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Carbon not collection

At times I think we need to stop and reflect on the reasons why we are recycling. So much of the debate at the moment seems to be about how rather than why we are doing it – our original reasons seem to have been lost in the mists of time.

Grundon Waste Management primarily services the commercial and industrial waste market. Our customers are driven by international and corporate agreements to not only cut their emissions but also to green their supply chain.

This is why I will never understand the commingled verses source separated argument. This is about CO2, if we are recycling for any other reason then let us please rethink now.

It is up to us to provide the most CO2 efficient way of handling their recyclable and residual waste and this is why in the mid-90s we developed one of the first materials recycling facilities (MRFs) built specifically for the recycling of commercial and industrial waste.

The consequence of this was our ability to also sort commingled material from local authorities.We certainly never suffered from rejected loads and as our tonnages grew, I became more aware of the massive industry behind this recycling revolution.

My first visit to St Regis’ cardboard manufacturing Kemsley Mill was a revelation, apart from the sheer scale of the operation, seeing how they took waste plastics from their recycling processes to provide energy for the site was an inspiration, and I began to understand the true meaning of industrial symbiosis.

Many recyclers were radicalised in the 1980s when the green movement gradually shifted from the mutterings of a few wild-eyed hippies into a reasoned scientific community arguing about the effects of releasing sequestered carbon into our atmosphere.

It was around this time that Grundon realised that the passive venting of methane from our landfills was not such a good thing. Our investment in the first landfill gas engines began. The fact that 30 years on, companies like Infinis that use landfill gas as the major component of their renewable energy source, are voted as one of the Sunday Times best Green Companies testifies to this pioneering spirit.

The shift from landfill to recycling and energy from waste is driven by one thing – CO2. The EU landfill directive places the production of CO2 at its core, and unless our recycling policies are similarly aligned, they become meaningless.

Grundon Waste Management has been running a haulage business in and around London and the South East for over 75 years, and in that time we have accumulated a great deal of knowledge on the modern art of logistics.

Along with agriculture and the power industry, emissions from motor vehicles are a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. This is why Grundon Waste Management has been measuring its vehicle emissions over the last 10 years and has actively reduced them year on year.

Our recycling systems are designed to be as fuel and energy efficient as possible, utilising strategically placed MRFs servicing a local market rather than hauling material for miles to individual recovery points.

Of course we recognise that the recycling industry is a global market place. We can easily reconcile the carbon cost of exporting recyclables when 49% of shipping containers leave our shores empty. Although when we start adding unnecessary traffic to our already congested road infrastructure we negate any CO2 efficiencies we have created further down the recycling chain.

I firmly believe that those businesses that have placed carbon at the heart of their decision making will reap their rewards as we enter a new economic cycle. This is why I will never understand the commingled verses source separated argument. This is about CO2, if we are recycling for any other reason then let us please rethink now.

Neil Grundon is development director at Grundon Waste Management

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