The road to zero waste

The last couple of weeks as an edie reporter have been rather busy. I've taken trips to Birmingham, West Bromwich, and Bristol, while also popping in and out of central London to report on a number of environmental issues.

For edieWaste I recently attended the opening of two waste facilities, the first a new Earth Solutions (NES) facility in Avonmouth near Bristol, which was opened by Sir Steve Redgrave and included a tour of the plant.

This proved to be quite an eye-opening experience as it was the first time I'd been inside a waste plant  €" and no it didn't smell as bad as I expected.

What I found most fascinating about the facility, which sorts and recycles municipal waste from Bristol, Bath and the surrounding areas, was its plan to build an energy plant on site to convert the waste into biogas. Planning for energy plant has been approved and NES anticipate construction will completed by 2012.

The second waste facility I visited was the Knowaste recycling plant in West Bromwich, which is the first of its kind in the UK. This is a more specialist facility as it recycles only nappies and other absorbent hygiene products (AHP), which are turned plastic pellets that can be melted down and used to make products such as roofing tiles and outdoor seating.

If its first facility is successful, Knowaste said it plans to open other facilities across the country, and hopes to raise around £25m in funding. Given the volume of nappies cluttering up our landfill sites each year - around 3bn, the need for such a facility is great.

What I found most impressive about both facilities (and quite reassuring) was the fact they both demonstrate innovative processes in action, which not only significantly reduce the amount of waste being sent to landfill, but also use waste as a resource.

While neither facility is zero waste (yet), the more waste that is recycled or converted into energy can only be a good thing.

The final waste event I attended was the enormous RWM show at Birmingham's NEC. After wandering the halls (and getting lost a number of times) I listened to a couple of interesting talks on waste management, zero waste strategies and sustainability from well-known industry experts such as environmentalist Jonathon Porritt, chair of CSL Shaun McCarthy and Viridor chief executive Colin Drummond.

Despite the fact each speaker touched on the incredible amount of work that still needs to be done in the UK in terms of recycling and using waste as resource, I felt a general sense of optimism in the industry. Maybe one day zero waste will be attainable in the UK afterall.


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Carys Matthews

Topics: edie
Tags: | nappies | planning | viridor | waste management | zero waste
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