John Glover's comments
We have to look at reality. If “compostable” plastic waste is mixed with traditionally recyclable plastic waste who can tell the difference during the sorting process? Can “NIR” equipment identify compostable rather than non-compostable plastic? Compostable plastic could expect to form an infinitesimally small % within plastic streams and I can’t see any organisation would want to recover this and direct it for composting. If it did go into a composting stream the eye would think it was seeing compostables contaminated with plastic. In the real world is compostable plastic a Dodo?
Going back to mid 2008 (when recyclate values were high) the mantra was to continuously improve rates of recycling, with cost of secondary importance. Recyclate collections then had relatively low contamination. In the last eleven years the tables have been upturned over and over again and when residual collections have been cut down contamination of recyclate has frequently multiplied four times. Then MRF’s may have been encouraged by local authority customers to speed the process (to reduce cost) and the result has been incomplete sorting and contamination of outputs for export. In the meantime the minimum wage has increased and we are being encouraged to pay the London Living Wage as a minimum, but local authorities really don’t want to cover that cost. We are all suffering increased staff shortages and it has been suggested that future incomers will only be allowed in at a minimum annual salary of £30,000. Eleven years of vacillation are coming to a crescendo as Coventry thinks it can go it alone. Long term budgeting does not work in our industry and this is why so many within the industry have gone bust. My family has been in the business since 1918 and has been prudent all the way and we remain leaders in our field. Where has politics got us in the last eleven years outside endless talking? As it happens Ken Livingstone was the best Mayor for Sustainability and later Hilary Benn was an excellent Environment Secretary. On top of this Bywaters PAY almost £1 million a year in Business Rates to operate from the most neighbour friendly and sustainable facilities. Will there now be answers to square the circle for the future?
If these councils spend £35 million and build their own MRF I can predict it will, unfortunately, all end up in tears. In our industry the future is always completely unpredictable and it is impossible to predict the market requirements and values for three months, let alone a much longer period.
Are some MRF’s run too fast for effective quality control? Possibilities: 1 - Improve quality of material delivered to MRF’s. 2: Slow down MRF’s to enhance material to required standards. 3: Add an additional facility to re-polish outputs. All this will cost money. If the ultimate financial value of the outputs are poor it is natural that the supplier to the MRF will have to be charged additional sums. These problems have gone on too long and have been ignored by all parties who might have to carry the cost, including Government over the last ten years. Apart from this additional items that have been allowed in recycled product previously may not now be acceptable for export including laminated cardboard or paper and anything carrying the slightest food contamination. All these matters require daily resolution by MRF’s in 2019.
0% is unrealistic, whatever the material.
All current contracts were historically based on the generally accepted standards of the past. It is suggested that standards have been flouted by some exports.
Currently the UK does export cardboard to China with a maximum of 0.5% contamination by weight and no food contamination. China customs and their agents do supervise and inspect material on our site and do have bales deconstructed for inspection on a regular basis, all as part of the process.
Moving onto other materials surely the UK could set standards of contamination by weight that are recognized world wide for all types of material for export and, in addition, certain types of contamination would lead to instant failure of certification for export.
MRF’s will be held responsible for quality standards but the ultimate customer must be prepared to pay, usually a local authority. To meet higher standards MRF’s will HAVE to reduce their throughput and/or install additional equipment and quality control staff. This will cost money and MRF customers will need to cover the additional costs or ensure they send in 100% recyclables, not 80% recyclables plus 20% rubbish.
Where is the joined up thinking allowing waste produced by the local population to be treated locally? We should be guided by the proximity principle and waste produced in London and the Home Counties should surely be treated as close as possible to the point of production. Those in opposition do not have better answers, including the GLA. Well done the North London Waste Authority for pressing on with their new EfW (replacement) plant.
We opened our domestic and commercial recyclables MRF in 2008. Collection of recyclables was relatively new at the time and contamination was typically up to 5%. In recent years, during which "residual waste" collections have been cut back and recycling collections have become the norm everywhere contamination levels have frequently been 20% + in reality. WRAP reported up to 30% from multi-occupancy areas. It is this contamination that has to go to Energy from Waste or Landfill, not the recyclable element because we recover this. For 100,000 tonnes coming in a "reject" rate of 5% gives rise to 5,000 tonnes to be disposed of. If contamination is 20% the element for disposal is 20,000 tonnes. The recycling "product" should be clean and without contaminants, with no food whatsoever. One pizza box with a pizza still in it does lead to a whole shipment of hundred of tonnes being 100% rejected. If the contamination level of recyclables is nil, when delivered to the MRF, we can recycle all acceptable materials at close to 100%. These are the real problems that cause input to need to be disposed of.
An everlasting problem in making English, Welsh, Scotland or Northern Ireland decisions is that most decisions are “all or nothing”. The same with local authorities, probably due to EU regulations that may prevent locally agreed contracts being rolled out over a period of time that tackle urgent problems such as food in non-food waste streams. The moment there is NO FOOD in residual waste (and NO FOOD indeed in commingled) it will be much easier for us to recover recyclables from the streams with NO FOOD IN. The recycling rates possible from multi occupancy could then move much faster forward. If Bywaters can do this in London what are we waiting for?
In 2017 it appears that the London Waste & Recycling Board spent almost £500,000 (Some with Eunomia?) developing a similar scheme that collapsed before it had started. Let alone those that have got together Bywaters provide a full range of services in the London area, as do many other firms in various parts of London. So where are these alternative services particularly required where they are not now available? Customers have a choice of suppliers and we concentrate on closely meeting customers requirements, which in London involves meeting strict time requirements and fighting off 100's of Penalty Charge Notices whilst we work to provide a professional service. We don't live in a world where one size fits all and the private sector is very many years ahead of traditional local authority services, which are normally and necessarily of a fixed and inflexible nature. Apart from this not all suppliers can provide a service that meets customer requirements.
Mark Broxup could not have said any more. We all operate under a financial cosh and much additional funding is required within London facilities, public and private, if everyone was to be paid the London Living Wage. As an open-minded person I find the Greenpeace report to be very one sided. Could Greenpeace run the MRF for six months? Could they do better within the financial constraints that exist? According to public information not even Greenpeace appear to pay all their staff the LLW. Those who wish to criticise the industry should be constructive, not simply complain about everything.