‘Resourcing the Future’ conference held to debate the EU referendum and how leaving could affect the industry
Debate was raging at the final meeting for the ‘Resourcing the Future’ conference held in London last week, as waste bosses discussed Britain’s future in the European Union in relation to the waste industry.
Arguing to remain in the EU, Suez UK chief executive and president of the European Federation of Waste Management and Environmental Services, David Palmer-Jones asked the conference attendees: “What has the EU ever done for us?”
He then mentioned a number of waste improvements, including Britain’s 44 per cent recycling rate and the creation of landfill tax revenue, which have apparently been achieved solely because of Britain’s EU membership.
Mr Palmer-Jones finished off his argument by answering his initial question: “In terms of what the EU has done for us, it’s absolutely everything.”
However, on behalf of the leave argument, Neil Grundon, deputy chairman at Grundon Waste Management, took to the stage to claim that the UK was a leading nation in environmental matters.
He said: “I really don’t think that we are going to be any less of a force in our environmental conscience and our environmental pressure on the world as an independent nation.”
Mr Grundon used Britain’s excellent health and safety in the workplace record as an example of how Britain does not need the EU to be a world leader.
Angus Evers, from the UK Environmental Law Association (UKELA), had his time to discuss legal procedures for the waste industry following a remain or leave vote, saying that a remain would be “business as usual”, but a leave would involve “massive uncertainty” which could affect investment.
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A Leeds homeowner and a tradesman have been fined for fly-tipping in Leeds
Two individuals have been prosecuted in Leeds Magistrates’ Court after they were connected to two separate incidents of fly-tipping on the streets of Leeds.
The first culprit, Florentina Daniela Ciurar, of Hunslet, dumped household renovation waste on Woodview Street, directly in front of her renovation project. Environmental officers from Leeds City Council chose to prosecute the woman because the waste was endangering the public as it was spilling over onto the road.
Leeds City Council organised the removal of the waste, which included used carpet, old furniture and miscellaneous household items. She was fined £250, and ordered to pay costs of £500 and a £25 victim surcharge.
A ‘man and a van’ business owner was also prosecuted in Leeds Magistrates’ Court after dumping waste at a retail park in Hunslet. David Horsefield, of Belle Isle, had collected household waste from a customer but had disposed of it illegally rather than paying for its disposal. Leeds City Council officers were able to connect the offender’s van to the fly-tipping crime.
Mr Horsefield claimed that someone else had been using his van when the waste had been fly-tipped, but this could not be proved in court. He was fined £250 and ordered to pay costs of £350 and a £25 victim surcharge.
Councillor Mark Dobson, from Leeds City Council, commented: “While we prefer to work with residents and businesses to educate and encourage people on proper ways to dispose of rubbish, there are times when we have to take immediate legal action and clean up to protect communities.”
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Help for residents on what to recycle in which bins
Hull City Council is to spend £100,000 on expert advice on how to correctly use the recycling bins that every home in the UK is provided with. The overall aim of the spend is to help residents understand what items should be placed in which bin and to reduce the amount of wrong items being placed in the blue bins.
The council have said that incorrect items placed in the wrong bin is costing around £50,000 in penalties per month. A penalty is received if over 15% of the recycled rubbish contains incorrect items.
24,000 tonnes of recyclable rubbish is collected from households every year in Hull and around 20% of that total weight shouldn’t be placed in the blue bin.
A statement from the Council reports that about £60,000 of council tax payers’ money is going to waste because of the wrong type of rubbish going into bins, money which could be spent on improving other services.
The council believes that the campaign to raise public awareness on how to use the bins correctly will be money well spent and will, in the long term, help to keep costs down and improve the recycling services in the city.
2,150 blue bins have been removed by the council from residents that are believed to be consistently placing the wrong rubbish in the blue bins.
Blue bins should only be used to recycle cardboard, glass, paper, tins and some plastics.
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The WEEE collection target has been increased by 16,000 tonnes for 2016
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has increased its 2016 Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) collection targets following the release of collection data for 2015, which suggested that the initial target was not ambitious enough.
The initial WEEE collection target for 2016 set by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills was 528,687 tonnes. The data for WEEE evidence published by compliance schemes originally suggested that 512,000 tonnes of WEEE had been collected in 2015.
The Department for Business set the initial target based on the annual average growth of WEEE collection since 2011. However, the figures from the Environmental Agency for complete tonnage of WEEE collected in 2015 show that some WEEE collections had not been accounted for in the original figure.
The new data shows that more than 521,000 tonnes of WEEE was collected by compliance schemes last year. Large household appliances and cooling appliances made up the largest percentage of WEEE collected in England and Wales in 2015, at more than 290,000 tonnes.
As a consequence of this, the Department for Business has increased 2016’s target to 544,341 tonnes. Compared to the initial 2016 target, the new figure for this year has increased by 16,000 tonnes, however, it is a long way off meeting the EU’s target of 730,000 tonnes.
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Paper coffee cups are not to be taxed in near future
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has confirmed that the UK government will not be imposing a coffee cup tax on throwaway paper cups handed out by coffee shops such as Starbucks and Costa.
The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Defra, Rory Stewart, hinted at the possibility of the government introducing a tax on the throwaway coffee cups while speaking in the House of Commons. Mr Stewart said the tax would be a positive step considering how successful the 5p carrier bag charge has been across Britain.
According to recent figures, the people of UK use seven million paper cups per day; this equates to 2.5bn paper cups every year and only one in 400 of these are recycled. Big name coffee chains, including Costa, Starbucks, Pret, and Caffè Nero have been heavily criticised recently for deceiving customers about the cups that they use.
These nationwide coffee chains claim that their paper cups are environmentally friendly and recyclable. The protective sleeves which Café Nero and Pret put around their cups claim to be 100% recyclable or recycled, but campaigners say that this is misleading as customers could think it applies to the whole cup.
In the House of Commons Mr Stewart said: “Having tackled plastic bags, which I hope everybody in the house would agree the plastic bag tax has been a success, coffee cups seem to be a very good thing to look at next.”
However, just hours later a spokesperson for Defra said that there were no plans to introduce a coffee cup tax but admitted that “more needs to be done to recycle coffee cups”.
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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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South Derbyshire District Council prosecutes the third fly-tipper in six months
A Staffordshire delivery driver has been prosecuted by South Derbyshire District Council after he dumped commercial waste on a street in Church Gresley in March last year.
The 50-year-old delivery driver fly-tipped cardboard boxes and plastic packaging materials in John Street, Church Gresley, despite the company for whom he worked possessing a business waste contract for the legal removal of commercial waste.
Safety officers from South Derbyshire District Council were informed by a member of the public about the fly-tipped waste and, despite a lack of CCTV coverage in the area, they managed to trace the dumped material back to the transport company for whom the defendant worked.
The defendant appeared in Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court last week where he pleaded guilty to illegally to disposing of controlled waste without an environment permit. He was found guilty of breaching the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and was handed a £772 fine, and ordered to pay costs of £962.
This is the third successful prosecution that South Derbyshire District Council has brought against fly-tippers within the last six months, as it attempts to send the message that anyone caught fly-tipping in the district will be punished accordingly.
Councillor Peter Watson, chairman of the environmental and development services committee, said: “Our approach has brought some extremely positive results – incidents of fly-tipping in South Derbyshire fell every year between 2006 and 2014.”
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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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