Memorandum submitted by Essex Friends
of the Earth
There was a sad absence of our state-of-the-art
British reprocessors represented in the PIU or Strategy Unit's
recent team looking at the Government's Waste Strategy. Why was
this? Yet the waste disposal industry was heavily represented.
For example, Hampshire's Onyx Aurora "Project Integra"
Chief Executive, Graham Tombs, was a member of this Waste PIU
team, but discreetly labelled as New Forest Council.
Hampshire's Onyx "integrated waste management"
contract includes three incinerators, with expensive centralised
MRF to sort "commingled" recyclables. Hampshire's costs
were shown to be 50 per cent higher than Essex's costs in the
October 2001 ECC Best Value Audit report. Yet their recycling
in 2001-02 only reached 22% compared to Essex districts' 24% recycling
(see Annex). Hampshire said they will not be able to achieve their
statutory recycling requirement.
Aylesford Recycled Paper mill reprocesses 480,000
tonnes per year of newspaper and magazines into newsprint in their
state-Of-the-art mill which opened in 1996. They had wanted to
double capacity ever since they opened. However, they are now
surrounded by incinerator contracts in Kent including a 500,000
tonne incinerator approved at Maidstone. Their parent company
have now invested in Spain instead of here. What a loss to Britain.
There was a rumour in Essex that Aylesford was
only running at 35% capacity because of contaminated paper. I
have just had the response below from Ian Broxup, of Aylesford
mill, which fortunately refutes the rumour. However Ian brings
up the problem of "commingled" (mixed up) dry recyclables
(which have to exclude glass), collected in plastic sacks or wheelie
bins to be sorted at major MRFs.
For example, Southend and Babergh councils and
councils feeding the new £4.5million Rainham Cleanaway MRF
already operate plastic sacks for "commingled" recyclables.
These are called "survival sacks" because of their poor
survival rate. Recycling rates are not high. Rumours are also
rife that many of the white sacks end up in landfill.
However, in 2001-02 the 12 Essex districts averaged
24.25% (see Annex), with Brentwood council top recycler with 31.8%.
The best of three recycling trialsthe Mersea area of 4,500
householdsrecycled 58 per cent for over two years with
separated collections for garden waste, paper/card, bottles, cans,
textiles and plastic bottles using suitable vehicles. Colchester
council achieved Beacon status last year with 29 per cent recycling
The lowest two Essex districts, Chelmsford and
Basildon, recycled 20.4 per cent and 20.1% respectively with separated
kerbside collections, whereas the unitary authority Southend only
recycled 14.5 per cent with commingled recyclables collected in
plastic sacks by Cory.
It is generally recognized that there is about
40% contaminated recyclate wastage with commingled collections
in plastic sacks or wheelie bins. The London Borough of Sutton
thought they were recycling 44% with a wheelie bin collection,
whereas it was discovered that much of this was being dumped.
An inquiry ensued and it was calculated the real rate was around
25 per cent in fact.
This wasted tonnage may in fact be double-counted
when dumped and account for some so-called "rising waste"
figures. Indeed, detailed Essex district waste audits and others
elsewhere have shown an almost level waste tonnage per household
over a period of four years. Other well-known sources of so-called
"rising waste" figures are from commercial and business
operators using the free domestic waste kerbside or civic amenity
The British paper reprocessors made a recent
plea to councils not to commingle recyclables because paper becomes
contaminated and unusable. It is rejected and subsequently landfilled
or burnt. As paper and card is the largest fraction and mainstay
of the kerbside collection at around a quarter of MSW by tonnage,
this is a serious wasted opportunity.
At the Essex FoE latest "Zero WasteHow
To Do It" seminars in Chelmsford and Colchester on 7 September
we invited the recyclate reprocessors to advise us. We were looking
at best kerbside collections and what to avoid.
Ian Broxup of Aylesford Recycled Newsprint Mill,
Terry Marks of Alcan, the aluminium can reprocessors, and Andy
Simmons of Recoup, plastic bottle recyclers, all disapproved of
"commingled" collections and supported separated kerbside
collections for clean valuable recyclate. Matt Pumfrey, of Orrtec
invessel composting had the same message.
