Category Archives: Environmental Management Systems

The Garden Waste Debate

The Garden Waste Debate: Exploring Scotland’s Permit System

In recent years, many councils across Scotland have implemented a permit system for garden waste collection, raising questions about its effectiveness and fairness. With 21 out of 32 councils now charging for garden waste collection, it’s crucial to examine whether these permits are a sensible approach to managing green waste. Let’s delve into the debate surrounding garden waste permits and assess their impact on both residents and local authorities.

 Why Permits?

Garden waste permits have been introduced to offset the costs associated with collecting and processing green waste. By charging residents for this service, councils aim to recover some of the expenses incurred in managing garden waste collections. However, the decision to implement permits has sparked a debate about whether this approach is the most equitable and efficient solution.

 Cost vs. Convenience

For residents, the introduction of garden waste permits raises concerns about affordability and accessibility. While some may be willing to pay for the convenience of kerbside collection, others may view the additional expense as an unnecessary burden. With limited options for disposing of garden waste without a permit, many residents will use their local recycling centre to ensure their waste is composted. Unfortunately, some might simply use their residual waste collection, increasing the amount of organic waste in residual bins. Given the cost differential for disposing of residual waste (approximately £160 per tonne) versus garden waste (approximately £30 per tonne), this could have a significant impact on council budgets. Research is still needed to evaluate the revenue from permits against the increased costs of disposing of additional residual waste.

 Council Considerations

From the perspective of local authorities, garden waste permits offer a potential source of revenue while encouraging waste reduction and recycling. By charging for garden waste collection, councils aim to incentivize residents to compost or recycle their green waste independently, thereby reducing the overall volume of waste sent to landfill. However, the effectiveness of this approach depends on residents’ willingness to comply with the permit system and explore alternative waste management options. The most environmentally sustainable solution is home composting, which eliminates the need for collection and disposal, yet few councils actively promote this option when providing information about garden waste permits.

 Lack of Consistency

One notable aspect of Scotland’s garden waste permit system is the lack of consistency across councils. While some councils charge for garden waste collection, others include it as a free service within council tax. The frequency of collection also varies, with some councils offering weekly or bi-weekly services, while others collect every three or four weeks. This inconsistency highlights the absence of a standardized policy for managing garden waste at the national level, leading to varied experiences and expectations for residents depending on their local council’s policies.

Price Disparity

The graphs we’ve compiled using data from all Scottish councils illustrate the price per brown bin collection and the annual permit charge. Prices range from free to £60 per year, with West Dunbartonshire Council being the most expensive. However, when examining the cost per collection, South Ayrshire Council tops the charts at £3.84 per collection, while East Renfrewshire Council is the cheapest at £1 per collection.

 Conclusion

The debate surrounding garden waste permits in Scotland underscores the complexities of balancing cost, convenience, and environmental sustainability in waste management. While permits offer a potential revenue stream for councils and theoretically promote waste reduction by encouraging home composting, they also raise questions about fairness and accessibility for residents.

Research into these changes would be beneficial—for example, identifying the most cost-effective collection frequency for garden waste, quantifying how much garden waste ends up in residual waste with a charging scheme, and evaluating the carbon impact of residents traveling to recycling centres regularly. Most council decision-makers seem to have taken a simplistic approach, viewing permits primarily as a revenue opportunity, without fully considering the implications for effective waste management, recycling, and carbon reduction.

As Scotland continues to grapple with these challenges, achieving consistency and clarity in garden waste policies across councils will be essential to ensuring an equitable and effective approach to green waste management.

Resource Management Association Scotland (RMAS) Site visit to Optimum Eco Group – Restructa Ltd. and CCL (North) Ltd.

Resource Management Association Scotland (RMAS) Site visit to Optimum Eco Group – Restructa Ltd. and CCL (North) Ltd.

We had the pleasure of taking part in the RMAS site visit to Optimum Eco Group, sites Restructa Ltd. and CCL (North) Ltd, both in Irvine.

