Recycling rates could be affected by the new circular economy package
Representatives from Germany, Austria, Sweden and other EU member states have converged at a conference in London to discuss the effects that the new Circular Economy package could have upon the nations’ recycling rates.
The EU Commission’s Circular Economy package must first be passed as a law by the Council of the European Union before member states have to act upon its proposals, but if it was to get approval by the council, EU nations would have to change the way they “measure their progress towards the municipal waste recycling target”.
The current recycling rate is set at 50% by 2020 and EU members can calculate how much they are recycling by using either one of four EU Commission approved methodologies. At present, Germany and Austria are two of the top performing member states, recycling 64% and 57% respectively.
The Energy from Waste Conference took place in London on Wednesday, 24 February, and was attended by representatives from member states, including from top performing nations, who are concerned that the new regulations proposed in the Circular Economy package could negatively effect the recycling rates across the EU.
The commission proposal outlines plans to judge the recycling rate by “the weight of the municipal waste recycled shall be understood as the weight of the input waste entering the final recycling process” rather than the collection of waste meant for recycling.
Jose-Jorge Diaz del Castillo, legal officer for DG Environment for the EU Commission, said: “The Circular Economy package proposes that we are counting only input into the final recycling facility whereas [before] we didn’t know how much comes out as recyclables.”
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Quarry business owners fined for breaching their environmental permit
The owners of a quarry in Worcestershire and their company, Broadly and Parton Limited, have been fined almost £50,000 following a “particularly complex prosecution” by the Environment Agency.
The owners of Cinetic Quarry, situated in Wildmoor, appeared before HHJ Pearce Higgins QC in magistrates’ court, accused of breaching the terms of their environmental permit. The two businessman and a member of their staff all pleaded guilty to the environmental offences.
The prosecution follows a two-year investigation by the Environment Agency, which repeatedly issued Cinetic Quarry with regulation notices, all of which went unanswered and ignored.
The Environment Agency said that the quarry owners had been carrying out illegal waste disposal activity at their site, which was in breach of their environmental permit and, from which, they had gained financially for a number of years. According to the agency’s investigations, the owners had allowed the burial of industrial and municipal waste at the quarry.
The owners argued that the Environment Agency had exaggerated the extent of the financial gains which the company had made by breaching the terms of the permit. Judge Pearce Higgins QC accepted this explanation.
The three defendants must pay fines totalling £18,750 and costs of £30,250. Two other men were also successfully prosecuted by the agency for illegally dumping waste at the quarry site.
A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said: “This site posed a risk to the environment and had the potential to harm human health because it did not have the correct infrastructure in place to support the waste being disposed of there.”
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ESA claims to have helped reduce the number of injuries within the waste and recycling sector
A new report published by the Environmental Services Association (ESA) claims that it has helped reduce the number of injuries sustained by workers in the waste and recycling industry by up to 78 per cent since 2004 when a report titled ‘Mapping Health and Safety Standards in the UK Waste Industry’ highlighted alarming fatality figures.
The 2004 report was produced by Bombel Limited and revealed that, in the year 2001/02, more than 4,000 injuries were sustained by workers within the waste and recycling industry. Even more alarming was a fatality rate of 10 in every 100,000 employees; which, at the time of the report, was ten times higher than the UK’s national average.
The new report, titled ‘Aiming for Zero Harm in the Waste & Recycling Industry’, discusses the results of the “concerted effort” which has been made since 2004 by the ESA, WISH (Waste Industry Safety & Health), and the waste management industry.
The statistics show that members of the ESA have reported an overall reduction of 78 per cent in the number of injuries sustained within the workplace since 2004. The waste management industry as a whole, has witnessed a 23.7 per cent decrease in workplace injuries within the last five years.
Despite these positive numbers, figures released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that the waste management sector is still recording a higher than average number of accidents; with figures suggesting a rate four times higher than the national average.
ESA has said that with the changing face of the waste and recycling industry, particularly since the development of circular economy models, waste management workers are dealing with jobs that are “increasingly mechanised and more labour intensive”.
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Councillors decide to cancel operations at two Lancashire waste recycling plants
Lancashire Country Council has decided to stop operations at the two £2bn waste recycling plants at Farington and Thornton in a controversial move.
