Thursday 29 May 2014

Rubbish news

Anyone who drives along the A48 between Carmarthen and Cross Hands will be aware of a certain fragrance in the air as you pass Nantycaws. As locals know, it isn't cheese but the pong coming from the landfill and waste management site operated by CWM Environmental, a wholly owned subsidiary of Carmarthenshire County Council.

The waste produced by households, businesses, hospitals and other public bodies has to go somewhere, and in Carmarthenshire most of it ends up at Nantycaws.

Don't tell Ukip, but the drive to recycle more and send less to landfill is a direct consequence of EU policy, with those meddling Brussels bureaucrats forcing member states to tackle the problem by setting binding targets under a directive.

The Landfill Directive set targets to reduce biodegradable waste going to landfill to 50% of 1995 levels by 2009 and 35% by 2016.

The UK was a relative late developer when it came to recycling, and some readers may remember jokes about Germans washing their yoghurt pots. At any rate, the UK negotiated softer targets, reducing landfill to 50% of 1995 levels by 2013 and 35% by 2020.

Devolution has also had an impact, with the Welsh Government setting rather more ambitious targets for Wales than England. The target Welsh councils are now working towards is to hit 70% in the next couple of years.

The main weapon in the armoury is landfill tax, a levy on every tonne of waste going to landfill, with the money going to national treasuries rather than Brussels. To encourage more recycling, landfill tax rates have been rising steadily year on year. In 1996 the standard rate was £7 per tonne; today it is £80. Moreover, councils which fail to meet their targets for landfill face fines of £200 per tonne of waste dumped to landfill in excess of their allocation.

So far, it seems, Welsh councils have managed to come in below their allocations, with Carmarthenshire among those which have used only around 70% of their allowance. Wrexham and Pembrokeshire are among those which have been hovering perilously close to the limit.

In a recent post (Rubbish Statistics), this blog looked at a report in Resource magazine dealing with recycling rates. Carmarthenshire was one of the best performers in the UK, although statistics being statistics, other Welsh local authorities could reasonably have made the same claim.

Carmarthenshire nevertheless performed very well for the period 2012/13, and the survey also showed that while recycling rates have been improving in Wales, many English authorities have been going backwards.

As it happens, the Welsh Local Government Association produces very detailed reports looking at waste management in Wales, with a particular emphasis on cost and efficiency. The most recent one available on the WLGA's website (here) covers the period 2011/12 and runs to 55 pages. It uses many different measures to compare performance, and so inevitably there is something there which would enable just about any of the 22 Welsh local authorities to claim that they are best in one category or another, unless you are Wrexham Borough Council.

Carmarthenshire performs well on most of the measures, and very well on some, but perhaps the most interesting thing to emerge from the report is the huge variance in cost and performance across Wales. For example, the cost of recycling a tonne of dry materials was eight times higher in rural Powys than it was in the cheapest authority, and Denbighshire (a mix of rural and urban areas) showed a very impressive performance in terms of cost versus volumes and percentage of dry materials recycled.

If the tax has been the stick driving landfill down, the carrot has been an arrangement which enables landfill operators to use up to 6% of the tax to award grants to community projects.

Under the scheme grants can be awarded to a wide range of different activities, including renovating churches and other places of worship, projects aimed at restoring and reclaiming land, conservation schemes and "the provision, maintenance and improvement of a public park or other public amenity".

In recent years grants administered under the Landfill Communities scheme by CWM in Carmarthenshire have been running at around £250,000 per year. Grants range from a few thousand pounds (e.g. £3,500 for improvements to Llanddarog Village Hall) to £150,000 (the National Botanic Gardens at Llanarthne). Perhaps the most controversial grant (£50,000) went to Towy Community Church's bowling alley in Johnstown just outside Carmarthen.

CWM is adamant that there is no political interference in its grant awards.

£1.8 million has been paid out since 2006, and during that time recycling rates have improved year on year, more than doubling over the period. Conversely, volumes going to landfill have declined by more than 50%.

From next month CWM will begin processing residual waste and sending the remainder for treatment and conversion into fuel. One consequence of this will be the demise of the community landfill scheme in Carmarthenshire and an end to the grants. If little or nothing is going to landfill, there will be no landfill tax to fund the grants.

From around the middle of June, then, CWM will start deploying new plant to separate organic waste (mainly food residues) from plastic, metal, card and uncontaminated paper. What is left will be baled, wrapped and sent on as waste derived fuel, commonly known in the industry as WRF.

The market for this material is mainland Europe where it is used for heat and power systems. The UK market is still in its infancy, but capacity is rising. The Viridor plant in Cardiff will be operational by late summer, although it is subject to planning conditions which look unreasonable if you live outside south-east Wales. Input material is restricted to the ‘Prosiect Gwyrdd’ local authorities in the Cardiff area, but capacity is more than the combined amount of waste in the region. 

The upshot of this is that waste in the form of WRF from the rest of south and south west Wales will be sent hundreds of miles east, bypassing Cardiff, adding to our carbon footprint and with local council taxpayers paying to get rid of what is basically a resource.

