The self-proclaimed “lone voice in the wilderness” within the government addressing the crisis facing the environment, Michael Meacher, Minister for the Environment, told a recent CBI seminar that one of the greatest challenges of the new century was to decouple waste production from economic growth. The keynote speaker at the CBI Environmental Forum event, hosted by international law firm Baker & McKenzie, on the theme of “Waste and Producer Responsibility”, Mr Meacher said that a combination of recycling and waste minimisation was the most effective method of reducing the 400 million tonnes of waste produced each year in the UK.

Commenting on this forecast Mike Childs, Senior Waste Campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “This report shows that the Government is making a mess of recycling. The Government must make local authorities provide people with a decent recycling service and must provide them with the money to do so. If they fail to do this the UK will still be regarded as the dirty man of Europe.”

Council initiatives

On a more positive note local initiatives and investment provide evidence that many local authorities continue to drive towards recycling objectives.

Last month Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett approved two new recycling projects worth £62 million, one in West Sussex and the other in Berkshire, both funded through Private Finance initiatives.

The West Sussex project involves upgrading 11 civic amenity sites, three transfer stations and two material recovery facilities, and new composting facilities.

The Central Berkshire scheme, which covers the Reading, Wokingham and Bracknell Forest local authorities, includes waste minimisation measures, the provision of new recycling and composting facilities, enhancement of civic amenity sites and the development of alternatives to landfill through mechanical biological treatment.

The schemes are the first new approvals since Government changed its PFI criteria to emphasis the importance of recycling in long-term waste solutions.

In Lancashire, authorities are to receive over £6.5 million in grants, £3.5 million of which coming from DEFRA’s National Waste Minimisation and Recycling Fund. Most of this money from DEFRA is earmarked to set up recycling and green waste collection from houses. Part of the money will be used to expand the Community Sector’s involvement in managing Lancashire’s rubbish.

In the south, Hampshire Waste Services, has won planning permission from Hampshire County Council for a multi-million pound materials recovery facility on the A31 near Alton. It is stated that the plant will be the most advanced in Europe. Capacity will be 85,000 tonnes of recyclable materials each year using technology and manpower to sort plastic, tins and paper which will then be sent to external processors. Part of the seven acre site will be used as a waste transfer station for the transfer of non-recyclable waste which will then be taken for composting, incineration or landfill.

Also on a positive note, a £3 million new waste centre, the Cambridge Waste Management Park, has recently come into service after its flagship company, Donarbon Ltd, won a £15 million, five year contract from Cambridgeshire County Council. It is hoped that the centre will recover up to50% of waste which would otherwise have ended up in landfill sites that are rapidly filling up.

The official opening of the new integrated waste park last month also marked the use of a new landfill area on its 400 acre site, the first approved in the region by the Environment Agency under the new Landfill Regulations.

Tackling tyre mountain

One of the growing problems facing councils is the disposal of tyres. A new “strategic alliance” between OSS Group and Tyre Collection Services, based in the West Midlands, could help to alleviate pressure on this front through tyre collections TCS will carry out for OSS Group on a national basis.

Carl Brandrick, Managing Director of TCS, stated that the company offered customers “complete assurance of total compliance with all governmental and environmental regulations incorporated within the tyre industry.”

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