The decision was made by the executive scrutiny committee at a meeting in the County Hall in Preston on Friday, February 19. The two waste recycling plants, which cost the council £125m each to build, will run quiet after June this year, when over 250 employees will be made redundant.
The committee said that the food and organic waste, which is currently separated and treated at the two plants, will now be sent to landfill. In 2012, a report suggested that 70% of the waste that was sent to the Farington and Thornton recycling plants was relocated to landfill anyway.
Lancashire’s expensive recycling project has been enduringly problematic, with Michael Green, Leyland South West Conservative councillor, describing it as a “failure of catastrophic proportions”.
Due to unmanageable costs, in 2014 the council was forced to break their 25-year contract with the private waste company Global Renewables, which was a groundbreaking deal at the time of the initiating in 2007.
Councillors from the executive scrutiny committee have said that a redundancy programme is now being rolled out and that all, except around 16 employees, will be made redundant. Rather untactfully, Leader of the Council Jennifer Mein, said that the “low-skilled” plant workers are “part of the ongoing process is to upskill those people who will no longer have jobs with the facilities closing.”
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Drink manufacturers are against plans to introduce deposit-and-return system in Scotland
AG Barr, the producers of the iconic Scottish drink Irn Bru, has said that the decision to hand over cash for used bottles and cans in Scotland could result in a ‘crime spree’.
The introduction of a deposit-and-return system for bottles, cans and cartons in Scotland is paving the way to scavenging, looting and fraud, according to AG Barr.
During a recent waste management debate at the Scottish Parliament, it was revealed that MSPs are considering implementing such a system within Scotland. Similar schemes are already successful in many countries throughout the world, including Germany, Sweden, Norway, the US and Canada.
Consumers pay a deposit on a bottle/can at the time of purchase (25 cent in Germany, 1 Krona in Sweden, which is around 10p) and then return the bottle/can to get that money back using special machines which are installed in stores and supermarkets.
Those who doubt the effectiveness of the deposit-and-return scheme, have said that it could lead to the “cross-border trafficking” of recyclable materials and the scavenging of bins, which occurs in other countries which operate such systems, where many homeless and unemployed people collect empty bottles from public and private waste bins.
Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland and a supporter of the proposal, commented: “Deposit return systems work well in many countries and are very popular with the public. They also help create local jobs, reduce climate change emissions and boost recycling.”
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The council has saved £20,000 with the help of recycling residents
East Northamptonshire Council has thanked residents for helping to recycle 220 tonnes of food waste in December 2015, saving the council £20,000 in landfill tax.
East Northamptonshire Council launched The Feed Your Caddy Campaign, a Recycle for Northamptonshire project, which residents must sign up to, after which they receive a information pack and a “I’m in to win” sticker which they stick onto their food waste council bin to be one of four household in with a chance of winning a prize every month.
The council initiative has encouraged more households to recycle their food waste using their council food caddies, resulting in the highest amount of food waste sent to be recycled in a single month, rather than to the landfill, since January 2014.
Every council in the UK must pay a standard landfill tax of £82.60 for every tonne of waste that is sent to landfill; this means that the residents in East Northamptonshire helped the council save more than £20,000 in just the month of December.
Local councillors are hoping that the initial success of The Feed Your Caddy Campaign will not dwindle and that East Northamptonshire residents recognise the difference that they are making by simply using their food waste bin.
Steven North, East Northamptonshire council leader, said: “I want to thank our residents for continuing to show their passionate commitment to recycling … We’re counting on your continued support to help ensure that East Northamptonshire’s recycling rate just keeps getting better and better.”
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UK plastic recycling sector continues to suffer as oil prices plummet
The persistent low cost of crude oil is threatening plastic recycling firms in the UK, as manufacturers are finding it cheaper to buy newly produced plastic rather than recycled plastic.
The UK has already seen a number of plastic recycling centres close as a result of the plummeting crude oil price, which has dropped significantly over the last year, decreasing drastically from £78 to £35 per barrel initially, before dropping to the current rate of about £23 per barrel.
The Closed Loop Recycling factory, situated in Dagenham, was an early casualty of the oil price slump, when it ceased production in June 2015, resulting in 120 job losses.
A former director at the plant, James Samworth, told Sky News: “Oil makes up about 30% of the cost of ethylene, which is the raw material for a lot of plastic … When the oil price went from $110 to $50 that basically reduced the gross margins on this plant by about 40% in a matter of weeks…”
A spokesperson from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said that it understands how these are troublesome times for the plastic recycling sector and that the UK Government and industry organisations are “developing and securing new markets for this valuable resource.”
