2 Feb 2011

Stroud in bottom 25 in recycling charts: plus mattress recycling

First mattress recycling - I mentioned this on my blog a while back - Stroud still does not have a service although they will collect as part of their bulky items. Interestingly I got an email from a local resident saying: "We put the mattress up for grabs on Freegle and had about 12 people interested, so there is a demand for second hand mattresses out there! Glad not to have had to take it to the tip!!" Reuse is better than recycling.

Photo: Randwick woods

Councils recycling chart

See Stroud now in the bottom 25 recyclers in 357 Councils: www.gmb.org.uk/default.aspx?page=1636

Well to be fair the chart isn't fair but more of that in a moment. Landfill Tax is designed to encourage recycling and as most know it is due to rise very sharply over the next four years from the current £48 per tonne to £80 per tonne by 2014 (i). Recycling has to be the order of the day.

Looking at the charts it shows Staffordshire Moorlands District Council has the best record for recycling in England with 61.8% of household waste sent for re-use, recycling, or composting. Next in the English league is South Oxfordshire 61.4%, followed by Rochford (Essex) 61.2% and Cotswold 60.4%. 38 councils recycle half or more of their household waste while 4 councils recycle more than 55%. These figures are from an analysis by GMB, public services union which represents refuse staff of the official household waste figures for 357 collection and disposal authorities in England.

Impact of Spending Review

The impact of the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review on Gloucestershire will take some time to be felt. One consequence has been the withdrawal of funding for the Residual Waste Contract (see here and here previous comments). Rather than signing off a 25+ years contract committing the council tax payers of Gloucestershire to supply 150,000 tons of waste to a private company at a total cost of some £600M+ the council has thankfully had to reconsider.

The assumptions made for the PFI funding were for a ridiculously small 60% recycling and waste production at the current levels until 2050!!! Outrageous! These conditions are very unlikely to be stable over 25 years and already UK local authorities are already achieving recycling rates of 70%.

As Greens have said all along what is required is a series of local, small-scale flexible solutions which drive the recycling industry, provide the lowest environmental impact and the best long-term economic return. Not a monster incinerator that will need feeding - an incinerator would be a complete white elephant as waste volumes are now falling. But more importantly, with in excess of 60% recycling already being achieved by some UK councils, there are more benign ways of dealing with the remaining waste.

County questions answered

A while back the County asked a series of questions to which Greens responded with a paper of alternative ways forward. I enclose below as they give more info about the direction we want to see...

• Does Gloucestershire need an alternative to landfill? What about your argument that if you hit 85% recycling with a corresponding 8% reduction in waste, then we could happily landfill the rest until we achieve zero waste? Yes. Landfill is unacceptable for direct black bag waste for reasons of quantity vs. remaining voidspace, lack of bioremediation and waste of increasingly valuable resources. Material to landfill must have all recoverable resources removed first, and the goal must be to work towards zero waste to landfill. • What are the affordable alternatives to landfill, and can you give examples of where this has worked? For affordability, see the WRAP gate fee report. Recycling, AD, composting and MBT will all be more affordable than landfill or incineration by 2013. Good schemes are widespread (as are bad schemes!). Good examples include Cwm Harry Land Trust, New Earth Solutions, Biogen-Greenfinch, Adnams Brewery AD, South Oxfordshire District Council, and overseas examples such as UR-3R. There are also community based schemes that help, such as FareShare, or Re-Plenish at Oxford. All of this requires integrated action at both county and district level. The collect vs. dispose mentality is no longer appropriate. “Affordability” should also recognise consequent impacts and hence costs to health, the environment and sustainability. You must also realise that it is not possible for us to come up with hard cost figures in the very short timescale you have set for responses. (See footnotes) • How would you make up for the loss of PFI credits to be able to afford the alternatives? This overlaps with the previous question. All of the schemes cited below are cheaper to implement and cheaper to run than landfill or MBI. In particular, capital expenditure for the options suggested are significantly lower than for MBI. We mention capital expenditure because we believe authorities should own and operate the relevent plant and hence not be subject to the future unknowns of contracts. GCC already has a strategic reserve to cover landfill cost escalation, and all authorities can borrow from the Public Works Loan Board, or sell assets such as farms or Javelin Park. • How will your alternative solution enable Gloucestershire to meet current government targets and future policy for waste disposal? The schemes we propose will result in Gloucestershire easily exceeding Government targets, and put us well on the way towards zero waste.

We enclosed a more detailed report that concluded:
"We believe that what we have suggested, and other enhancements not discussed for reasons of brevity, should take Gloucestershire’s recycling rates comfortable over 70% by 2020 in a cost effective manner, and if other actions take place, particularly at the national level, we could be approaching 90% by 2030 BUT the national actions described above would be required to achieve this."

Why are we so low in charts?

Well it would be easy to have a go at the Tories at the District Council for failing - and indeed they do deserve some strong criticisms, but, as is often the case, the picture is much more complex. One of the biggest sticking points is the contract with Veolia. It is apparently cheap - and Veolia don't seem to want to renegotiate to include for example food waste, without increasing charges lots. So the Council has dropped back down the charts from being one of the best to one of the worst.

