Category Archives: Waste Management

Albion’s ABC of Waste Management – Q – Quality Recyclate

How good are your recycling habits? Do you understand how your habits can impact the success of whole recycling operations?

Recycling helps to reduce the carbon emitted from creating new things; it is a crucial aspect of sustainable resource use; and if waste materials are recycled, they are less likely to wind up polluting the environment.

However, the waste recycling industry faces a number of issues – for example, right now it is struggling to maintain the resources it requires to keep up with its demands amid the health crisis we are currently facing due to COVID-19.

Additionally, in a typical year (one that is not hugely affected by a global pandemic!), it can be difficult to find a market for recycled end-products. It can also be hard for waste management companies to source high-quality input materials for the recycling process.

The potential lack of good input materials can hamper the quantity and quality of the new raw materials produced by recycling.

Even just a small amount of waste contamination within incoming materials can wipe out the value of the end-product resources.

Waste management can generally be improved with better collection and sorting of recycling waste. Furthermore, awareness on which materials can and cannot be recycled, and which waste streams should be used for various items, could be enhanced, both within industry and in the public sphere.

For instance, here at Albion we recently conducted a waste compositional survey for a local authority, and found high levels of contamination within multiple waste streams.

The council in question provides householders with multiple types of recycling bins (alongside a residual bin), and each of the bins studied contained some level of contamination:

  • Metal and plastic bins – 13% of the waste content should have been placed in a different type of recycling bin and 19% should have been put in the residual waste bin
  • Paper and card bins – 7% of the waste content should have been placed in a different type of recycling bin and 10% should have been put in the residual waste bin
  • Glass bins – 22% of the waste content should have been placed in a different type of recycling bin and 6% should have been put in the residual waste bin
  • Residual bins – 72.3% of the materials could have been recycled.

Clearly, householders are often getting it wrong when using their recycling bins. This offers an opportunity for enhancing waste management, and more specifically, the quality of recyclates. To increase recyclate quality, it is crucial that more focus is given to education on how to dispose of recyclable materials correctly. Organisations using measures to learn exactly what is in their waste stream, and investing time and money into developing innovative ways to efficiently separate their waste on-site, can often benefit from lower disposal costs, and new revenues.

Here at Albion, we have qualified, experience consultants that can conduct waste analyses, and also help provide expert solutions on how a business or council could improve its waste sorting and collection processes, as well as highlighting the materials that ought to be targeted for this. Upon passing over our findings, we can sit down with the relevant teams and assist in the development of an informed, effective strategy for improving quality of recyclates. Find out more about how we can help with waste compositional surveys here.

Waste Management During Covid-19

I thought it would be useful for some to do an update on waste management during covid-19 – this is more for my contacts out with the sector rather than all the waste guys at the sharp end (who know this all already!!). Most people’s understanding of waste management is that once a week the “magic bin fairy” comes along and we get an empty bin back! They don’t understand the size and scale of the industry in place to collect and safely manage waste! 

So many of you will have noticed that waste workers are classified as essential workers during this crisis. This is because effective waste management is viewed as an essential service to protect public health. In the UK this goes back a long way, to the Great Plague of London. This lasted from 1665 to 1666, and was the last major epidemic of the bubonic plague to occur in the UK. It was largely transmitted through the bite of an infected rat flea. The underlying cause was the unsanitary conditions within London at that time, with sewage flowing down the streets and little or no functional waste management system, which allowed the rat population to explode!

This outbreak resulted in the birth of the UK of the public health, sewage system and waste management sector we now take for granted today, in fact many of the countries sewers are still from this era! It is only recently that waste management has focussed on recycling and environmental issues, but the fundamental purpose of household waste collection is to protect public health!

So, during this crisis what issues are coming up:

  • The obvious one, is councils are struggling for staff, as staff take ill or have to self-isolate so the number of staff are already reduced
  • Councils are grappling with how they continue to offer collections while still maintaining 2m separation for staff. A variety of methods are being used from single crew of vehicles, max. of two staff in vehicle with staff following behind in a van etc. All methods currently used will be slower than usual methods putting further pressure on resources
  • Lack of manpower and changes to work will put more work on existing crews – lifting bins is hard physical work and they will need rest periods soon, further reducing staff numbers
  • Very shortly you will see councils either focussing on residual and food waste collections only or collecting all waste at the same time. The reality is that waste going to landfill / incineration will increase and recycling levels will decrease – but during this period the overriding priority is public health!!
  • Commercial waste collections have largely dried up so potentially councils can contract in vehicles, drivers and crews to supplement their depleted resources
  • As everyone is now largely at home the quantity of waste is liable to increase, however this may be balanced by the reduced opportunity to go out and buy things.
  • There is already anecdotal information that food waste has increased drastically – is this the panic buying of food going bad and needing to then throw it out?
  • Household Waste Recycling Centre sites are largely shut across the country. This was primarily to free up staff and resources but also important to close down unnecessary travel and journeys. Councils which have closed sites have come under a lot of criticism for closing from the public but can they really call a trip to the HWRC site an essential journey. In all reality the waste they were desperate to get rid of had been sitting in their shed/ loft / house etc for years!! Councils have said HWRC sites last weekend were busier than on a Bank holiday, with whole families turning up to the site and they felt they had to shut to protect the public!

