High recycling rates achieve the best cost profile and the best environmental performance

February 14th, 2012 by BBC

BBC Guernsey‘s Kevin Stewart interviewed Andy Bond, ex-director of May Gurney, and current director of Bryson Recycling systems in the UK, just after 11.30 am on 14 February 2012.

Andy Bond of 4R Environmental Ltd and Director of Bryson Recycling Systems (click image to expand - image courtesy of Andy Bond)

Kevin Stewart: Andy, can you talk us through the work of what you did at May Gurney and now what you are doing at Bryson Recycling because it is something that is so close to everyone here in Guernsey and always seems top of the agenda.

Andy Bond: What we are essentially about is trying to provide the best waste management systems that give the best environmental outcomes but also are cost effective.

We are talking about systems that target large ranges of dry recyclables and food waste, which is very important. Restrict the amount of residual refuse that people can throw away because landfill is expensive and so is incineration and get recycling rates up to 70% or higher.

What we tend to find is that once you go for high diversion, i.e. high recycling rates you end up with low cost solutions as well, and that is essentially because the value of the materials that you collect are significant and you can sell them, and the value of the avoided disposal cost is also significant and you save it, and you have less waste as well so you tend to find that the best performing systems have the least amount of residual waste, the best cost profile, and the best environmental performance.

We have been doing this for, in my case, I have been doing it for about 15 to 20 years now, particularly inventing systems to do with food waste, and that has been very successful.

If you look at places like Wales and Northern Ireland and Scotland with their devolved governments they have all essentially adopted policies that gone for recycling rates of 70% or more and the reason they have done it is because of the cost and the environmental benefit.

Kevin Stewart: Guernsey is already doing very well. We’re certainly patting ourselves on the back for the amount of recycling we’re doing at the moment, which actually is not easy for a lot of people to do because we have to shove it all in our cars and drive down to the bring banks that are around the island in various places.

Do you think that if Guernsey was to adopt a system of kerbside recycling together with any black sacks that you put out – the real waste – that you would pay per sack, is that likely to push-up recycling rates in your experience?

Andy Bond: Absolutely. All of the highest performing systems collect the materials as close as possible to home so that is kerbside collection and if you look at some of the best practice in the rest of Europe – places like Flanders – they also charge for the residual waste, and those two things together have made huge differences to the amount of materials that have been collected, and the reduction in the amount of waste that the authorities in the island would have to deal with so instead of building very large incineration plants you actually have very little waste to worry about at the end of the process.

Kevin Stewart: What would you say to the people that have the worry that if you have to pay for what you dispose of – so we have kerbside recycling, and we put aluminium in there, and plastic in there and paper there, and then we have a little black sack maybe or a black sack every few weeks depending on how good we are, what do you say to the people that are worried for those that might not get involved in that scheme and start fly-tipping all over the island.  Does that happen?

Andy Bond:  Is is something I have looked for in the numbers across the UK.  There’s a site that DEFRA run that shows all the waste statistics and fly-tips, and I have tried to correlate high recycling rates with fly-tipping, and we actually find that there isn’t a correlation to be found.

The answer to the question is ‘no, I don’t think it becomes a problem for fly-tipping’. Fly-tipping is generally done by people who are collecting commercial waste rather than domestic waste anyway.

There is no correlation in the numbers that we can find so I don’t think it is a particular worry. In terms of what it costs, well, actually if you recycle most of what you have you very rarely need to put out a black sack at all.

Typically an individual household could recycle more than 90% of its waste quite easily particularly if food waste is targeted and captured by the system, and that’s very important because that drives behaviour in the right direction for all the other materials as well.

Kevin Stewart: So here’s the plan. We have kerbside recycling. We then collect our food waste, and then we have a black sack of stuff that we can’t do anything with, is that right?