However, other leaders in the plastic recycling sector, including Gary Claypole, from MBA Polymers, think that the UK Government is not doing enough to support the plastic recycling industry compared to other European countries.
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A new European Commission report advises four recycling bins per UK household
A European commission report outlines demands that would see UK households separating their recycling into four different bins for food, metal, glass and paper, which would have to be collected separately by council waste collectors.
At present, residents in the UK must separate their household waste into two or three council bins; one of which is a commingling recycling bin that contains a separate compartment for paper waste. Many people up and down the nation already feel that the current number of council bins per household present an eyesore and that the system is not successful.
The European commission report comes just a few weeks after a freedom of information report revealed that UK councils are sending more recycling waste to landfill than in previous years, which many people feel makes a mockery of the public’s recycling efforts.
Hot on the heels of this, was a report released last week by resource company, Viridor, which claims that England’s waste management system is “outdated” and a resource network between the private and public sectors would be more beneficial for the country’s economy and the recycling rate.
When asked about the new European Commission report, eurosceptic MP Philip Hollobone, of the Conservative party, told The Sun newspaper: “These sort of decisions need to be taken in this country … They don’t need to be imposed on us by unelected bureaucrats from other countries and we are going to get more such interference if we stay In the EU.”
However, the EU report was also met with approval from some government officials in the UK, including The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, as the report suggests that separating recycling waste prevents the contamination that occurs when it is commingled.
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Groundbreaking electronic waste facility to open in Hong Kong
The cutting-edge e-waste facility is being developed by ALBA Integrated Waste Solutions Hong Kong, which is part of the German ALBA Group, and is forecasted to recycle around 56 million tonnes of electronic waste every year.
ALBA IWS celebrated the commencement of building work at their Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Treatment and Recycling Facility on January 21 and were joined by officials from the Environmental Protection Department and the Hong Kong government.
The facility is being constructed at the EcoPark in Tuen Mun and is being funded by the Hong Kong government to tackle the problem of increasing e-waste; Hong Kong creates an estimated 70 million tonnes of electronic waste each year. The Hong Kong Government and ALBA IWS have signed a contract which stipulates that the latter must build and operate the facility and provide a collection service throughout Hong Kong until 2027.
Mr. WONG Kam-sing, Secretary for the Environment. “Key partners of this joint venture include ALBA … and IWS, a recyclable collector rooted in Hong Kong. We are confident that with their extensive experience in the environmental industry, they will be able to proactively source regulated e-waste within the community for proper treatment at the facility…”
The WEEE Treatment and Recycling Facility will employ over 280 people from the local area. The workers will sort through all the electronic waste that is collected by the facility and separate any electronic goods that are considered usable from those that are to be broken up for their materials and parts. Any e-waste that is considered toxic will be handled in a controlled environment that will meet all health and safety regulations.
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Food waste charity founder creates beer from unwanted bread
An east London brewery has developed a method for turning old bread into beer, after the beverage’s founder decided he wanted to do his little bit to tackle the issue of global food waste.
Recent figures suggest that the UK wastes 15 million tonnes of food every year; baked goods, and bread especially, have been branded the worst offenders. Tristram Stuart, founder of food waste charity ‘Feedback’, was at the Brussels Beer Project when he first had the inspiration of giving unwanted bread a new lease of life.
An estimated 24 million slices of bread are wasted each year by British households; a spokesperson from Feedback claimed that the unwanted baked produce which is thrown away each year in the UK, could feed 26 million people across the world who are suffering from a severe lack of food.
Now, Tristram Stuart and his team have found a ingenious way of saving some of this bread from the bin and turning it into something delicious. Each bottle of the new, appropriately named, Toast Ale contains one slice of old bread, taken from bakeries, sandwich shops, and delis.
This waste bread is blended into crumbs and then brewed with hops, malted barley and yeast. It goes through the necessary fermentation process until its ready, and then, there it is: a refreshing bottle of environmentally friendly beer.
Tristram Stuart commented: “We hope to put ourselves out of business. The day there’s no waste bread is the day Toast Ale can no longer exist.” The beer reaches shelves on January 28 and is to cost £3 per bottle.
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