What's over the horizon?
Big issues and big questions are facing the environmental world as Millennium 2000 dawns. This special LAWE Millennium 2000 feature spotlights the key themes facing environmentalists, government and local communities as the world seeks solutions in a new century and a new era.
Global warming, the threat to the world¹s forests and oceans, and the arguments over just how far science should go in areas such as genetic modification seem certain to dominate the international political agenda as the recent demonstrations in Seattle against the policies of the WTO clearly illustrated.
The UK is playing its part in meeting its obligations under our commitments post-Rio and Kyoto. Global aims and European Union commitments have contributed significantly to the host of environmental legislation, regulation and guidance which has been enacted by the Westminster Parliament in recent years. Following seemingly endless rounds of consultation, 2000, to borrow the Government¹s phrase, should be the 'year of delivery'² across a wide range of important environmental issues.
On the air quality front, the DETR expects to produce its definitive version of the National Air Quality Strategy while the implementation of the IPPC regime, with its wider scope, will also help to clean up the atmosphere. Research and a new European protocol on cross-boundary air pollution should also have a beneficial impact on a problem that cannot be solved by individual nation states.
Within our own boundaries it is possible to make an albeit modest impact on urban pollution levels by introducing Low Emission Zones (LEZs), which are likely to be applied on a growing scale countrywide in the next few years.
Following the recent vigorous debate between major energy-consuming industries and the Government over the proposed Climate Change Levy, or Energy Tax, where the business lobby appeared to win much of the argument, the UK is likely to see a greater use of a voluntary emissions trading scheme in a campaign to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
One issue which should also be resolved in the New Year is just where the demarcation lines will lie between the respective roles of the Environment Agency and local government in regulating local emissions. Local government has been given very specific responsibilities in terms of local air quality management but the Government has yet to clarify just who does what regarding industrial emissions.
There is greater clarity in defining the relative responsibilities between the Agency and local authorities in applying the newly published guidance on contaminated land but questions again need to be resolved before the new century is too old on the implementation and financing of the new regime.
The Landfill Tax continues to attract criticism over apparent anomalies regarding 'waste' soils used in engineering and daily cover and over the extent of exemptions. The associated Landfill Credits scheme has been the focus of concern, particularly by a Commons Select Committee, both over its administration and the aims to which some of the funds have been put. The New Year could well see a shake-up on that front.
The Government¹s final policy on a national waste strategy is also expected to come into force in 2000. Judging by the increase in major waste-to-energy schemes announced in recent months, and the recognition that the implementation of the Landfill Directive will force fundamental changes in how the UK manages its waste disposal, state-of-the-art MSW incineration plants will become a much more familiar sight in the first years of the new millennium.
Local authorities and the waste management industry will also have to find their feet with new contracting concepts such as 'Best Value'. Town halls can hope also to see some restoration of their truncated powers, and certainly increased responsibilities in areas such as planning, regeneration partnerships and acting on John Prescott¹s integrated transport policy. Deciding on whether or not to face the wrath of local voters on charging for workplace parking could be one of the hot potatoes for councillors seeking to meet the aspirations of Agenda 21.
Environmental, waste industry, energy saving and recycling figure prominently among the Millennium Products selected under a Government initiative by the Design Council to feature in a specially designed Spiral of Innovation exhibition area on the Millennium Dome site at Greenwich. A final tranche of winners of the accolade, which aims to promote innovation within the UK, is being announced in mid-December to add to the pioneering environmental products highlighted in this special LAWE 2000 Millennium feature.
The wide range of environmental and waste industry products and services selected for the Millennium Products include Surfactant Induced Absorption Technology (SIAT), a new technology for odour control and air pollution control developed by ACAT Ltd (Advanced Clean Air Technology) which designs and installs the equipment. SIAT uses surfactants (Airborne 10) with water to absorb most odorous gases into a non-odorous state. Airborne 10 is misted at the point of emission or in the extraction system. Applications include chemical industries and landfill.
AEA Technology¹s Groundhog system which uses satellites to pinpoint contaminated land and produces easy to understand maps has also been praised. The system can be carried by an operator in a backpack mounted on a vehicle so that all areas of a site can be monitored easily. Designed initially to pinpoint radiological contamination, Groundhog is now being adapted to monitor for other pollutants sich as chemicals in the ground, or air pollution.
The Solar Office from Akeler is an office specifically designed to minimise energy and environmental impact while providing significant amounts of its own electrical power by means of a photovoltaic facade.
Bio-Logic Remediation Ltd¹s technology for the bioremediation of contaminated land applies microbes which 'eat' pollutants such as oils and tars, allowing sites such as former gasworks and oil refineries to be recycled. Using micro-organisms indigenous to the site, soil is screened and then placed in long windrows. These are then turned actively using specialist machinery and various additives and nutrients are added.
BP Amoco plc¹s Solar Powered Service Station Canopy converts daylight into electricity which is used to supplement mains supplied power used on the service station forecourts. This UK-designed canopy is an innovative energy-neutral structure which is being incorporated into every new BP service station. This policy serves a threefold aim: firstly, to reduce fossil fuel consumption and energy costs of lighting the service station canopies; secondly to demonstrate the simplicity of the technology to potential customers, particularly in urban areas, and, thirdly, to promote BP as an environmentally responsible company.