Andy Bond: Yes, that is right. Hopefully it is a lot smaller than it is now. I understand the current recycling rate is about 50% so you could reduce residual waste to under 30% that is a significant reduction in the volume of it, but also when you target food waste what actually happens is the total amount of waste in the system drops as well, so that the percentage that is left is actually a smaller amount in absolute kilos and tonnes because people change their behaviour.  They create less waste. They notice how much food waste for example, they throw away, so they actually start buying less food, which they throw away, and that obviously saves in terms of the residual disposal as well, which is a very good thing.

Kevin Stewart: And of course, you can bring in laws that restrict packaging, which is what is being done across Europe so you don’t create the waste in the first place.

Andy Bond: That’s also a very good idea. One of the things that is very noticeable in recycling is the amount of materials that have been light-weighted so actually it makes the logistics slightly more difficult because light things are more expensive to collect but overall it’s a good thing for the environment because there is less waste in the system.

Kevin Stewart: Now, in terms of the stuff that is left over that you absolutely cannot get rid of. Guernsey at the moment is considering sending this over to our sister island, Jersey. Do you think that is pie-in-the-sky? I mean we don’t have to send it to Jersey. We could send it to Southampton I suppose, if they come up with a better deal, but to fill one of these incineration plants you need to generate a certain amount of rubbish. They become a bit self-fulfilling don’t they?

Andy Bond: That’s the problem with them and if you look across the whole of Europe at the moment, particularly in Northern Europe, Germany and Denmark and places like that, because recycling has become so much more important, a lot of incinerators don’t have enough tonnage so in fact they are buying waste from other countries, and indeed, if you were looking at the economics of sending waste from Great Britain or the United Kingdom, it is probably cheaper at the moment to sell your waste to Germany than it is to build an incinerator in your own backyard. So I don’t think there is a particular problem with exporting your waste from one island to the other simply because that is the closest incineration that there is, and indeed they will probably need your waste to keep their incineration facility going anyway.

Kevin Stewart: I suppose there is never a better time to buy a cheap ship as well at the moment because they are all sitting around, languishing around Portsmouth I notice.

Are you in any way, shape or form, Andy, advising the States of Guernsey at the moment on their waste strategy? How are you involved in what’s happening over here?

Andy Bond: Not directly. I have had correspondence with a number of people on the island over the last four or five years asking me for my opinion and my views about what can be done based on the experiences that we have achieved in other parts of the United Kingdom, particularly places like Somerset and in Bridgend in South Wales and others, which now have very high recycling rates but also very low cost base. Those authorities are spending less on their waste and getting better environmental outcomes than anybody else, and that’s obviously a good thing because at the end of the day it is all about the global impact of CO2 and the environment, and less waste means less CO2.

Kevin Stewart: I’ve got my little tick list here. We do kerbside recycling. That gets up recycling rates. We pay-as-you-throw with the rest of our rubbish, and we ship the rest off to someone that has got an incinerator because if you have your own one it is always difficult to fill-up. What else should we do?

Andy Bond: They are the key things. Food waste is a really important material that you have to collect with your kerbside collections but you can do it on the same truck as you collect all the dry recyclables so there is only one lorry collecting everything, and obviously that reduces the number of passes, and then the only other vehicle you have got collecting is the residual refuse, and if you have a garden waste collection as well you might want to have that collected separately but personally I think it is best for people to take that to their local Civic Amenity site or indeed compost it in the back of their garden.

Kevin Stewart: Andy Bond, thank you very much indeed for joining us and hopefully everything will be resolved. I have to say sometimes it is like wading through syrup here or waste food with our States but hopefully things can be resolved now with a proper waste strategy in place and certainly being an island you would expect very high recycling rates wouldn’t you?

Andy Bond: I think you should expect that, and you can do that, and good luck to you. You’re not doing it for the first time. Others have already been there and all I am doing is suggesting how you can emulate the achievements of other places.

Kevin Stewart: Andy Bond, thank you very much indeed for joining us at BBC Guernsey.


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