After a brief catch up over tea/ coffee and pastries, we were spilt into groups and taken by bus to the first site, CCL (North) Ltd. Established in 2000, CCL is one of the UK’s leading specialists for secure data destruction, IT asset disposal and WEEE recycling. Here we were shown around the plant and the process from the items arriving, to them being stripped down and recovered or fixed and reused. There is a museum section where some of the rarer finds are kept and displayed and I was delighted to see a ZX Spectrum computer on show, which took me back to my own childhood memories of my first ever console.

The ’hands-on’ approach with the waste demonstrates incredible attention to detail and ensures every part that could be recovered or reused is able to be utilised elsewhere. I found the vape dismantling particularly interesting as I am seeing more and more discarded vapes everywhere I go. These were stripped down, batteries removed, and plastic sleeves separated to try and make use of as many parts of the vape as possible. This was done by hand and under a fume cupboard.

The handling of IT equipment and other data sensitive equipment was very well thought through to maintain sensitivity and security throughout for the client. We were able to see the process of shredding, and the vast difference from the assets that went into the shredder compared to what came out at the other side.

We were then taken to Restructa which was formed in 2005 in response to the UK Government’s Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive.

It focuses on the repair, reuse and recycling of display equipment from its 25,000sq ft facility, handling more than 1000 TVs every day. Restructa. has developed into a leading recycling and waste management provider.

The televisions and monitors arrive and are checked to see what is wrong with them to segregate those repairable from those requiring recycling. We learned that out of 650,00 televisions sent for recycle each year, 37,000 tv’s are repaired and go on to have an extended life by around 5 to 6 years and are used by those who need them most.

At both sites we saw their modern apprentices hard at work and learning new skill sets. It was very reassuring to hear that approximately 70% of apprentices go on to progress within the company.

One fascinating thing about our visit was being shown what happens to the old TV screens, the glass is processed on site and made into garden decorative pebbles and chips, that has an opaque quality and let’s light shine through meaning the old TV screens become part of garden décor, water features and I was given some myself which I look forward to adding to my plant pot.

The other incredible piece of technology we were shown was the POPs (Persistent organic pollutants) testing system that Optimum Eco Group have developed, which tells you if a television backing can be recycled or not, thus increasing recyclable material. The manufacturing industry has no current responsibility to tell us what chemicals are in the items they produce, meaning they are less likely to consider the cradle to grave concept and how easy their product is to be recycled at end-of-life and this responsibility now falls to the waste industry to deal with.  

Our visit gave me lots of food for thought and great chat over lunch and it was so nice to see an organisation, not only doing what they should, but going above and beyond showing best practice and actively looking for the next best thing. How great it would be if everyone thought so carefully about their impact on the environment and what they can do better. RMAS does a great job of encouraging knowledge sharing, networking and engagement as well as encouraging innovation.

RMAS is a not-for-profit, non-political membership organisation for micro, small and medium sized resource management companies operating in Scotland. They actively represent and support companies who are operating across the length and breadth of Scotland. RMAS ensure members are well informed and that priority issues, risks, and opportunities are communicated, and represented effectively to Government, its various agencies, the commercial sector and the public.

I am grateful to RMAS and Optimum Eco Group for arranging the day and provoking the conversation that followed as a result. A truly informative site visit and lunch.

COP26 Series

Integrating sustainability into your business strategy

Doing our part

Albion Environmental operates to a combined Environmental, Quality and Occupational Health & Safety Management System to the standard of  ISO 14001:2015, ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 45001:2018 respectively.

Albion Environmental successfully renewed their accreditation with BSI to each of these standards after a successful audit in the summer of 2021, and continue to maintain these standards throughout all business operations.

Operating in accordance with ISO standards allows Albion to ensure we are putting our workers, customers and the environment first.

The pressure is on for businesses to look at their strategy and objectives to ensure they are considering the impact they may be having on the environment.

So what have we been doing?

