Category Archives: Environmental Monitoring

COVID-19 – Albion Update – 1 Month On!

Well one month on since the lock down commenced, so I thought it would be useful to give an update on what the team at Albion have been getting up to!

We currently have 25% of staff on the government furlough scheme however we are pleased to say the remaining 75% are still working. Like most companies our work and revenue fell off a cliff over 4 weeks ago and forecasts for the next few months are not great! But we remain positive and while we still have work to do and opportunities to follow up, we have been reluctant to put more staff on furlough – after all, when this is all over, we need a robust and sustainable business to come back to!

So, what has been going well:

  • We are continuing to provide environmental monitoring for our clients’ landfill sites. We have experienced some difficulties with labs closing and collection depots but so far, we are able to continue this essential work. Chris Eccles our Site Technician regularly provides lovely pictures which we have used for this post! If you are struggling for staff monitoring resources or meeting your permit requirements, please do not hesitate to contact chris@albion-environmental.co.uk.
  • WAMITAB Training and Assessment Work – Albion was ahead of our competitors and shifted over to an online platform for this work over 5 years ago, so we were already set up to do much of this work remotely. An update on this work is posted here.
  • Planning permission, change of use, WML and PPC applications and modifications – these are all progressing well and much of this work can be completed remotely. We were delighted to receive a change of use permission yesterday for an NHS site to allow them to have a waste transfer facility at their hospital! This work will now progress to securing a Waste Management Licence for the facility. So if you have been holding off on making changes to your site, now is an ideal time to talk to us – please contact janebond@albion-environmental.co.uk.
  • Landfill Construction Quality Assurance (CQA) work – landfill sites are continuing to operate as they provide an essential service. Future development and capping of cells needs to continue and we have a number of jobs developing CQA plans. If you have any requirements please do not hesitate to contact alasdair@albion-environmental.co.uk.
  • Most construction sites are currently closed however we are still offering environmental support to our developer clients with review of 3rd party reports during tender bids and assisting them apply for waste management licence exemptions so that their sites are ready to receive imported soils when restrictions ease and sites reopen.  If you have any requirements please do not hesitate to contact andrew@albion-environmental.co.uk.
  • In March we were very busy delivering training and audits to all the NHS boards in Scotland. Once restrictions came in, we quickly transitioned to delivering these remotely, however events overtook as NHS staff quite rightly had other priorities. We are ready to recommence this work either remotely or on site as soon as conditions allow.
  • As part of the lecturing I do at the University of Edinburgh we complete the student project marking for their assignment so this is now fully underway and due to be completed by the end of next week!
  • We are also responding to a number of tenders and grant applications which will hopefully lead to some additional work. There are opportunities out there, you just need to look a bit harder for them!!

Even our staff who are on furlough have not been sitting idle, Yas Watson has volunteered to help the SWITCH Forum and has been keeping the news section of SWITCH up to date. SWITCH (Scottish Waste Industry Training, Competency, Health & Safety) is a multi-partnership forum made up of organisations across all sectors within the resource management industry. The aim of the Forum is to provide leadership by working collaboratively to raise standards of health and safety, training, learning and development, and technical competence and to promote the Scottish resource management industry as an attractive career choice. If you are not already registered for SWITCH please log and register and help share any future posts.

We also had some disposable suits which we use for waste compositional analysis work. As this work has stopped for now, we donated all our stock to a local medical practice which was gratefully received!

And finally as our contribution for Earth Day 2020 on 22nd April all staff have been challenged to support this year’s theme which is climate action. The now easy of option of reducing car use is not permitted and staff are being challenged to be more innovative. Winning ideas will be posted on our twitter and Facebook feeds.

And finally, thanks to all our customers who have worked with us during this difficult period. Thanks also to all our staff who have adapted to new and challenging working conditions.

Stay safe and keep in touch!!

Alasdair Meldrum

17/04/20

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.

TRAIN THE TRAINER

Albion staff successfully achieve accredited Scottish Qualification Certificate in HE0T 33 Planning and Delivering Training Sessions to Groups giving them the confidence and skill set to be able to deliver training sessions to our clients.

The qualification is intended for candidates with vocational expertise or subject knowledge whose job role includes the training of others in small group settings (minimum four, maximum seven learners) and in work related learning contexts. It is also suitable for those who aspire to a training role, or who expect to have some responsibility for training as part of a future job role. To find out more please contact us.

Congratulations to Jane Bond (Project & Business Development Director), Andrew Howlett (Principal Consultant), Fraser Christie (Environmental Consultant and Site Technician) and Chris Eccles (Environmental Technician) on their success.

Thank you to trainers Craig Chandler and Davie Fraser for their enthusiastic course delivery on what is a very interactive and engaging course.

KTP: TRANSFORMING SCOTTISH BUSINESSES

Earlier this month, we attended the “KTP: Transforming Scottish Business” event at the Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh. A KTP (Knowledge Transfer Partnership) is a collaboration between a university, a business, and also a graduate. This event was the ideal platform for showcasing a wide range of KTPs, and the innovative thought-processes behind them. 

