Category Archives: Sustainability

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.

IAM Roadsmart Training

Green passes all round for the Albion team! 

IAM RoadSmart - Wikipedia

Albion Environmental has recently completed driving for work training with IAM Roadsmart Training. Under our business management system (accredited to BSI) we had identified that one of our main risks was staff travelling to and from work. Our team visit sites up and down the country, which means driving is a very important part of their day and we want to ensure the team are driving as safely and in the most fuel-efficient way they can. We are happy to report that all of our team have passed the IAM Roadsmart Driving for Work assessment, all with a Green pass!

The training has improved and raised awareness in:

  • Driving Safely
  • Eliminating the risk of incidents
  • How to improve fuel efficiency (helping towards our environmental targets as per our Environmental Management System ISO 14001:2015)
  • Driving methods that result in the minimisation of maintenance, repairs and injuries resulting in a more reliable vehicle
  • Reducing the H&S risk for Albion staff in accordance with our Occupational Health & Safety Management System OHSAS 18001:2007

The course is an excellent way to for drivers to assess their own driving habits and refresh their memory on the dangers of the roads, with guidance from one of the IAM Roadsmart assessors.

 

We want to extend our thanks to the IAM Roadsmart team who delivered the training to a number of our staff members between May and June.

 

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Meet the Team – Issue 4

Welcome back to the latest update of our ‘Meet the Team’ feature.

Every few weeks we have been talking to a different member of the Albion team and asking them to share some of their work and life experiences to help our clients get to know the people behind the brand. This week we are sharing Jane’s great blog!

Jane Bond

Project and Business Development Director

Favourite Quote: I had to think hard about this one.  The first thought I had when asked the question was ‘’just keep swimming’’ but I wasn’t sure whether this was just relating to my new hobby.  But I thought more about this and there are 2 reasons for this being my favourite. The first one is because I started open water swimming in a local Loch during lock down and just love it for the calm and being at one with nature – a good stress relief!  The second reason is because it represents achieving something as a team and beating the odds.  If you watch Finding Nemo you will understand what I mean!

Job Role: Helping Albion win work, maintaining client relationships, project management, providing training – basically anything that helps to move the company forward and grow in projects, revenue and profit.

I’m also involved in hosting various training sessions and sharing my knowledge and experience with others in the industry. My most recent online training session talked all about sustainability and if you’re interested you can watch the recording here.

Experience: I have been in the waste management industry over 30 years (I started very young!!). My background is Geology and Environmental and Pollution Control with some Civil Engineering thrown in.  My first role was working as a hydrogeologist for a County Council in England in waste operations and waste regulation – poacher/game keeper before the Environment Agency came along.  This was a great start and gave me operational experience in environmental monitoring, design and installation of monitoring points, evaluation of environmental monitoring data and design, testing and CQA of landfill liner and capping systems.  I moved to Scotland in 1996 and worked for a Scottish consultancy called Babtie Group (now Jacobs Engineering).  This involved a wide range of waste management projects, my first project being as an independent consultant working for Hong Kong Government Environment Protection Department reviewing designs and supervising restoration of closed landfill sites in Hong Kong.  In addition to that I worked on waste strategy, contracts, waste composition, options appraisals for public and private sector.  I moved back into the public sector – working for SEPA – focussing on sustainability and in particular how businesses can improve their environmental credentials and save money at the same time.  After seven years of that it was time to move back into consultancy and work with Albion Environmental.

Favourite project I’ve worked on at Albion: What I like about working for Albion is the range of projects and getting involved, technically with the projects.  Also being a small company it is quick to make changes when these are needed and decisions are made quickly.  My favourite project has to be training for the NHS in clinical waste auditing.  This has involved training in each of the health boards on why and how to undertake pre-acceptance audits for clinical waste.  This has given me a good insight into the operations of clinical waste management and I have learnt a lot from this.

Get to Know Me: My first interesting fact is that I went travelling for 6 months in USA, Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong in 1990/1991. Whilst I was there I undertook a project to look at landfill lining practices in each of these countries particularly relating to synthetic (HDPE) liners. Sad but true! I love cycling regularly cycling around 100 miles per week, I have recently taken up wild swimming and have swum in icy waters.  I hate running!  

When I’m not working, you’ll find me… Cycling or swimming.  If it is raining I am more likely to be making soup or doing a jigsaw. Knitting blankets is also another one of my favourite things to do – if anyone needs a blanket, supply me with the wool and I will knit it!!

If you’d like to get in touch with Jane you can email enquiries to janebond@albion-environmental.co.uk or connect on LinkedIn here.

Top 10 Mistakes Made With Recycling

Green Recycling Symbol

 

Most of us do want to recycle correctly – we know that it’s better for the planet, and so it’s a part of being a responsible citizen. However, with increasing globalization and huge online retailers (e.g., Amazon) bringing massive selections of products to our doorstep, disposing of waste has become a huge grey area. There are now so many easy-to-access products, and therefore, lots of different types of packaging – knowing what to do with it all can be tricky and frustrating.

The least we can do is try to get the basics right. Many items – such as a newspaper or a glass jar, have obvious recycling routes. Once we have the basics sorted, we can try to learn more about how to avoid recycling mistakes, and as we receive new information, we can gradually try to change our habits by tackling one issue at a time.