During this crisis it is essential that waste collections continue and also essential that the landfill sites and incinerators continue to operate, and the vast majority of councils and private companies are committed to doing so. This does present its own challenges as these are often complex sites with permits or licences to allow them to operate. To comply with the permit these sites need to complete certain monitoring activities. This involves going to these sites to sample and test – but this needs a supply chain of contractors, laboratories etc – are all these organisations also deemed to be essential or not! Clear government guidance is required!

In an ideal world it would be great if there was a consistent approach to what collections councils should focus on to help the public cope, however the reality is local government is being left to cope as best they can:

  • Prioritise residual waste and food waste to free up resources and focus on the service which poses the biggest risk to public health
  • All other services, only deliver when they have sufficient resources – does it really matter if you have a bin of cardboard or mixed recyclate sitting in your garden for a few months?
  • Minimise volume – most bins are not full; they have just been packed poorly. Flat pack and squash everything and the space in bins will last much longer
  • The other one is don’t waste food – spend your free time to bake and use up old food, plenty of ideas on line

In the short term this crisis will result in a dip in recycling, but I am hopefully it will result in people living much more sustainably – buying less, discarding less and being much more aware of their contribution to the environment. It is only once something stops that you realise how important it is!

What do you think, will it make us more sustainable in the long term or will we revert to our old ways of only caring that the bin gets emptied?

Alasdair Meldrum

27/03/20

Albion’s ABC of Waste Management – N – Non-Hazardous Soil Waste

Albion Environmental provide training and advice to ensure your business is compliant and reduce your waste disposal costs.  Do you produce, manage or handle waste soils? Are you aware of your legal obligations? Find out more and sign up for one of our courses now.

Scotland produces approximately 11.6 million tonnes of controlled waste per annum and approximately 4.3 million tonnes of this is waste soil.

If you produce waste soil, to comply with the Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2011 and the Waste Management Licensing (Scotland) Regulations you must:

  • Apply the waste hierarchy to the management of your soil waste
  • Ensure your waste is transferred to someone authorised to receive it
  • Complete a waste transfer note
  • Describe the waste accurately
  • Take measures to ensure that your waste does not cause pollution or harm to human health

While most businesses will have their waste transfer note paperwork, in our experience, many do not fully complete all of the above steps.

Why should you take time to consider this?

  1. Financial Benefits – By ensuring the waste hierarchy has been applied and soils classified correctly you could reduce the volume of waste soil you generate and its associated cost for disposal.
  • Environmental Benefits – You could reduce the volume of material going to landfill, help identify greater opportunities to reuse soils and lower your carbon footprint.
  • Legal Compliance – It is a legal requirement

What Can Albion Do?

Albion can provide those who produce, handle and manage waste soils with a range of services to comply with your Duty of Care Requirements, including:

  • Bespoke training to help your staff understand their Duty of Care Obligations
  • Sampling and assessment of soil waste
  • Soil waste classification in accordance with WM3 Guidance
  • Soil reuse assessments
  • Development of soil management plans

The results of the above will help your business demonstrate it is complaint and can generate significant cost savings.

To find out more or to have an informal chat please contact Andrew Howlett.

Are you struggling with complying with the EPR 5.07 – Clinical Waste guidance?

The EPR 5.07 applies to all waste management facilities that are permitted to accept clinical waste.

Albion Environmental Ltd has a dedicated team of qualified trainers and expert Consultants with experience on healthcare waste management. We have been providing support to many NHS Trusts across Scotland which includes the delivery of comprehensive site audits as required.

Under the EPR 5.07, On Site Waste Acceptance procedures are required on the following conditions: ‘’when the permit holder is also the carrier and collect the waste from producer’s premises, the waste acceptance stage can start when the waste is collected, otherwise commence the procedure when the waste arrives at the site’’.

If you are a permit holder handling healthcare waste and need some support with this audit, we have prepared a simple guide which covers the main points required by the On-Site Acceptance Procedure – Stage 2.  These should help you to cover the key requirements of the EPR 5.07 guidance.

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.