They pointed out that as well as producing a
large percentage of contaminated recyclate which is rejected and
dumped in landfill or burnt, commingling requires capital-intensive
centralised MRFs which means this is by far the most expensive
method overall. I attach the Alcan presentation.
As mentioned above, the Essex districts' average
recycling was 24.25% for 2001-02. The separated kerbside collections
are baled locally and do not require major capital-intensive MRFs
(Materials Recycling Facilities).
Wheelie bins have been or are being introduced
in some other counties for collecting "commingled" recyclables
in "integrated waste management" 25 year contracts
for Onyx, SITA etc., which include building MRFs and incinerators,
such as the Hampshire Onyx Aurora "Project Integra"
scheme. These schemes can have two or three wheelie bins per householdto
collect rubbish/"commingled" dry recyclables/green waste.
While the best recycling trial in the Mersea
area recycled 58% with 98% satisfaction with flexible collections
and no wheelie bins, the other two less successful trials recycled
45% and 50%, and included two wheelie bins per household. The
Witham trial had a lot of resistance and public opposition to
the two cumbersome wheelie bins which also required separate plastic
bags for recyclables to store in their kitchens.
Yet the Government have given Chelmsford council
one and a quarter million pounds to roll out two wheelie bins
per rural household, and Braintree council three quarters of a
million pounds for these less successful and cumbersome inflexible
The QMW Public Policy Seminar on 13 December
entitled: "Effective Delivery of the Waste Strategy"
was on the disappointing and unambitious PIU study. The audience
was mainly waste disposal industry representatives. They were
talking about colour-coded wheelie bins right across Britain,
with three per home. Inflexible, slow and expensive waste disposal
mentality to feed major MRFs and incinerators at great cost to
The Government has been doling out millions
of pounds to councils including Essex districts to fund wheelie
bins and wheelie bin trucks. This is a crucial issue as the major
waste incinerator companies take over 25 year county contracts
for collection and disposal across Britain to build MRFs such
as in Hampshire and the £4.5million MRF at Rainham.
The Rainham MRF opened in May to sort out 40,000
tonnes of mixed recyclables at great costthe latest news
was that it was taking in black bag waste to sort as a "dirty"
MRF. As a recycling comparison, last year the twelve Essex districts
recycled, composted and baled 169,000 tonnes locally, separated
at the civic amenity sites and at the kerbside. The Rainham MRF
is on the site of a 1998 NFFO-approved incinerator for 600,000
The new Government Strategy Unit (SU) report
"Waste not, Want not", is extraordinarily bereft of
vision or ambitious targets, and features "Project Integra"
(p, 109, Box 31). Graham Tombs, Chief Executive of Onyx Aurora
Project Integra was on the SU Advisory Group as mentioned above.
He is now Essex County Council Head of Waste, Recycling and Environment.
When you look at the surfeit of waste disposal
industry personnel on the SU team and the Advisory Group, and
the well-known old guard on the Business As Usual gravy train
SU study it is no surprise. But the Policy & Innovation Unit
(PIU), as it started out, was meant to be "blue sky thinking".
I haven't found a mention of Zero Waste yet. It doesn't appear
in the Glossary of Terms. 45% recycling by 2015 is their most
ambitious recommendation. Yet Austria, Switzerland, Germany and
Holland recycle more than this already.
Not just in Essex, but right across Britain
we must be aware of the drive to mass collect "commingled"
recyclables, where the householder carefully separates the recyclables
at home and then kindly mixes them all up again in a plastic sack
or wheelie bin for the operator to mass collect and then try to
sort out again at a capital-intensive central MRF along with the
incinerators in confidential "integrated waste management"
It not only costs more, but the 25 year countywide
contracts will tie councils into huge contracted tonnages to burn.
There will be subsequent hazardous and toxic ash to dispose of
which will be between one third and a half by tonnage of the waste
Finally: what is wrong with wheelie bins?
