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Changing the mindset

Ken McLean reports on how Changeworks Recycling persuades its business clients that separate waste collections help to reduce their waste, carbon and costs

With the introduction of the Waste (Scotland) regulations in January of this year, the way that businesses are required to manage waste has now fundamentally changed.  

The new regulations help businesses to manage their waste as a resource, apply the waste hierarchy, and increase resource efficiency.

North of the border, the separate collection versus commingled debate is now a moot point. Separate collections are even specified within the statutory Duty of Care guidance for waste producers and the Scottish Government’s Guidance on Applying the Waste Hierarchy. Separate collections must clearly be prioritised over commingled collections and energy from waste wherever practical and achievable.  

Bringing in change: key dates

June 2009: The Climate Change (Scotland) Bill introduced ‘the most ambitious climate change legislation anywhere in the world’.

June 2010: Scotland’s Zero Waste Plan launched with ‘the waste hierarchy as a guide to the approach to managing Scotland’s waste’. It included:

  • 70% recycling and maximum 5% to landfill by 2025 for all Scotland’s waste
  • Source segregation and separate collection of specific waste types
  • Landfill bans for specific waste types
  • Restrictions on inputs to energy from waste facilities

May 2012: The Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012 passed supporting Scotland’s ambition to become ‘one of the most resource efficient nations in Europe’.

January 2014: The Waste (Scotland) Regulations introduce the separate collection of key recyclable materials in support of Scotland’s ambitions to tackle Climate Change, achieve zero waste and build a circular economy.

The debate is over and needs to move on. It is no longer a case of ‘should’ but ‘how’ best to achieve separate collection.   

Fundamental changes in the legislation will require fundamental change from the waste management industry. In practice, this means separate collections along with managing resources as a service and not managing them as we manage waste. This requires an industry with a strong focus on service and quality.

In 2001, Changeworks Recycling recognised that only separate collections from businesses would achieve both the greatest material quality and capture rates. At that time, volatile markets and the risks associated with the distance from China were a significant concern to us as a business start-up. Our worst case scenario - failure to sell our recyclables - would have closed the business. So a low-quality, mixed recycling model did not stack up for us.

Having recently moved from the minerals processing to waste, I questioned why the accepted practice was to take recyclable materials, mix them and cross-contaminate them and then, at great expense, try to separate them back into something close to their original state. By the laws of process inefficiencies, the higher the quality, the higher the cost of processing. It did not make sense.  

The challenge for Changeworks Recycling was to design a high quality recycling service that could compete within a cost-efficient waste management industry, while delivering tangible and significant business benefits to our clients: reducing their waste, carbon and costs.

Over time, the business has diversified to deliver separate collections of the widest range of materials – if it can be recycled sustainably, we do so. In 2014, we are reducing the waste, carbon and costs of thousands of businesses from all sectors and scale across central Scotland.

The quality of materials achieved is so high that everything we collect is recycled in the UK. 

We always hear the same reasons as to why separate collections cannot be achieved: it is too expensive, businesses have no space for all the bins and it is too complicated to understand.

The reality is the opposite – our clients benefit from significant cost savings, reduce the overall number of bins and find it easy to implement and maintain.  

Source segregation is a novel concept for most businesses to accept, but their waste tends to be predictable and easier to manage than domestic waste. No two businesses are the same, so we have to design a collection service that is tailored to the business needs of each client. Rarely does this re-engineered service mirror the traditional waste management service previously in place.

None of our clients have offices full of bins. Most actually have fewer bins than before we started working with them because less waste is produced and some are no longer required.

The highest barrier to overcome is the uncertainty associated with a change in waste management systems. Changeworks Recycling has focused on this and made significant progress with an implementation guide for business managers.

Managing change requires commitment and energy from clients and their staff. That is why we recommend they get it right first time and implement separate collections. Once established, our system quickly becomes normalised, and we then build on established behaviour with regular feedback.  

We want to enable clients to manage waste as a resource and value that waste. Accurate monthly reports, waste compositional analysis and dedicated client support all contribute to our clients achieving reductions in carbon and costs.

The waste regulations are an opportunity for businesses to become more competitive by reducing costs through increased resource efficiency. The waste management companies that are first to recognise and act on this opportunity will be the first to benefit. Changeworks Recycling’s recent success in the Essential Edinburgh Central Business Improvement District tender is just one example.

It is no accident that separate collections are specified in the new waste regulations – it is an act of strong and clear leadership as to the future of the industry in Scotland. This is a clear opportunity for the waste management industry to capture.

Ken McLean is general manager at Changeworks Recycling

Case study: The Scottish Parliament and Changeworks

Waste Reduced:A 67% reduction in general waste. The collection service has reduced from 10 FEL skips per week to a daily collection of bags.

Carbon Saved:24% reduction in carbon emissions through behaviour change.

Cost Reduced:Resource efficiency has delivered savings of over £200, 000. This includes a reduction in paper consumption and printing costs of over £42,000.

Source: SPCB Environmental and Sustainability Report 12/13


View from the outside:

“Changeworks Recycling was the first waste and resource management company to be accredited [with Scotland’s Resource Sector Commitment] and has led by example by recycling everything where possible and using EEV low carbon vehicles which run on biofuels. Staff training has been key for the company and due to being involved in the consultation on the new Waste (Scotland) Regulations back in 2009, Changeworks has been able to be at the forefront of developments in waste regulation and has tailored how it operates accordingly.”

Iain Gulland, Director, Zero Waste Scotland, February 2014

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