Additionally, different speakers at the event were there to highlight the many benefits that an organisation can gain from a KTP scheme, such as:

  • The ability to become more innovative, effective, and efficient
  • Boost in profits and commercial value
  • Helping transform their company and driving growth
  • Strengthened links between the industry and academia (encourages sharing of ideas)

We are currently about six months into the 2-year KTP that we are conducting alongside our knowledge base – The Open University (OU). Albion along with our partners at The OU Scotland provided information on our KTP and the progress we have made in the first 6 months of the KTP. Our KTP is about achieving the skills and knowledge necessary to conduct bioaerosol monitoring for a wide range of commercial clients. Having the in-house capabilities for conducting this work at Albion will reduce reliance on subcontractors, improve flexibility in scheduling work, and expand capacity. In addition, it will provide expertise based in Scotland able to serve the Scottish market.

The KTP event was a great opportunity to showcase our KTP to fellow Scottish businesses, stakeholders, and the press. Over 80 delegates were in attendance, which allowed us to make multiple valuable connections. We displayed some of the work that has been completed as part of our KTP project through a photo slideshow, created by our KTP Associate, Jennifer Kowalski. This generated interest in bioaerosols, the processes involved in monitoring them, and the sites that can act as a source of bioaerosols.

This event was also a great chance for us to explore the other KTPs that are currently taking place within other businesses across Scotland. From developing digital technologies for Virtual Reality, to producing new textile products, to developing new production systems, the aims of the other KTPs that were presented showed that this scheme can be applied to a diverse array of ideas and sectors. The advantages of these projects for the KTP partners were made clear by the speakers at the beginning of the event, but the creativity, ambition, and enthusiasm exhibited by the individuals involved, only served to further highlight this.

 

Albion’s ABC of Waste Management – G GAS (LANDFILL GAS) SITES

Landfill gas is a complex mix of different gases created by the action of microorganisms within a landfill. Landfill gas is approximately forty to sixty percent methane, with the remainder being mostly carbon dioxide. Trace amounts of other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) comprise the remainder (<1%). These trace gases include a large array of species, mainly simple hydrocarbons.

Landfill gases have an influence on climate change. The major components are carbon dioxide and methane, both of which are greenhouse gases. Methane in the atmosphere is a far more potent greenhouse gas, with each molecule having twenty-five times the effect of a molecule of carbon dioxide. Methane itself however accounts for less composition of the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

Production

The main source of landfill gas is from a microbial process called methanogenesis. This is a process where anaerobic bacteria decompose organic waste to produce biogas, which consists of methane and carbon dioxide together with traces of other compounds. Formation of methane and carbon dioxide commences about six months after initial depositing of the landfill material. The evolution of gas reaches a maximum at about 20 years, then declines over the course of decades.

Landfill Gas Utilisation

The landfill sector has developed landfill gas extraction systems to remove the methane gas from site and either burn it in a landfill gas flare or more likely in a generator to produce electricity. Until recently landfill sites were the biggest producer of renewable energy in the UK, only recently being over taken by electricity generated from wind power.

Odour

One of the biggest cause of complaints from landfill sites is odour. Often the odour is caused by the trace components of landfill gas rather than the waste itself. Careful management of landfill gas is required to manage odour from landfill sites. This can prove problematic if infilling is still ongoing when methanogenesis commences as the landfill gas infrastructure cannot easily be installed at this stage.

As waste quantities going to landfill reduce (as more waste is being recycled, landfill ban comes into force in Scotland) the rate of filling of cells also declines, so the current practice is to develop smaller cells, which can be filled quickly, capped and restored and then landfill gas extraction equipment can be installed.

Safety

In addition to managing landfill gas above the ground to minimise odours, landfill operators are also concerned about migration of landfill gas underground. Legislation in this area in the UK is comprehensive and dates back to the Loscoe Gas Explosion in 1986 where a bungalow was destroyed. This has been further improved by improvements to the landfill lining standards which helps prevent landfill gas migrating laterally from the site. Operators will also routinely monitor boreholes and gas monitoring points between the landfill site and any sensitive receptors i.e. houses or offices.

Carbon Dating

One common issue with landfill site monitoring is whether you are detecting landfill gas or methane gas from former mine workings. Albion staff were involved in one of the first cases in the UK back in early 1990’s where a carbon dating technique was used to determine whether it was landfill gas or mine gas. It turned out it was landfill gas and improvements to the site extraction system prevented landfill gas migrating from the site.

Albion Landfill Gas Services

Do you need support with landfill gas management on site? In addition to routine landfill gas monitoring we can also review the integrity of your landfill gas field, proposed improvements to improve the quality and reduce emissions and odours from your site(s).

If you need further information or wish to have a chat about your requirements please contact Alasdair Meldrum or call us directly on 01292 610428.