They increase waste collected and
contaminationcontents are hidden. Chelmsford council were
shown to have higher tonnages, higher costs and lowest recycling
per household than other districts, after having the wheelie bin
system for many years run by SITA, who were later replaced by
the council DSO inhouse collection team.
They lock local authorities into
the inflexible capital-intensive wheelie bin truck system.
They are cumbersome and have to be
picked up individually at each home.
There are more injuries to binmen
from wheelies than from black sack collections.
They are unsuitable for terraced
or Victorian housing, narrow, bumpy paths or steps.
They are hideous in heritage towns,
left all week on pavements and front gardens.
They encourage and continue the disposal
"out of sight" rubbish mentality.
Why aren't wheelie bins suitable for separated
Residual waste: where recycling
and composting already reduces "rubbish" by 60% as in
the Mersea area, the small light black bags of residual rubbish
(mainly mixed plastics and Tetrapaks) don't require a wheelie
binbinmen can save vehicle time by collecting them in piles
for a compactor trucka wheelie bin invites more waste.
As residual waste reduces further, when the EU Biowaste Directive
requires food waste to be collected separately at the kerbside,
and when waste exchanges become commonplace, black rubbish bags
can be restricted and rubbish collections reduced.
Recyclables: paper/card, glass
bottles (colours and clear), cans, plastic bottles and textiles
etc.should be collected as separated materials, sorted
at the kerbside and baled locally. They should not be "commingled"
in sacks or wheelie bins, which will not be able to achieve the
55% to 65% statutory recycling which will be required by 2006
in the EU Packaging Directive. This will cover all packaging materials:
paper, card, glass, metals and plastics. The average recycled
across the EU now is 55%.
Garden waste: householders
should be encouraged to compost garden and kitchen greenwaste
at home, and a close local site available every week to take their
excess garden waste to be centrally windrow composted; if a kerbside
collection is provided as in the Mersea area, then a wheelie bin
is not suitable, because garden waste doesn't come in wheelie
bin sized weekly or fortnightly batchesin practice at Mersea
it comes in occasional large batches of about eight or ten reusable
sacks or bags;
Kitchen foodwaste: we should
be preparing for the EU Biowaste or Composting Directive to start
separate kitchen bucket collections of all meat, fish and bones
kitchen foodwaste (which can't be composted in garden compostbins)
for local invessel composting. The Italian foodwaste bucket collections
by electric trucks are hugely successful across Italy and Spain
and starting here in Britain now. We must be flexible and ready
for real changes in kerbside collections as we strive for Zero
Waste for saving resources, energy, pollution, transport costs,
global warming gases and towards a sustainable planet.
Essex Friends of the Earth,
7 January 2003
RECYCLING BY RESIDENTS IN 2001-02 THROUGH
COUNTY AND DISTRICT SERVICES
|Area||District Re-cycling Tonnes
||% ||C/A Site Waste Tonnes **
||C/A Site Re-cycling Tonnes **||%
||Total Waste Tonnes||Total
|| 14,442|| 7,440
||51.5|| 88,978|| 17,905
|| 11,775|| 5,947
||50.5|| 63,258|| 13,079
|| 40,376|| 12,822
|Castle Point|| 6,102
||17.5|| 8,084|| 3,995
||49.4|| 42,913|| 10,097
|| 89,900|| 18,361
|| 74,933|| 21,872
|| 17,706|| 8,890
||50.2|| 67,064|| 18,891
|Harlow|| 2,512|| 8.9
|| 12,706|| 6,249
||49.2|| 40,902|| 8,761
|| 12,333|| 7,161
||58.1|| 33,274|| 10,102
|Rochford|| 2,595|| 8.0
|| 12,269|| 6,904
||56.3|| 44,804|| 9,499
|| 73,716|| 19,738
|| 5,294|| 2,985
||56.4|| 37,902|| 8,256
|* Fridges collected by Districts are included in their Waste Tonnes figures
|** Figures include recycled hardcore||