recycling organic waste however and the UK is still sending vast amounts of valuable resources to landfill – a clear case for home composting if you ever heard of it.

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Handy tips on recycling electrical items

March 20, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Anything requiring either batteries or mains power to operate is classified as an electrical or electronic item. When it becomes waste it is known as WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment). In the UK alone we discard over a million tonnes of WEEE every year and the amount is growing.

If put into landfill, precious metals and plastic are wasted, doubly bad if you think about the impact mining for more metals has on the environment. More than ever, it’s important that we recycle correctly. Here’s how:

  • If you live in North London DHL and NWLA operate a scheme through which they collect and recycle your WEEE for free. You can’t get fairer than that! Find more info at 123 recycle for free.
  • Look out for manufacturer recycling schemes. Some will collect for free or a predefined charge, others require the equipment to be brought to a store.
  • Ask your council to collect it. They are legally bound to do so, but may charge a fee.
  • Take it to a recycling centre. The website Recycle Now allows you to enter your postcode, find your nearest centre and discover which items you can recycle both there and at your kerbside.
  • If it’s still working, donate your equipment to a charity shop or to another lucky citizen via the fantastic Freecycle network.
  • If you’re worried about not having a digital TV, there’s no need to throw your old set out. Any analogue TV can receive digital signals via a digital box.
  • You can even make money with unwanted electrical goods on sites such as eBay and Gumtree. Once you get it all together you may be surprised how much extra cash it adds up to.

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Ecover to recycle plastic waste from sea

March 16, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Ecover, the Belgian company known for its eco-cleaning products, recently announced that it will be creating new bottles for its products that will be made from plastic waste collected from the sea.

The company will use the plastic waste collected by fishermen trawling the sea, and then it will combine the recycled plastic with another type of plastic that is made using sugar cane. It is expecting to start selling products in the new plastic containers next year.

The company said that it would be working with Closed Loop Recycling, a plastic recycling company in the UK, as well as Waste Free Oceans. Fishing boats will be provided with special equipment to enable them to collect up to eight tonnes of plastic during each trawl. The waste will then be deposited at collection points and delivered to the Closed Loop Recycling plant in Dagenham for processing.

Philip Malmberg, the chief executive of Ecover, said that the company does not yet have a “definitive figure” on the amount of sea plastic that will be used in its new products, but confirmed that they would simply try to use “as much as is possible” depending on how much the fishermen collect.

Malmberg said that the company is “always pushing boundaries” when it comes to sustainability, and its focus on innovation means that it is now creating products that “deliver more than a nod to sustainability”. The company also claims that the new plastic will be the first fully recyclable and sustainable plastic, and confirmed that the costs of the process will not be passed onto consumers.

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Could landfill mining soon begin in Scotland?

March 14, 2013 at 2:37 pm

As recycling becomes increasingly important across the UK, new ways of finding and recycling materials are emerging. One of the latest is the idea by the Scottish government to ‘mine’ old landfill sites for useful materials that can be recycled.

It has commissioned Zero Waste Scotland to carry out a study into how feasible the process of landfill mining will be. If it turns out to be a real possibility, Scotland could see landfill mining become a reality in the near future.

On the face of it, landfill mining makes perfect sense. It involves extracting recyclable materials such as metal and plastic from landfill sites to make use of them rather than leaving them as waste. At the same time, other items that are recovered during the process can be burned in incinerators to produce energy for homes. Other things that could be mined include mobile phones and computers, which often contain rare earth materials. A spokesman from Zero Waste Scotland said that landfill sites “could contain valuable recyclable materials”.

However, the idea is not without its critics. Some have said that it is much better to focus on recycling materials rather than digging them up, cleaning them and then recycling them, and that government money would be better spent educating the public about proper ways of recycling in the first place.

If it does go ahead, it is likely that the first landfill sites to be mined will be those dating back to the 1970s. Older landfill sites are a lot less likely to be suitable because the materials will probably be too degraded.

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