Controversially there are plans for a new privately operated (energy from waste) EFW plant at the New Lodge Farm landfill site in Cwmgwili.

The plant is the brainchild of a company called Clean Power Properties, would separate organic waste from recyclable plastics, metals etc., and treat it using anaerobic digestion and pyrolysis to create gases which would be combusted to produce heat and power. There would also be a solar farm on the site to feed into the National Grid.

The company has embarked on a major PR drive, and has set up a website specifically to sell the virtues of the project. Hooking up a plant of this size to the National Grid would not come cheap, but perhaps the biggest question hanging over the project is what would happen to the heat, not least because the site is miles from the nearest centres of population, Ammanford being the nearest.

Whatever happens, it seems that the pong at Nantycaws will soon be a thing of the past.

Or as the young poet Eurig Salisbury had it:

A dyna pam ei bod hi'n haws
i fi ddod o hyd i Nant y Caws. 


Anonymous said...

Lies, damned lies and statistics. Having once worked for a local authority, I know that the figures are massaged to show that more is recycled that actually is. Why? Achieving the targets set by the E.U., Westminster and the Welsh government, will probably give the Director and or his head of service, access to a bonus payment every year.

What isn’t taken into account is the increase in illegal deposits of waste that occurs around our county. The local authority deal with waste dumped on publicly owned land, but land owners are left with the costs of clearing waste resultant of fly tipping, from their own premises. I am sure this waste isn’t taken into consideration and yet the rules an what will and wont be collected by the local authority, is a contributory factor for illegal deposits of waste.

Of course all this has a knock on effect, as an untidy countryside is likely to deter tourism and inward investment. It will also increase the potential for an infestation of rodents, as lots of waste remains strewn around our county.

Redhead said...

In my area only 12% of waste goes to landfill.

In America they now see landfill as a resource - they put up anaerobic digesters everywhere and generate heat and power from them. But then the US is working very hard to become independent of other countries and to become exporters of energy so they invest a lot in the system.

Anonymous said...

If waste targets are so important then why do Carmarthenshire not collect glass for recycling.
Yes, there are recycling bins but many residents cannot get there and many more could not be bothered.
My instruction from CCC was to put bottles in the black bags for landfill.

Redhead said...

This on Overview and Scrutiny Committees in Wales should interest you

Anonymous said...

I think it's wrong not to allow people in Carmarthenshire not to put glass out with their recyclable waste. Bottles, jars etc., are collected in Swansea and the neighbouring Neath Port Talbot, so why can't glass be collected here.
Imagine the difficulties experienced by elderly people who have no access to transport, other than the busses or Shank's Pony.
I know of a retired surgeon in Carmarthen, who was over 90 years of age and the local authority refused to help pick up his refuse from within the curtilage of his property. Then there is the case of the people at Nantgaredig, where the refuse collectors declined to pick up bags of refuse from a wheelie bin. It was reported in the Carmarthen Jounrnal it was deemed to be a health and safety risk.
The bosses in the local authority have little clue about customer care, or providing a decent public service.

Cneifiwr said...

Anon @08.51 I think the service varies slightly from area to area, with some crews much more obliging than others. The boys round here are brilliant, friendly and helpful - but shhh! - don't tell the council that, or they will be ordered to mend their ways.

As it happens, I know one or two of them personally, and I can safely say that very few people would want their jobs, pitiful pay or working conditions.

Anonymous said...

Cneifiwr - I shouldn't sterotype all council workers; there are many that do a good job. It's often those who are promoted beyond their capabilities that I refer to. The sycophants and those who kow tow to the upper echelons.

Anonymous said...

I think CCC don't allow glass in with the general recycling because it has contaminated the paper waste in the past. Small fragments of glass that inadvertently have been mixed with paper have been sent to make recycled paper. This has resulted in damage to the paper making equipment or small fragments of glass have been incorporated in the finished product which has then resulted in the batch of paper not passing the quality assurance tests of the paper making companies. This then results in CCC having to pay fines for providing contaminated materials.

Cllr Alun Lenny said...

It's very unsatisfactory that the council doesn't collect glass from residents. I know of elderly people who have to ask neighours to take bottles, jam jars etc to a bottle bank. This is likely to change in 2015 -and not before time. Welsh Government is currently consulting on setting up separate collections for four waste materials: paper, metal, plastic and glass.

Redhead said...

Wehave hust moved: at our last place they collected wet waste (peelings, food, teabags etc), paper (but not cardboard) tins and bottles and landfil but not garden waste. We moved 20 miles to the adjoining local authority: they collect "dry packaging" including cardboard, glass and paper and landfill and garden waste.

Each local authority (10 around me) has separate contracts with separate companies fir separate and different things.

If anything was designed for county-wide or even country-wide arrangements, it is this.

Anonymous said...

Cllr Alun Lenny discussed: -
"It's very unsatisfactory that the council doesn't collect glass from residents. I know of elderly people who have to ask neighours to take bottles, jam jars etc to a bottle bank. This is likely to change in 2015 -and not before time. Welsh Government is currently consulting on setting up separate collections for four waste materials: paper, metal, plastic and glass."

