Deputy Scott Ogier’s speech on kerbside recycling to the States of Deliberation in May 2009

May 25th, 2009 by Scott Ogier

I think we can all acknowledge we aren’t going to solve all environmental problems on our own, that it is going to take united action across a number of broad fronts to solve the problems associated with mankind’s environmental footprint.

Our larger neighbours need to take action and they are attempting to.

Some people say we are chasing the numbers, we just want to hit 50% recycling irrespective of what is being recycled. That perhaps we would be happy with collecting green waste to bump up the numbers. Cut down more bushes and trees and increase our recycling rate…

That is plainly nonsense.

If we were chasing numbers, we would be asking for a wet AND dry recyclable pick-up to maximise the recycling numbers, but we aren’t. We recognise that there needs to be an outlet which has environmental benefits, which is why the amendment asks for dry recyclables. Option 13b on page 911 shows us we could have a dry recyclables collection once a fortnight for around £600,000 per annum.  Not £1 million pounds. This will bring us close to our target of, not 50%, this isn’t a numbers game, our target of “removing as many of the dry recyclables from the waste stream as makes environmental sense.” Fifty percent is only the first target a milestone on our journey. We want us to get to the end of the current 25 year waste solution and find out that we have managed over this period to train ourselves into diverting every piece of waste we can to more meaningful and productive destinations. The next incarnation of our waste strategy should be radically from our current proposal but we need time. If we had begun this 20 years ago, we wouldn’t have a full landfill and we wouldn’t need an 80m solution. So let’s leave the next generation with more of a fighting chance than we were left. Money invested now will be saved later.

Kerbside won’t reach the target of 50% recycling rate straight away, but there is also no evidence, and not one iota of work done on what improving the bring banks will have on the recycling rate. It is only being proposed because kerbside was turned down. It wasn’t a case of weighing up Kerbside recycling vs Bring Banks at a series of meetings where the benefits and dis-benefits were carefully weighed against each other, where the costs were carefully judged – it was a case of “NO” to kerbside, then “oh blimey what are we going to do then?” “Guess it’s bring banks.”

They still don’t know what to do with the bring banks. Bring banks which incidentally cost £300,000 to operate and another £175,000 to process.

In the absence of kerbside, the Public Services Department (PSD) plan is, over the next couple of generations to educate and encourage our fellow islanders to separate all their recyclables and individually take them down to the bring bank. However, from an environmental point of view, I am pretty certain we don’t want to have 20,000 adults driving to and from recycling banks every week. PSD are recommending a 1 million car journeys a year strategy instead of 500 truck journeys. Not 500,000 truck journeys, 500 trucks. It’s farcical.

It’s an environmental own goal.

That’s what you get when you put financial minds to solve environmental problems, there simply is no understanding of what we are trying to do and why.

It completely misses the point. It pays lip service to the goals of recycling which are to conserve, to conserve resources, conserve fuel, minimize our impact.

I think one truck per parish makes perfect environmental sense.

I think one million car journeys a year is environmental vandalism.

It is generally accepted within PSD that the major inroads into recycling from now on are not going to come from increasing the numbers of items which can be recycled. Most of the waste stream , with the notable exception of food waste and ‘other’ plastics , i.e. the plastics which are not PET or HDPE can already be recycled. No, the next leap in recycling will come from the segment of the population who currently do not recycle.

Now this segment of the population do not use the bring banks. They do not recycle at all for various reasons.

What do we need to do to entice these people to separate and put out their recyclables? Do we need to make the bring banks more attractive? – so they will think, “Hey, the bring banks are great, tell you what, this week we are going to separate our general waste and this Sunday, we are all going down to the bring banks for a fabulous family day out.”  I don’t think so. What IS going to get the people who currently do not recycle is to have a truck passing their front door on a regular basis so they can just put out a few bags as they always have done, but with recyclables in different bags. Now THAT is a much smaller step for people who do not currently recycle to take. That is an easier route for people to be educated to take, that is a more environmental route.

In Deputy Flouquet’s weighty speech, and I say weighty because I was waiting for him to make any valid points, he talks of screening, underground storage, greater efficiency but where in all this talk is there any mention of increasing the capture of recyclables? We have been stuck at 30% or thereabouts for a few years now and there is more than enough evidence to suggest we are only at 30% because the commercial sector are using the banks due to higher tipping charges. How will we extract more recyclates?

