Category Archives: Renewable Energy

Albion’s ABC of Waste Management – J JOURNEY (WASTE JOURNEY)

Before something becomes a waste, it is a resource, with some degree of value. That resource can then turn into what is considered to be waste, for a variety of reasons:

  • If a product is only designed for temporary use (for example, single-use plastics)
  • If the inputs into a manufacturing/sales process are not used effectively, or a useless by-product is generated, this leads to wastage (such as left-over scraps of fabric)
  • If something breaks or becomes unusable (for instance, many electronics have short life-spans, and inevitably become waste)

Waste (and recyclable materials) are produced as a part of our daily life. These materials can be produced through manufacture/production of the things we consume and, by us as a result of our individual actions. The legal definition of waste is as follows: “Any substance or object the holder discards, intends to discard or is required to discard.”

Once items are classed as a waste, they must be appropriately managed. Waste typically needs to be transported to a waste management site, and this requires a licensed waste carrier. Sometimes waste will be taken to a waste transfer station, to be sorted, before being transported to its final destination – a waste treatment site. There are multiple options for dealing with waste:

  • Preparing for re-use: one man’s trash is another man’s treasure… if some materials are no longer wanted by the owner, they might be passed on to someone with a use for them (however, this may still be subject to aspects of waste legislation).
  • Recycling: turning waste back into its original product, or a new, useful product. The is most efficient when used to recreate an original product.

Did you know that recycled paper uses around 40% less energy than paper from virgin materials, and every tonne of paper recycled saves around 17 mature trees?

  • Recovery: recovering energy from waste involves incinerating it to generate heat and electricity. This can be ideal for hazardous waste, by eliminating infectious components. However, as the electricity grid decarbonises, this treatment option is less desirable, due to the greenhouse gases emitted.
  • Disposal: this involves incineration without energy recovery, or landfilling waste. Landfills are unfavourable due to the length of time taken for waste to degrade, and because poorly managed sites can cause pollution.

Selecting a waste management option depends on various things, including the ease and economic value of the treatment process and end-products. Another important aspect is any health and safety or environmental risks that may be posed by the waste. Organisations that generate waste have a duty of care to ensure their waste is handled safely, and is transported in compliance with the law. This involves following certain procedures and checks when making arrangements for the waste to be collected. Further controls apply if waste is hazardous.

Overall, it is clear the waste journey can be a large, complicated issue. There are many problems that businesses, organisations, and even households, may consider when dealing with the waste they produce. Ensuring that waste materials are managed effectively is becoming ever more important as we recognise the need to protect resources, finances and the environment at large.

Here at Albion Environmental Ltd, we provide information and resources that enable you to develop a solid understanding of the waste industry, and how this may affect you. We have multiple one or two-day training courses on waste, including Introduction to Waste Management Legislation; Working with Waste Management Legislation; Household Re-cycling Centre Operators Course.

More information can be found here.

Albion’s ABC of Waste Management – I INNOVATION

Innovation is fundamental in transforming the way we use resources within Scotland. Effectively managing our resources is imperative to achieving a circular economy in Scotland. Therefore, some benefits of innovation mirror the advantages gained from a circular economy, such as

  • Environmental – safeguarding resources & lowering reliance on them; reducing waste generated; decreased carbon emissions
  • Economic – improving productivity and resilience; opening up new markets
  • Social – added lower cost options for accessing goods; social enterprise opportunities

A number of businesses have already taken novel and creative approaches to try to achieve a more “circular” operation. There are multiple ways for an organisation to implement more circular initiatives, simultaneously becoming more sustainable, including:

  1. Strategies to reduce consumption – such as the 5p bag charge, which reduced plastic bag usage considerably across the UK – thereby reducing waste and the associated problems
  2. Where it is not possible to lower the level of waste generated, the waste hierarchy should be used to determine how best to manage waste. Organisations should understand the benefits of managing their waste in the best way possible
  3. Some companies reduce the waste they create by altering their business models to try to re-use more items, to divert waste from landfills. For instance, Spruce Carpets are a community enterprise that refurbish and deliver used carpets, giving them a new home instead of throwing them away. CCL North offer a secure option for recycling and refurbishing IT, which means that valuable materials can be retained instead of discarded.
  4. Additionally, redesigning products to ensure that certain components last longer can be an effective means for reducing waste. EGG Lighting, for example, have developed a circular business model whereby only the LED and driver parts of lighting units are replaced, and the rest remains in use. Through their lighting service, businesses can regularly upgrade their lighting technology without replacing entire lighting units, minimising waste generated.
  5. Waste can be seen from a new perspective – it can be a resource that is put to good use. Multiple groups have achieved this, such as Aurora Sustainability (use coffee waste and heat from whiskey distilleries to produce gourmet mushrooms) and Jaw Brew (partnered with Aulds the Bakers to create a zero-waste, vegan beer made from leftover bread rolls).