He posted a link

Having had a brief look at the link I see there is a lot to commend in these proposals. However I can also see a number of problems.

Currently here in Carmarthenshire we are required to place our recyclates (other than glass which isn't collected at all) into a blue bag. It appears with effect from 2015, we will all have to separate plastics from paper, cardboard, glass etc. Potentially a different coloured bag for each type of material.

This, I understand is already occurring in some local authority areas - I believe Swansea and Neath Port Talbot are two of them.

The problem for some - not me as I own a farm - will be where they store all this separated waste.

Imagine living a in a bed sit - where are you going to create all this extra space to keep these additional bins / refuse bags?

A study by the Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science, revealed that making complicated regulations for the disposal of waste, is a contributory factor for illegal deposits of waste. As will imposing additional financial charges on council tax payers.

Not everyone is the same and some become confused and even frightened about the consequences of non compliance with the regulations.(Some reading this will scoff - but you have to try and put yourself in someone else's mind and not look at it from your own point of view). This results in all types of odd behaviour by some members of the public.

Carmarthenshire Country Council hasn't always had a good record for helping the public get rid of their waste. It's more often than not a one size fits all situation.

Some need more help than others because they are either disabled or lack the mental capacity to comply.

There have been occasions where refuse collectors have been very helpful to members of the public. On the other hand I know of situations where they have been downright unhelpful, particularly when the the member of the public was old, vulnerable and disabled.

What we need is consistency so everyone gets an excellent service.

Cariad Y Gelli said...

Love your blog. Always makes sense and always beautifully written. Powys has excellent refuse collection. Cariad Y Gelli

passerby said...

that's true, glass can go into black bags if someone can't get to their nearest collection skip.
But as it has been said, if the glass breaks it can contaminate.
Most glass containers placed inside a black bag is intact, where they break in transportation is a different matter. as for broken glass before it gets put into a black bag, usually they say to tape it up in case an operator cuts himself. minute broken glass shards on a conveyor can be picked up by other materials later, so even if intensive cleaning of the belts takes place, it's probable there ae micro particles floating about.

it's a funny old business, personally i have worked in recycling plants on different occasions around 1999 and 2001.
Grant money was necessary, and i often wondered why there were so many mercedes bmws and range rovers floating around within management. the second one was the total opposite as funding took a hammering in that short time.

if i remeber right, landfill had started going up in 1997, i thought it was £14 a ton for hardcore or mixed.

some very small plants scattered around were coming up, accepting skips and hand sorting. wood and aluminium was the prime aim, hardcore was pretty well useless unless there were some fancy paving slabs that could be used. and they were closing down quite quickly as they started to find out that there wasn't so much money in it after all.

Mountains of wood were beginning to pile up in yards and they had nowhere to shift it to. By the time they send a few tons to become sadust, another huge builds up and repeats itself.

There can be an use for stone, hardcore is very limited in use even if it can be used as some fill for building projects, but construction likes to use pure concrete as there is more money in it for them.

All the woods were bundled into one pile and cost a lot of money to grade them, widths and depths would be impossible to sort, and even then it would have to be recut and replaned to get new universal sizes.

sorting aluminium is much easier, it just gets passed onto someone else to smelt it. same as copper so the grading isn't too much important compared to wood and more cost effective.

what else goes to landfill? everytime a house or complex gets built, topsoil is shifted. guess where that ends up?

I thought crosshands was the closest area to cwmgwili?

have a look for the sister plant in corby, northamptonshire.

If you look at all the stuff that is thrown away in usa over the last 40 years and see where it was dumped, then again that could be said for uk too.

passerby said...

Just what can we do with our rubbish? there are only so many uses we can have for ours, or our gardens would be overwhelmed with resuable plastic bottles and god knows what not.

The old arguement of reducing packaging sizes won't solve anything as that will be miniscule. the favourite phrase of the councils is people are buying too much food. if they weren't sold, they would get thrown away and end up in the same place.

strange as it seems, some materials i would have thought were recyclable aren't. not all manufacturers do print the recycle logo as it costs them money. strange as it seems a pasta packaging is recyclable but some rice packages aren't. unless there is something in the material, i can't get the head around that one.

Lidl have a good practice of logos, tesco don't. i'm still waiting for a reply from iceland as they don't provide info.

All is well on a council website saying pastics are recyclable but not all are. and it won't suprise me if some are going into blue bags when they shouldn't.

If there was clear and concise instructions from the council and the manufacturers, things be less compicated to consumers wondering what to do and what not to do.
The usual logo is not currently recyclable - please check with your local council

Certain european cities have had ingesters nearby cities, and i haven't heard of one explode...yet.

so, is this the reason why llangadog is closing? it has been said a new plant somewhere in the north of carmarthenshire is being looked at for a replacement

passerby said...

latest one to close is in machynlleth

Unknown said...

As it happens, I know one or two of them personally, and I can safely say that very people would want their jobs, good pay and working conditions.