Albion Environmental Ltd has environmental protection at the core of our business strategy (the clue’s in the name), and have been operating an Environmental Management System to ISO:14001 since 2009, initially accredited through NQA and more recently BSi, who audit and ensure our compliance to these standards annually.

This means we have been setting environmental targets for 13 years and continue to transition to more sustainable, innovative and efficient methods of working.

Implementing an Environmental Management System such to ISO:14001 has been greatly beneficial to Albion and the wider environment as it helps to minimise the company’s environmental footprint, diminish the risk of pollution incidents and ensure complete compliance with environmental legislation. Complying with these standards not only provides operational improvements but ensures we are becoming a more sustainable business.

Our company vision is to “be an industry leading consultancy, utilising knowledge and innovation to develop sustainable solutions”.

We continue to develop our environmental objectives and take part in nationwide initiatives to fight against climate change.

Albion have signed the SME Climate Hub Commitment, setting ambitious environment targets for our business to reach over the next few years.

We are one of thousands of SME’s who have pledged to,

  1. Halve our greenhouse gas emissions before 2030
  2. Achieve net zero emissions before 2050
  3. Disclose our progress on a yearly basis

By committing to set targets, businesses can begin making progress towards change and we can all start seeing the benefits sooner rather than later.

In addition, Albion have included more specific environmental targets in our new business strategy, which we started making progress towards throughout 2020/2021. We have promised to;

  • Switch all company vehicles to hybrid or electric by 2025
  • Install solar panels to power the Albion office
  • Cut our total emissions produced by business activities in half by 2030

Albion Environmental continue to build our business to work and offer services which encourage sustainability throughout all industries. We have set ambitious targets for ourself and are encouraged to see businesses across Scotland and the UK doing the same.

SME Climate Hub Members
Bsi Members

Albion’s ABC of Waste Management – O – Open Windrow Composting

Organic waste can be treated through physical, chemical, or biological forms of waste management. The fundamental aim of organic treatment is to degrade the easily available compounds; stabilise the material; and reduce its volume. Biological treatment includes composting, which has multiple benefits, including:

  • Employment opportunities
  • Reduction of waste to landfill/incineration, which helps control greenhouse gas emissions
  • Recovery of useful organic matter for use as soil amendment, assisting with soil quality improvement (increasingly important due to intensive cultivation and climate change)
  • Stabilisation of waste in order to remove pathogens

Commercial-scale composting is available in two forms – open air windrows (organic materials are placed in long heaps) or in-vessel systems (material is enclosed). In-vessel composting is often used to handle food wastes and animal by-products, as this option isolates the waste from the environment, and people. This is important as these wastes have a higher risk of containing pathogens, compared to garden wastes.

Garden wastes contain items such as twigs, leaves, grass clippings, and also larger items like tree stumps, which are broken down prior to the composting treatment through shredding. These materials are often collected via garden waste kerbside collections or recycling centres, and they are an ideal feedstock material for open-air windrow composting.

PAS100 (Publicly Available Specification for Composted Materials) is a recognised set of standards laid out as guidance for organics recycling. The standards specify that compost reaches a minimum of 60˚C for at least 7 days, to inactivate any pathogens that may be present within the waste. Once composting is complete, the product is graded and sold. This allows any contaminants or materials not quite broken down to be removed. The compost sold can be used as agricultural soil conditioners, or for gardening purposes, or may even be used on golf courses.

However, there can be some issues with composting – for example, concerns over heavy metal pollution of agricultural soils due to composts containing contaminants such as metals and plastic, which may then have a pathway to enter the food chain. Composting sites may also create issues with odours, noise, vermin, VOCs, and bioaerosols – the latter of which arises due to micro-organisms within the waste.

Composting encourages micro-organisms to grow, as these are crucial to actually break the waste down. For composting to be efficient, the material needs to be well-aerated, so these micro-organisms have access to oxygen. Open windrows are aerated by regularly turning material. Additionally, compost is often screened (sieved) to produce the end-product – a quality soil supplement. These processes, along with shredding of large items within incoming waste, all involve handling the compost and moving the material, which can generate dust, and create bioaerosols.