The National Grid Company plc and Cranfield University have developed an environmental leak sensor. This continuous environmental monitor (CEM) automatically alerts a user to the presence of all oil-based chemical hazards that have leaked from pipes, cables and containment vessels. The purpose-designed reflex oil monitor is buried in soil around storage tanks where it monitors day and night for leakages. On detection the device can alert automatically a remote monitoring system. Developed with infrared technology from Cranfield University to detect leaks from the National Grid¹s underground storage facilities, the sensor is now being used for the monitoring of underground storage facilities. It may also find uses on ocean-going oil tankers.
Envirotreat Ltd¹s Envirotreat Process of contaminated land remediation technology and method of application incorporates the use of specially modified clays (E-clays) which are capable of treating a range of pollutants. The product is applied on site and opens up opportunities for brownfield development. It can be used to treat both soil and groundwater. The Envirotreat process is a chemical fixation technology which can be applied in- situ for the treatment of inorganic and organic pollutants in soil without removal of the contaminated matter. The process uses E-clay, a multi-reactive clay with the ability to chemically absorb pollutants and render them inert. Pillars of the clay are dropped into the ground to create an active barrier which encapsulates the pollutant.
The Enercon E-66 Wind Energy Converter designed by Foster and Partners, is a 100m high wind powered electricity generator. It has a rotor blade diameter of 66m, tower height up to 100m, and power rating of 1.5MW renewable energy. Variable rotor speed and blade pitch adjustment ensure power yield is maximised. Wing-lets at the rotor blade tips reduce aerodynamics more and enhance blade efficiency. Rotor blade structure is lightweight glass fibre/epoxy composite. The tower consists of prefabricated steel tube modules facilitating transport and rapid assembly.
Glasdon Retriever Dog Waste Bins are purpose-designed dog foul containers with a secure metal chute to ensure hygienic operation. The containers are manufactured from vandal resistant Durapol. Various sizes of the Retriever bin have been designed for streets, parks and open spaces where it can be sited using a Glasdon Ground Lock System or Extended Base Post.
Havant Borough Council was awarded Millennium Products status for a project at Langstone Oysterbeds to clear builders' waste from a Site of Special Scientific Interest and restoration for nature conservation and informal recreation. The civil engineering project involved the removal of 100,000 tonnes of builders' waste from the tidal waters of Langstone Harbour in Hampshire. This has eroded due to tidal and storm action and was in a dangerous condition. The council was unable to fund even the simple safety improvement but was equally unable to close the site since it gave good access for wildlife viewing. By engaging a contractor on the basis of 'quarry rights' rather than a standardised contract, the site was cleared of tipped material at no cost to the council. The material was crushed and sold back to the construction industry as recycled aggregate.
The Continuously Regenerating Trap (CRT) developed by Johnson Matthey plc is an emissions control device for medium- to heavy-duty diesel powered vehicles. The innovative technology removes soot particles from diesel exhaust. It features a catalytic converter and particle filter. CRT oxidises the soot emissions using NO2 instead of O2, allowing the soot to be oxidised at temperatures that exist within the engine. It does not require a further burner. The particle filter does not require cleaning. The manufacturer suggests that the filter is turned around in its housing every 100,000 mile service. The CRT may be retrofitted to existing diesel engines.
The Learian Streetbox from Learian Designs Ltd is a battery-powered pollution monitor capable of storing data on a wide range of pollutants as well as local environmental information. This compact roadside pollution monitor records data in real time on pollutants as well as temperature, light and relative humidity. Fully standalone, the Streetbox has its own radio communication system. Information can be gathered from existing sensors and stored within the logger for up to 150 days and retrieved up to 10km away by using its own dedicated receiver connected to a laptop PC or similar device.
Remarkable Pencils Ltd makes The Remarkable Recycled Pencil from 70% recycled material in a closed loop recycling system using plastic cups. Manufactured from recycled polystyrene vending cups, the pencil writes and sharpens like a traditional wood pencil, but consists almost entirely of recycled polymer.
The Inner Tube company was formed by Julie McDonagh to produce handmade bags using 100% recycled rubber inner tubes. The designs are inspired by natural forms such as botanical plants and sea anemones.
PolyAna is a plastics identifier using technology developed jointly by the University of Southampton and Ford Motor Company, part of a Ford-funded research project, The PolyAna 420. This mobile spectroscopic identifier can identify up to 2,000 different plastics without the use of specially prepared samples. It allows the efficient recycling of plastics, where each type of plastic may be carefully separated, to be made far easier. Manufactured by Fluid Film Devices, distributorships have been set up worldwide.
The manufacture of topsoil from waste materials developed by North West
Water Ltd has gained Millennium Product status. The top soil is made from
waste construction soil and sewage manure. It is stated that by removing the
stones from rubble and mixing the remaining earth with treated nitrogen- and
phosphorous-rich sewage, a high quality top soil is created which can be
superior to top soil obtained by stripping land.