BAN Waste Select Committee evidence

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Phase 1 Day 2 2001-09-26 Liz Morrish (Waste and Recycling Manager, Environ, Leicestershire)

report from minutes of Select Committee

ENVIRON, LEICESTERSHIRE

Submitted: Briefing Paper on the above organisation. (For copy see Official Minute Book)

The Chair welcomed Liz Morrish to the meeting, who was Waste and Recycling Manager for Environ.

Ms Morrish explained that Environ was an independent organisation, based in Leicestershire providing information and assistance. Environ did not regard itself in the manner of 'doom and gloom'; rather as working with a focus to encourage practical action and change behaviour by helping individuals to make progress in small steps. Most of its work was achieved in partnership, with a wide range of environmental issues. There were currently 10 active projects, including local authorities, aimed at encouraging sustainable waste programmes.

There were a number of areas of operation: Firstly, Community Recycling centres in Leicestershire (5 year contracts from the local authority to manage 2 civic amenity sites, which were open 7 days a week and dealt with 15/20 thousand tonnes of waste per year. Over the past 3 years, improvements and changes had been made, with a greater range of recycling facilities introduced. One of the most significant areas had been the provision of accurate and effective information to individuals. Recycling rates had been increased over 3 years from 14% to 36% (but the organisation was aiming for 75/80%) Environ had also run a kerbside collection service: Leicester was one of the first authorities to introduce such a service, and research reports were available at the meeting for consideration. The first pilot had involved various methods of promotion, and involved Green Bag collection and information leaflets, stickers on wheelie-bins, and follow-up research. Some aspects of promotion had proved better than others.

In response to a query from the Chair on the Green Bag system, Ms Morrish reported that these were put out on the same day as wheelie-bin collection, for cardboard, cans, plastic etc and was despatched for sorting on conveyor, by hand. (Glass was not one of the items). Two separate collection crews were therefore required. It had been noted that whereas promotion of the scheme worked well in the beginning, there was a tendency to 'wear off'; therefore, sustained promotion of the scheme was the key and the requirement for this needed to be carefully worded within the contract.

A second pilot scheme had taken place in Wigston, where a similar service had been in operation albeit on a once-fortnightly collection basis. Environ had compared this arrangement to weekly returnable boxes and had concluded that the weekly arrangement had a more positive impact because people were already in the habit of having waste collected once a week. Use of boxes for glass was an added bonus here. There were important issues of confidence in any scheme, with kerbside collection of the highest standard (since people were likely to drop out if refuse was not collected efficiently). A final case study on education, funded by the County Council (�20,000) and undertaken by a Home Composting Club, had aimed to allow people to compost at home successfully, with free membership, telephone help-line, website, mobile display etc.

Ms Morrish suggested that a successful waste strategy would be a combination of successful methods and services. There was a value in partnership working and this could only be strengthened by involving the community.

At this stage, Liz Morrish answered questions from the Select Committee as follows:-

(1) What difference, statistically, does having a good CA site make to the waste stream? (Jenni Madison)

Ms Morrish pointed out that there had originally been 3 sites in Leicestershire. One had been closed when the land was sold. Some of the money raised from that sale had been invested into the remaining two sites (approximately �350,000 for refurbishment). Running costs were sub-contracted to an experienced company, who obtained their income from regenerated material. It cost the company �10,000 to run both sites. The County Council picked up the bill for waste disposal.

(2) Where should a good CA site be located? (Geoff Stokle)

One of the Leicester sites was located in a heavy residential, but light industrial area. This was convenient for householders, but not for collection vehicles because of narrow roads etc. The other site was in a redeveloped area. However, this was a difficult subject since no one wanted a site 'on their doorstep'. Sites on or near industrial estates were often only accessible to those persons with cars. Ms Morrish believed that there was no one ultimate location.

Bob Stewart queried how the company believed it could achieve a 75% recycling rate. Ms Morrish stated that last year's average rate had been 36% and in September this had reached nearly 50%. There was an endless stream of green-waste coming into the sites with 25/30% of composting waste being transferred from the site by SITA to a composting site in North West Leicestershire. By widening the range of waste dealt with - and in the knowledge that there were sites achieving 60%/70% in the UK - it was felt that this was possible.

(3) Newcastle's rate is 3.6% and it has decreased for a number of reasons over the years. You have recommended some areas to us but looking at Leicester's performance - although you've said it was 13%, Government statistics suggested that it was 9%, which suggests that their recycling rate is still very low and the significance of what has been discussed is still a very small proportion of what could be achieved. I wouldn't recommend this kind of mixed facility rather than segregation at source. Could you comment? (John Buckham)

Ms Morrish concurred that Leicester's recycling rate was not 'great' at 13% but pointed out that whereas a kerbside collection service had been implemented, the local authority had not taken Environ's advice on promotion (the importance of which had been highlighted above). As a best example, Ms Morrish referred to rural areas - and undertook to report back with details.

(4) How can local areas influence national policy on e.g. landfill tax credit scheme, to the advantage of those at the sharp end of recycling i.e. the community waste management sector? How can we help to make these bodies publicly accountable? (Eric Landau)

Ms Morrish reported that environmental bodies had been set up by waste management companies to distribute landfill tax credits, but would not like to comment on accountability. Environ received such monies and was closely monitored by Entrust. Ms Morrish would like to see more landfill tax credits being spent on recycling and waste initiatives.

On the dissemination of information, Roger Mould queried how this was done. Ms Morrish pointed out that a research report on kerbside collection had been sent to all Recycling officers who were members of LARAC. Details were on the organisation's website, conferences were organised and attempts were always being made to publicise.

Bill Hopwood raised the issue of whether civic amenity sites and kerbside collection were in opposition, or complementary to each other. Ms Morrish suggested that kerbside collection related to general household waste whereas sites were used for bulky material that was not easily 'binned' Trade waste was an ongoing problem, and to this end a permit system had been introduced by the County Council. In response to a query from Bill Hopwood, Ms Morrish confirmed that home compost did not count towards Government targets. A discussion ensued on this issue.

Phil Capon referred to a report of Robin Murray which had recommended that the collectors of recycled goods should also be collectors and givers of information. Was this the case in Leicester? Ms Morrish replied in the negative, since this slowed the process down. There were therefore benefits and disadvantages here. Ms Morrish confirmed that there was a conveyor belt system for the Green Bag system in Leicester. Collection took place from Tuesday to Friday, thereby avoiding problems of Bank Holidays. With regard to financial incentives, education work had been undertaken in the community, especially schools (with extra income resulting channelled to the school).

At this point, the Chair thanked Ms Morrish for her attendance.