Category Archives: Sustainability


The other week, our KTP Associate – Jennifer Kowalski – was invited to attend Science at The Parliament in Edinburgh. This is what she had to say about the event:

The theme for this year’s Science and the Parliament event was sustainability, which is a really interesting, and also a topical subject. There was also a focus on resource consumption, since The Royal Society of Chemistry are celebrating the International Year of the Periodic Table. The periodic Table (which gives details of all of the elements that make up every single thing on the planet) was created back in 1869. In the 150 years that has passed since then, a lot has changed in regards to the way we use these elements.

Back in 1869, technology was still in its infancy, and many potential functionalities of our chemical elements were yet to be discovered. Now however, we use many elements extensively, to the point that some are at risk of running out – and within a single lifetime!

In the UK, 1.5 million phones are upgraded every month. Current trends mean that most people want the newest and flashiest gadgets, which has created a situation in which many old phones just sit around in peoples drawers, serving no useful purpose and wasting valuable resources. It has been predicted that we could run out of Indium within 20 years – this is a rare metal that is an essential component of liquid crystal display (LCD) screens. This also means that it is a necessary component for touchscreens, and without touchscreens we wouldn’t have smartphones. A few decades from now, will people in the UK be ready to give up their smartphones?

I think that the attachment that many people have with their own phones can only grow stronger, especially as will the use of social media and apps as a tool for making a living, or increasing business avenues, expands. As such, it is evident that, as a society, we need to start taking better care of our belongings right now.

If we are not careful, an element that we could lose altogether is Helium. Prior to the talks at this event, I was really only aware of a select few uses of this gas – such as balloons and blimps. Yet it turns out liquid helium is the “lifeblood” of MRI machines. When used in MRI’s, helium then tends to be recycled, which is important. Why? Well, helium is the only element that is capable of floating up through the air as a gas, and then escaping completely into outer space, upon reaching the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere. And when helium is used to inflate balloons, it often eventually leaks out into the air, where this is exactly what will happen.

If we continue using balloons at the rate we do now, we could fully exhaust our supply of this gas in roughly 100 years. We now need to decide whether having helium wrapped in shiny plastic at parties and functions is worth our great grandchildren being unable to receive an MRI when they need it.

Whilst our use of science and technologies is clearly a critical topic, it is not the only sustainability-related area that this event focused on. The day wouldn’t have been complete without hearing from some MP’s, to see what the parliament is actually doing about the key issues in sustainability. This came in the form of an MSP Panel which focused on sustainability and the climate emergency. The politicians present discussed their views on certain issues including the use of Genetically Modified Crops; changes to the cars we use in Scotland; and what they actually intend to do to help prevent a climate breakdown.

With the increasing urgency of the latter of these subjects, and how little has been done so far to combat this (at least, in comparison to what needs to be done) it can often feel like scientists do not have a voice. Which of course, is very frustrating for anyone within this profession, and for anyone who is interested in it, or cares about it. Yet, this is what makes events like Science and the parliament so important, as it can foster collaboration between different areas of science through networking, and it allows a chance for communication between politicians and scientists.

Here at Albion, we are taking sustainability and environmental impacts more and more seriously. Be sure to follow us on LinkedIn or twitter to see some of our posts and blogs on this theme, for example, our 12 days of a more environmentally friendly Christmas posts.

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!!

REHIS 1 Day Course – Introduction to Waste Management Legislation

Are you up to date with current Waste Management Legislation?

Albion Environmental Ltd are running our jointly awarded REHIS Waste Management Legislation course at our training Centre in Ayr (or we can deliver the training in house at your company location).

Final few places remaining on our REHIS Working with Waste Legislation Course on 26th September. Guarantee your spot by contacting

Jointly awarded with the Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland (REHIS), this course has been designed to provide employees who regularly handle waste with the basic understanding of the legislation relating to the Waste and Resource Management industry.