Bioaerosols have the potential to present environmental issues and occupational hazards at any waste treatment facility, if it handles large quantities of organic material. A number of serious health effects, including respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses, have been linked to high bioaerosol concentrations. As such, composting sites may be required to conduct bioaerosol monitoring, in order to manage the risk of bioaerosols.

In Scotland, composting sites must have a Waste Management Licence (or they will require an exemption). SEPA licences composting sites, and when doing so, they must consider the issue of bioaerosols. In England, sites carry out monitoring according to standards from The Environment Agency. A site’s operations and the amount and type of waste it handles, its possible high-risk areas, and the guidance provided by the relevant environmental authority, are all things that a site may factor in when considering which type of bioaerosol monitoring they want to conduct.

Albion can supply consultants with the knowledge and expertise necessary for conducting a range of bioaerosol assessments, including:

  • Occupational bioaerosol monitoring – assesses exposure for site staff
  • Environmental monitoring – determines possible exposure levels at residencies or workplaces near the site
  • Site-specific bioaerosol risk assessments

By analysing the risks associated with bioaerosols at a certain site, and who may be affected by them, we can then also provide guidance on how to manage and lower a site’s bioaerosol emissions. Albion Environmental has a number of environmental monitoring specialists, trained to complete a wide range of services within the field of environmental monitoring, including those related to bioaerosols. Find out more about the environmental work we do here.

Albions ABC of Waste Management – L Landfill Ban

Under the ban which was set by the Waste (Scotland) Regulations legislation in 2012; no biodegradable municipal waste would be allowed to be sent to landfill sites from January the 1st 2021. This ban applies to a wide range of waste types including the following European Waste Codes (EWC):

  • 20 02 01 – Biodegradable waste
  • 20 03 01 – Bulky waste
  • 20 03 01 – Mixed municipal waste
  • 19 12 10 – Combustible waste (Refuse Derived Fuel – RDF)
  • 15 01 06 – Mixed packaging.

However, there have been concerns raised in relation to local authorities and commercial waste operators in Scotland as they were deemed not to be making adequate preparations for the ban on time. A study commissioned by the Scottish Government published on April 2019 concluded that, based on 2017 figures:

  • 14 LAs, accounting for 55.5% of residual household waste (744k tonnes), have already made the financial investment to ensure solutions are in place before the ban.
  • 3 LAs (7.6% of household waste – 99k tonnes) have long term solutions in place post 2021 but no firm interim solution.
  • 6 LAs (13.3% of household waste – 177k tonnes) have an interim but no long-term solution secured.
  • 9 LAs (23.6% of household waste – 315k tonnes) have no alternative arrangements in place.

For commercial waste operators the report said that they “to do not appear yet to have made adequate preparations for the ban.” Overall, the report concluded that there would be insufficient residual waste treatment capacity in Scotland available to deal with waste generated once the ban is put in place. The extent of this gap will depend on the level of recycling that is achieved.

Highlighting concerns with the potential for Scottish residual waste be sent across the border to be landfilled in England due to the lack of progress of local authorities and commercial operators towards complying with the ban; the Scottish Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham has announced on September 2019 that the ban will be pushed back to 2025.

While it is important that companies continue to prepare and develop infrastructure to meet the ban, the work Albion complete on waste compositional analysis for councils demonstrates there is still a lot which can be done to reduce the quantity of waste going for disposal in increase the quantity going for recycling, composting and Anaerobic Digestion. Recent analysis results continue to show –

  • 25-35% of food waste in residual waste
  • 5-15% recyclate in residual waste

Combine these results with only 55% of householders using their food waste system, would suggest there are huge areas of improvement possible.

Albion can provide you with the information you need to start introducing changes to drive consumer behaviour towards using their bins correctly and reducing disposal. We can also provide overall strategy and provide staff training to assist you in making these changes. To find out more or to have an informal chat please contact Jane Bond