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.
Matching the problems is a range of services and products across the
environmental, waste and recycling sectors, many of which have been awarded
the accolade of ‘Millennium Product’ and will be displayed in a special
exhibit on the Millennium Dome site in London. LAWE highlights many
of these innovative products that could prove winners in the new Millennium.
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
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’ 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
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
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 Technology’s 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 Ltd’s 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
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 plc’s 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
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 Ltd’s 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
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
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
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
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.