Deputy Lowe was correct about Liberation Day. We had a stall run by the very hard working staff of PSD, ON a public holiday, exhorting Guernsey to recycle but without a recycling bin in sight. Last year I was promised bins and there was a huddle of them somewhere, I never found them. I was promised more this year and at every event on States land but they never can be found.

I personally have no idea how PSD intend to make the bring banks more enticing and my fear is we can throw a fair bit of money at the bring bank sites and not have any increase in the recycling collected.

If you are taking your recycling down to the bring banks, it isn’t because they are nice places, it is because you want to recycle. We need to understand people’s viewpoint to find out what makes them want to recycle, I don’t believe it is going to be attractive bring banks which changes their minds.

Let me spend a little time on the subject of finances.

As we have just heard from this current speaker, the bring banks cost £300,000 to service – to pick up from and provide, and another £175,000 to process and ship out.

I can’t see why one would want to keep the bring banks up and running while a kerbside collection is in operation. Perhaps for large quantities, say of glass after a party, is something I have heard around the table. I can’t see why a rationalisation of the bring banks could not take place and a great portion, if not the entire portion we currently spend on the bring banks be saved. Perhaps one or two drop off points, Fontaine Vinery and another in the south be provided for extra ordinary items or quantities of recycling which can not go as part of the kerbside system. If we save £300,000 on bring banks, the introduction of kerbside shrinks down to only an extra £300,000 per year.

But as I say, these figures have not been crunched, have not been compared, as there was NO WILL on the board to introduce a kerbside system. They looked at the board papers, saw a one million pound Sterling headline price tag, balked right there, made up their minds to decline kerbside and I remember clearly at the meeting set aside to discuss kerbside, I went in and straight away the mood was not one of open discussion, not one of “how do we make this work”. I was asking questions such as “How much do we save if we close the bring banks”, “What is the operating costs of kerbside and what is the capital” and there were no answers, because they had no answers, I felt like I was whistling into a gale.

It wasn’t even looked at. We never contemplated closing down the bring banks.  We never contemplated saving £300,000.  We never contemplated bringing the cost of kerbside down to only £300,000. We never tried to see what we could save or where funds could be found.

Take 45,000 tonnes of starting waste for the waste plant, if you levy a charge of £13.50 per tonne, you have doorstep recycling paid for. I was talking to a waste representative of the Guernsey Chamber of Commerce who suggested exactly that for St. Peter Port.

The argument then is why should commercial waste producers pay a subsidy for household waste collection, or on the other hand perhaps why should I pay the same for refuse rates as my neighbour when I put out one bag a month and they put out 16. Refuse rates are not fair, there is cross-subsidisation wherever you look at them. What happened to the polluter pays principle? Householders pay the same no matter how much they put out, or don’t put out. In reality, commerce are paying more in a number of areas post Zero-Ten to cross-subsidise government spending.  I don’t think it is too outlandish for the businesses of this island to be asked for a contribution for helping householders go greener. It is elements of the commercial sector who bring all of this waste onto the island in the first place after all.

When you break down taxes and see how they are spent, we are all paying for services we will never use. I don’t complain that some of my money goes to subside services for which I will never use or want.

In fact, if you close down the bring banks saving £300,000 and implement kerbside at a cost of £600,000 we could be looking at only, OK it is still a sum of money, but only £300,000 per annum to introduce kerbside. Which is £6.75 per tonne on the 45,000 tonnes the waste plant is due to start with.

We recently increased the tonnage charge by £75 over three years.  £6.75 is minuscule.

But where are these options in the report? Where is the information for us to make our decision on?

It just isn’t there as it just wasn’t looked at.

It is sadly lacking because the focus was on how NOT to have kerbside, rather than trying to see if it could be made to work.

We may hear today from the spending departments who may tell us that this £300,000 can be better spent elsewhere, on education or health services.

I don’t think government grinds to a halt until the spending departments have had every penny they need. You can’t allow the wheels of government to stop turning while you pour every last farthing into Health or Education.  Three hundred thousands pounds Sterling per annum is six million pounds Sterling over the next 20 years which is completely dwarfed by the amounts which will be diverted to those departments. We need to move on environmental matters also.

Some people say “we shouldn’t be leading, whatever we do won’t make any difference, so we shouldn’t spend tax payers money”

Everywhere is looking around at everywhere else to see where the successes and environmental failures are. We are a small affluent island with control over nearly all facets of our life. We have the opportunity to make a real success out of the way we handle our waste stream and act as an example to our larger neighbours. If we get it right, others will use us as an example.