Through a mixture of lecturing, case studies, group work and exercises you will come away with a better knowledge of:

  • Identifying Waste
  • Classification of the various waste including correct EWS codes
  • Duty of care – responsibilities in the “waste chain”
  • Special Waste Regulations & Consigning Special Waste

Confirmation of learning is achieved by completion of all the course exercises with the successful candidate receiving a REHIS and Albion Course Certificate which can be used to demonstrate APL for Waste Management Award accredited by WAMITAB & SQA.

With have just a few places left on our course on the 26th September please book your place by contacting us on 01292 610428 or mailto

REHIS 2 Day Course – Working With Waste Management

Are you compliant with current Waste Management Legislation or working towards gaining a WAMITAB Certificate of Technical Competence (CoTC) award?

If the answer is ‘yes’ then our 2 Day Working with Waste Management Legislation course is not to be missed.

Next Course 23rd / 24th Oct 2018 Book Here

Jointly awarded with the Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland (REHIS), this two-day course is intended to provide employees with the basic understanding of the legislation relating to the Waste and Resource Management industry.

Suitable for staff working on waste management facilities and staff working in areas where they handle and manage waste on a regular basis.

Through a mixture of lecturing, case studies, group work and exercises candidates will understand the principals of the following:

  • The Definition of Waste
  • Registration of Carriers
  • Duty of care
  • EWC Codes
  • Special Waste Regulations & Consigning Special Waste
  • Carriage of Dangerous Goods (by road)
  • Storage of Hazardous /Special Wastes
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Health & Safety Management

Confirmation of learning is achieved by completion of all the course exercises with the successful candidate receiving a certificate jointly issued by REHIS and Albion.

Course Certification can be used to demonstrate APL for Waste Management awards accredited by WAMITAB and SQA.

To book your place on the 23rd & 24th October please click here.

Courtauld Commitment 2: improving resource efficiency and reducing the carbon impact of the UK grocery sector

The Courtauld Commitment is a voluntary agreement aimed at improving resource efficiency and reducing the carbon impact of the UK grocery sector.

The Commitment helps deliver the UK governments’ policy goal of a ‘circular economy’ and the objectives of the Climate Change Act to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 34% by 2020 and 80% by 2050. Efficiencies made through the Courtauld Commitment benefit the grocery sector, consumers and the economy. This was a continuation of the original Courtauld Commitment and ran from 2010 to December 2012.

The Courtauld Commitment 2 helped businesses, consumers and local authorities to save money, improve performance and reduce their carbon footprint.

It specifically helped businesses to:

  • Reduce costs.
  • Improve the resource efficiency of products and their packaging.
  • Better position organisations for a carbon-constrained future.
  • Deliver against consumer expectations.
  • Help drive innovation in the sector.

The second phase of the Courtauld Commitment, a voluntary agreement funded by the UK governments and delivered by WRAP1, set out to improve resource efficiency and reduce waste within the UK grocery sector from 2010 to 2012 inclusive. It aimed to achieve three targets: to reduce household food and drink waste, supply chain product waste and the carbon impact of packaging.

Packaging target was achieved

The carbon impact of grocery packaging was reduced by 10.0% compared to the target of 10%. Grocery packaging weight also reduced by 10.7%.

Household food and drink waste target was narrowly missed

An estimated 3.7% absolute reduction in total household food waste2 was achieved (270,000 tonnes per year) against a target of 4% (92% of the target was achieved). However avoidable household food waste reduced by 5.3%. This will have saved consumers £700 million and local authorities £20 million a year in 2012. The carbon savings associated with the reduction in avoidable household food waste amounted to around 930,000 tonnes CO2eq a year.

Supply chain product and packaging waste target was exceeded

Traditional grocery product and packaging waste in the grocery supply chain was reduced by 7.4%, exceeding the 5% target. Supply chain waste decreased by 217,000 tonnes per year over the period.

For further information please follow the link: WRAP Results for Courtauld Commitment 2

Source: WRAP