Here’s our list of the Top 10 mistakes people tend to make when recycling, and how they can be tackled.

1. Recycling packaging that’s contaminated with food

If you’re unable to remove food from the packaging (e.g. with grease stains on pizza boxes), then the packaging needs to be placed in the general waste bin. Even if a container is recyclable, if it’s got food waste on it, it’s likely to be rejected. As such, bottles, plastic containers, and tin cans all need to be rinsed, or potentially even washed out, before placing it in its bin.

Otherwise, you can separate the parts that are completely contaminated with food. With a pizza box, for example, you can tear off the parts that are contaminated with food (e.g. the card that has oil patches, or cheese stuck to it), and then recycle the rest with your paper/card waste.

2. Failing to recycle aluminium foil (or tin foil)

Foil trays can be recycled in your metals recycling bin, if its free from food contamination. The same applies to tin foil, however, this cannot be recycled if the pieces of foil are too small, or else recycling waste sorting machines won’t detect the foil waste. So, if you have any small pieces of tin foil (e.g. from a chocolate bar, or from the top of a tub of butter), then store these until you have enough foil to scrunch it up together until it forms a ball that is at least as big as a tennis ball.

3.Contributing to card & paper contamination

The vast majority of paper items can be recycled – a general rule is: if you can rip it, you can recycle it. Types of paper that cannot be recycled (or ripped) include photographic paper and polaroid film.

Most card can also be recycled, but since tape is not recyclable, any tape used to seal packages and boxes should be removed before placing cardboard packaging in the paper/card bin. Wet paper or card cannot be recycled, however, so it must be placed in the general waste bin.

Additionally, used kitchen roll or paper towels cannot be recycled. They can often be thrown away with food waste, provided that they are a very small proportion of the overall waste and are not being placed in a food caddy in large amounts. Additionally, whilst they can be placed in the organic waste if they’ve been used to soak up food or drink residues/messes, they cannot be placed in this waste stream if they have been used alongside any cleaning chemicals.

4. Trying to recycle your disposable take-away coffee cups

Single-use coffee cups generally cannot be recycled (except from where there is a collection point specifically for these cups), as they involve a mix of materials that are difficult to separate. As such, these cups often need to be thrown in the general waste bin, destined for a landfill. Instead, try to bring a re-usable take-away cup with you to your local coffee shop.

5. Recycling all of your glass waste

Do not recycle broken glasses, pyrex dishes, or mirrors/windows. These types of glass have been heat-treated, and so they cannot be recycled. Only glass jars and bottles are recyclable forms of glass.

6. Throwing your toiletry and cleaning containers in the general waste bin

Shampoo, conditioner and other plastic toiletry bottles can be recycled with your plastic waste, as can liquid soap bottles – as long as the pump dispenser tops from soap bottles are removed from the bottle and placed into the general waste bin.

Aerosol cans (such as deodorant, hairspray, and shaving cream) can be recycled along with their cap, as long as they are completely empty – i.e., they should make a hiss noise. However, it is better to avoid aerosols (e.g., use roll on deodorant) as they contain nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas.

Despite the harsh chemicals, bleach and spray-cleaner bottles can be recycled, if they are rinsed out first. Even spray trigger lids on spray-cleaning bottles can be recycled in most places, so check your local recycling to see if you can recycle the lids alongside the bottle.

7. Placing your recycling waste in plastic bags when throwing it in the bin

Within your recycling bin(s), put recycling waste directly into the bin without any bags, as this allows the waste to be easily sorted at the recycling facility. Bagged waste is often treated as contamination and sent for landfill disposal.

8. Want to recycle your soft plastic – supermarkets are your friend!!

Soft plastics – such as thin plastic bags including carrier bags, bread bags, or many bags used for frozen items – can be recycled at supermarket plastic bag drop-off points. As they can likely be recycled if they end up in the right place! Batteries can also be recycled by simply taking them to the supermarket with you next time you go shopping – most supermarkets have a collection point somewhere near their tills for you to dispose of old batteries.

Other electronics can be recycled or re-used by taking them to your local household waste recycling centre.

9. Leaving waste bulky and full of air

Do you ever run out of space in your recycling bins? A lot of space can be saved by quickly and easily squeezing some air out of your waste. Drinks cans can be crushed down, and plastic bottles should have the air squeezed out of them, then their lids replaced. This can reduce the greenhouse gases associated with the energy required to transport your recycling to its endpoint.

Additionally, crushing down your recycling to squeeze the air from it helps ensure that baling processes are done smoothly without any issues when these items end up at a recycling centre.

10. Not checking which types of items can and cannot be recycled within your specific council area

With the internet, and therefore huge amounts of information, easily accessible at just the click of a button, there is no reason not to double-check which items can be recycled in your household bins. Some councils do collect and recycle commonly used items, such as tetrapak cartons and butter tubs, but some do not. To avoid “wishful recycling”, which often leads to contamination of recycling waste, it is important to check the specific items that your council wants you to recycle.

If you are lucky enough to live in South Ayrshire Council area you can download the SAC MyBins app from iOS or Google Store and use the waste search tool to work out the correct bin to place material.

If you don’t stay in South Ayrshire but are still interested visit www.my-bins.co.uk