Clearly, innovation is a great tool for helping society move towards a more circular economy. However, many of the ideas discussed above require more than just innovative thinking; a background knowledge of waste management is also important. Various waste training courses are available to provide an understanding of waste management legislation, – something that may be vital to those wishing to recirculate waste items by using them in their production streams. More information on waste training courses can be found here:

Additionally, if companies wish to redesign their business model to reduce the waste they produce, then conducting a waste analysis can act as an extremely helpful step in determining which waste materials to target. Here at Albion, we can provide a waste analysis – a tool which can be very useful for helping design recyling scheme. For more information please please get in contact or call us to discuss on 01292 610428.

 

Albion’s ABC of Waste Management – H Hierarchy

The Waste Hierarchy is a sustainable waste management model that categorises the various options for dealing with waste into an order of preference in a simple five-step hierarchy.

At the top of the waste hierarchy is Waste Prevention. This is simply the most effective way of dealing with waste as it reduces the amount of waste being generated in the first place therefore reducing the impact on the environment and also money is saved by managing less waste.

Next in the hierarchy is Reuse. This is another way of preventing waste by giving products and materials a second use thus prolonging its lifespan.

The third step in the Waste Hierarchy is Recycle. Recycling is where waste materials are treated or processed to make a similar product. Paper back into paper etc. As well as the practicalities of recycling the material, recycling does depend on there being a product which can be made out of the recycled material (paper for example can be recycled a finite number of times (approx. 9) before the fibre length shortens too much) and, that there is a viable market for the material!  

After Recycling on the Hierarchy comes Recovery. This stage includes other processes which try to extract any value left in the materials, and can primarily be used to recover energy. These processes include anaerobic digestion, incineration with energy recovery as well as gasification.

Finally, on the Waste Hierarchy is Disposal. In the UK, disposal to landfill or incineration, will also involve some form of energy recovery – extraction of landfill gas in the case of landfill sites and production of heat and electricity in incineration plants and it could be argued these are actually recovery.  Where there is no energy recovery, and the materials are discarded this is at the bottom of the hierarchy and so should only be used as a last resort.

If the public and business in the UK did manage their waste in accordance with the waste hierarchy the waste and resources industry would look a very different place.

The Alternative Waste Hierarchy!

So how does the current waste hierarchy work – a slightly tongue in cheek look at what actually happens in practice.

Reduce – there are lots of ways the public harness the power of reduce. For example:

  • Go into Aldi for a jar of coffee and leave with a pressure washer (because it was reduced)
  • Multiple items of clothes purchased which we don’t need because they were reduced
  • Two for one food items when the first one never actually gets eaten but it was reduced!

Re use – clear out the rooms and cupboards in November and take material to the HWRC (household waste recycling centre), so you can re-use the space

Recycle – Governments (particularly in Scotland) have spent a fortune on bins to make recycling as easy as possible for the public. When you actually analyse the figures less than 30% is generally recycled per household (the remainder in Local Authority figures is made up of recycling from other sources, for example HWRC sites). From the work we do providing waste compositional analysis we know that 60-70% of the waste in a residual bin could go into other bins. So, the reality is we all talk a good game about recycling but many do not practice a good game.

Recovery – we used to be quite good at recovery, large portion of wastes was paper and cardboard and we burnt it for heat. The huge opportunity for recovery in residual waste is food waste – if it is collected separately it will be taken to an anaerobic digestion plant and methane (and then electricity) and digestate (a liquid fertilizer) will be produced! The fact that a huge portion of the population of Scotland (who claim to care for the environment and recycle as much as possible) fail to use the food waste collection system is a scandal. Very few councils have a participation rate of over 50%!

Disposal – we have a strange view of waste, once we have it, we don’t want it. We appear to forget it was us who bought it and produced it in the first place. You only need to go to HWRC sites after Christmas to see the queues of traffic with the public desperate to get rid of their waste. And if the site dares to be closed there is no way it can be taken back home; it gets dumped at the entrance or in a layby!

What Can We Do?

Reduce – do we really, really, really need it? Take the “waste free packed lunch” challenge!

Re use – if we can’t use it can someone else use it. Change behaviour take re fillable bottle, take reusable coffee cup etc.

Recycle – are we really participating fully or are we playing at it? If not using your food waste system, start immediately!

Recover – by using the bin system correctly, the resource management industry can recover value from waste easier. Residual waste with no food waste is easier to recover energy!

Disposal – dispose correctly and let’s make littering totally unacceptable!

Once we are all doing these things then we can start to worry about the environmental impact of plastic straws!!

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.

Albion Electricity – 100% Renewable Energy

Albion Environmental doing their bit for the environment, with help from Opus Energy!

At Albion Environmental we are always looking at ways to reduce our energy usage and the subsequent environmental impact so we are very pleased with the recent update from our current electricity supplier, OPUS Energy.

OPUS send us an annual update on where our electricity comes from and have confirmed they were able to provide us with 100% renewable energy over the past year, and have the evidence to prove it, so they have ensured that we are doing our part to help the environment.

By using 100% renewable energy between April 2017 and March 2018, OPUS customers have been prevented 1,019,426 tonnes of CO2 from going into the atmosphere. This is the equivalent of planting 509 million trees.

Thank you OPUS