Food waste in landfills is a particularly significant source of greenhouse gases and makes up a significant part of our waste. Most choose not to compost this waste and even where there are high levels of composting there are concerns re meat, fish etc. There was a hugely successful food waste trial in the Stanleys where food waste was collected - but it could not be rolled out due to costs. Why was the trial even trialled when the estimated costs must have been known?

However the news is that there are hopes for a renegotiated contract...we'll see. One other positive development is the decision by Stroud District Council to use Stroud’s food waste for anaerobic digestion, a technology long advocated by the Green Party. As reported on this blog this could be a way of heating the Stratford Park leisure centre and swimming pools in an environmentally benign way by using something that is currently discarded. The District now need to persuade the County to run with them on this.

Another reason for Stroud's failure in the recycling charts is that we don't collect some key items. Greens have long advocated expanding kerbside recycling as well as mechanical processing to sort remaining recyclable materials from our black rubbish bags. There are now ways for dealing with the residual waste in a way that avoid landfill altogether - ie what remains after recycling which hopefully as we note can reach 70% by 2020 and onto 90% by 2030. For example new variants of a technology called gasification turn waste into a gas which can either be used to produce power and heat, or can now be chemically “cracked” to make chemicals and fuels. Any ash is vitrified into inert, glass-like blocks which can be used as hardcore or road base. There are also new technologies that I am only just beginning to understand like syngas process outputs that can be catalysed into ethanol and thence to other chemicals, or fuels such as jet fuel, or used in a gas engine.

Anyway I am off on a bit of a ramble. Another key reason for our figures being low is something I have mentioned before on this blog - green waste - we don't collect it. Councils that do like Cotswolds can rapidly increase their recycling rates but equally so do their waste rates go up. Green waste is an easy way to add massively to your figures and make you look good - but is far from being green. Stroud is absolutely right not to do a general green waste collection - sure for certain houses or groups of people but green waste is best composted on site.

Hey I have not yet mentioned the zero waste family in the Forest - their blog is well worth a look and has had a fair few mentions on this blog: http://myzerowaste.com/

There is lots more I would like to write but have run out of puff for now - but I must also mention that nationally we have failed dismally to create a market for recycled goods - in other countries they have helped establish paper, plastic etc recycling etc - we are still known as the 'dirty man' of Europe. Worse still we have failed to tackle the big companies to cut their packaging - Germany had a tax on it and cut it by I think 17%...but that is another blog....

In short District and County Councils could be doing much better. It is utterly shameful that no waste plan has been put in place by the County already - they have known about landfill charges for years and done what appears to be nothing. Anyway Stroud District Green Party will be keeping the pressure up for a sustainable solution for our waste.


(i) Landfill tax – Landfill Tax is a tax on the disposal of waste. It aims to encourage waste producers to produce less waste, recover more value from waste, for example through recycling or composting and to use more environmentally friendly methods of waste disposal. Rates for each year: The standard rate is £48 per tonne from 1 April 2010 to 31 March 2011 and will increase to: £56 per tonne on 1 April 2011, £64 per tonne on 1 April 2012, £72 per tonne on 1 April 2013 and £80 per tonne on 1 April 2014.


Venk Shenoi said...

I am surprised at your rating Stroud low in recycling. If you look uo the actual tonnage landfilled, Stroud is lowest in the county. Because it does not collect green waste its recycling and composting total is lower but does it really matter - it scores ~27% in real recycling which is the highest in the county.

Seriously for a Green Councillor I would have thought what mattered was the carbon footprint of Stroud waste collection and processing - it scores highest there and also the lowest cost per household.

Hope you will do your homework.

Concersely Cotswolds and Forest of dean collect garden waste which attracts a lot of tonnage. If combined with food waste for IVC composting householders pay 3X landfill cost or more per tonne. That I would say is perverse recycling.

IVC adds ~20kg to carbon emission over and above that in collection and transporting.

You also need to up the landfill costs - £48 is just tax - increasing by £8/year, you also have to add the landfill operators charge ~£22/Te.

I think with its new proposal to collect food waste, it should maintain as one of the top landfill-diverters in the country - recycling is a misused word - means nothing - you also need to balance it with what is collected, how much and what the impact of materials recycled would have been.

In this context huge amounts of bottles, plastics and other inert materials mean nothing - same for garden waste which can easily be composted locally or at home.

Best wishes.


Philip Booth said...

Hi Venk - if you read on down through the article (Did I really write all that?)...I make some of the points you make - yes green waste is a key factor and something I have covered on this blog before - I have repeatedly applauded the council in the chamber in their stance not to collect green waste.

I even make the point in the blog: "Well to be fair the chart isn't fair but more of that in a moment." then later in the blog "...it would be easy to have a go at the Tories at the District Council for failing - and indeed they do deserve some strong criticisms, but, as is often the case, the picture is much more complex."

The chart was by the GMB and several constituents had pointed it out so I covered the issue - in retrospect I could have pointed out Stroud was best in the county - but we have slipped from where we once were - there is much needed as I know all of us recognise.