We can make a difference.

I am always amazed by the complete acceptance of the fact that the seas of our planet will rise due to man’s impact on our environment and even more amazed by the complete reluctance to change that behaviour.  It just goes to show we are capable of accepting the most outlandish things as long as it means we don’t have to change our behaviour. We can accept we have to strengthen our sea defences to cope with rising tide levels but not that we could recycle more if we put in a kerbside collection system and persuaded more people to use it.

Instead we propose to spend our money on building walls.

It’s almost laughable.

One of the major reasons why Kerbside recycling did not find favour was that it would create too much noise when picking up the bottles at night. As we have night time collections of waste currently, I presume it’s alright to pick up bottles at night as long as there are other recyclates in the general waste bag to muffle the noise. That doesn’t disturb the voting public.

Too noisy.

St. Sampson recently received a tender for daytime collection.

Too much congestion we heard around the table. You can’t have one truck going around the parish in the day time – on an island of 40,000 + cars, this one truck would cause too much congestion…. we prefer a million car journeys a year rather than the congestion caused by 500 truck journeys.

Is this making any sense to anybody? Because it leaves me completely baffled.

Sir, there really was no will to implement kerbside or even investigate further how it could be done. Too noisy, too much congestion, too many adjectives, but quite happy to start on our sea defences to raise the height of the walls around our island to protect from rising sea levels resulting from man’s impact on the environment.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Whatever we do can make a difference, good ideas start somewhere and spread somewhere, everyone is looking for a place which has got it right, if we come up with some innovative solutions we can set an example.

With the proposed waste plant we have seen recently, we have covered many of the bases of handling our waste, the Industrial and Commercial element of our waste stream will be sorted at the front end and the recyclates removed. The black bag waste however, will not be sorted but will head straight into the energy from waste facility and it is this fraction which must be addressed by a kerbside collection scheme, it is our best chance of engaging with the sector of the population who currently do not recycle.

Currently we have thousands of cars delivering recyclables to the bring banks and I suspect that many of them have made a journey especially to that end. What we all must be able to agree on is that it must make environmental sense for one truck to go around the parish picking up from everyone’s home rather than everyone driving to their bring bank, surely we can agree on that. One truck, per parish, visiting every home to pick up recyclables. Five hundred odd journeys per annum. Currently in the parishes which have two pick-ups, one of them could be a recyclable pick-up. I don’t believe that dropping one general waste pick-up per week will be too onerous a sacrifice to going greener.

The amendment instructs PSD to implement arrangements for the kerbside collection of dry recyclables as soon as possible, and on an Island wide and permanent basis.

It doesn’t say how, it doesn’t say “by one of these methods outlined by ISL” and it doesn’t say “spend 600,000” or “keep the bring banks open at a cost of 300,000”

It is possible that PSD could liaise once again with the Douzaines and offer financial incentives along the line of free delivery of recyclables, for example, something which the Douzaines have already indicated was a stumbling block.

If we can work with the Douzaines for example, it is possible we could get something up and running for a fraction of the cost to general revenue.

We did meet with the Douzaines true and the conversation went like this:

“Hi, do you want to implement kerbside collection of recyclables”

“No, not really”

“Ok, just checking, thanks”

One meeting. Two years ago.

I have heard often that the Douzaines would be looking for at least free drop off of recyclables. The way they are looking at it is that they would effectively be taking a bring bank around their parish to collect the recyclables PSD would have had to pay for anyway were they to have been deposited in the bring banks.

Makes sense to me, makes sense to them, doesn’t strike a chord with PSD currently though because there simply is no will for kerbside recycling … too noisy, too much congestion, piffling reasons. The sort of reasons you hear when someone just does not want to do something – those kinds of reasons.

Let’s not put this off until another day, let’s begin the process of slimming down our waste stream so the next generation will not have to suffer the same problems which have beset THIS current waste strategy.

If we don’t minimize our waste, we may have to expand the proposed waste plant and 20 years may sound like a long time but 20 years ago was only 1990. Time flies by and if we are to prepare for lowering our waste stream, we need to start now rather than later or time will have passed us by… again.

Members I urge you to support this amendment, send PSD back to find a way to extract the recyclables currently earmarked for incineration.

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