BAN Waste Select Committee evidence

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Phase 1 Day 5 2001-10-11 Pam Jose (North East Recycling Ltd, Newcastle)

report from minutes of Select Committee

North East Recycling Ltd (Pam Jose)

The Chair welcomed Pam Jose and asked her to give a short presentation of her work with NER Ltd following which there would be a question and answer session.

Pam Jose indicated that she had started with North East Recycling Ltd in January 1990. The company collected mainly industrial and commercial waste from businesses within a 25-mile radius of Newcastle upon Tyne. Approximately 15% by volume of the material handled by capital NER was domestic waste with the rest being commercial waste including some plastics. Most of this was collected through wheeled bins as part of the Newcastle and community Environment Project although some was collected on behalf of Newcastle City Council and through arrangement with large employers. From her experience as a consultant on waste minimisation and waste reduction and recycling programmes, she gave examples of how the attitude of the business community had changed. Often management was not immediately aware of the scale of their waste and the level of rejected products. Once the issue was identified and measures taken, up to 40% savings in waste had been achieved in some cases. She also referred to the Government's wish to encourage reduction in waste linked as it was to the Landfill Tax currently at �12 per tonne which she felt could over the next few years rise to �25 per tonne. New legislation was emerging requiring the recycling of a percentage of certain packaging. Also under the "end of life vehicles recycling" directives manufacturers would be required to ensure that a percentage of all motor vehicles was recyclable. After 2003 an element of electrical goods would also have to be recycled (under the WEEE directive); all of this would make manufacturers think about the issues involved. At present it was often cheaper to "throw away" than repair and this could not continue. There was a growing awareness of the need for recycling and a reduction in waste and many investment funds would deal only with manufacturers with good waste records. A reflection of this growing awareness was the fact that most companies now had introduced an environmental group into their staffing structure to consider the impact on the environment of the goods they produced.

She emphasised that everything done in the recycling process needed to be commercially viable in order to "pay the wages". NER sold everything on the open market; whilst aluminium cans were currently easy to recycle and were commercially viable, plastics were a trickier option. Prices for the sale of the various recycled commodities was very volatile, whilst costs tended to continue to rise steadily. It was essential therefore that there was a market for the recycled waste in order to avoid negative costs. The greater volume of waste recycled the smaller the cost and greater the profit. A high proportion of NER's recycled waste was exported; very little used in this region. However, NER were endeavouring to create local markets for recycled materials. A project was being undertaken by the North East Waste Industrial Partnership to provide recycled plastics to local producers and encourage them to produce goods. This however had its difficulties and required a long chain of decisions by the manufacturers and it was essential to link into "the specifiers" in order to meet the manufacturers operational / economic needs; some progress was being made in this area. In the case of fizzy drinks bottles it was noted that NER sold the waste to a firm in Holland who then following processing sold it back to a firm in Gateshead indicating that there was a need to "close the loop", through research, longer term planning and the development of mutually supporting partnerships in order to identify the missing links and move towards containing our own waste and create price stability.

Glass recycling was ongoing and working well although there continued to be large amounts still uncollected. There was a need nationally to look at other markets and uses for this material. By reference to a recycling scheme some 7-8 years ago by Boots (the chemist) who initially labelled some of their wares (binbags / kitchen knives) as being manufactured from 100% recycled material but eventually had to discontinue this because of a significant drop in sales, apparently arising from the stigma attached to recycling as inferior quality. It was obvious that change of culture needed to be engendered through information, education and strong media messages developed within a long term strategy. Much in the same way as the campaign against drink/driving.

Over the 11 � years of the life of NER it was apparent that things were improving and there was a strong and growing interest in waste recycling and environmental issues, much of which was being driven by agencies in the region including:-

All of these agencies were endeavouring to get things to move forward for the region.

The Chair thanked Pam Jose for her presentation and the following questions were asked:-

(1) What do you see as the obstacles to successful kerbside collection in Newcastle? (June Wolf)

Pam Jose indicated that cost was the major obstacle; a number of experiments had been undertaken with Newcastle City Council which had proved to be just too costly to proceed with. Also the time factor was difficult, as any proposed scheme would need a long-term view to be taken. It was not easy introduce new projects. In order to keep "householders on side" new proposals needed to be very carefully planned and regularly reviewed and reshaped where necessary. There would be costs to be shared between the Local Authority/ Council tax payer - it was not a cheap option.

Val Barton suggested that however it may be cheaper in the long term.

(2) You speak to attitudes changing in the local recycling picture in the last ten years. We are in a revolutionary phase with rubbish; are local businesses geared up yet to take the rapid expansion to come? (Phil Capon)

Phil Capon further inquired whether a single Tyne and Wear kerbside collection system would be the best option and queried whether it would be likely to exclude community collection. Pam Jose replied that there was not one single answer or best option to this issue. There were many areas to be yet fully considered including:-

  1. The best method of collection for the different types of housing layout.
  2. What was meant by community sector and what would be its role?
  3. How would costs be shared and how would funds be attracted?

She suggested that a balance between a business and community recycling might be the best option.

Bill Colwell commented that in his area there was a higher proportion of older householders who were very good at avoiding waste and were willing to be involved in waste limiting and recycling matters and inquired how this could be encouraged.

In answer it was indicated that there was a good working scheme in Spittle Tongues with the Newcastle Community and Environmental Trust. A small site was provided for the siting of bins and collection of plastics, textiles, glass and cans. The older people in the area made it work very well. There were other good schemes some of which were based at schools and much depended on the effort and leadership of the people involved.

(3) How important are Community Sector Organisations in Moving Towards Better Performance in Recycling? - How do you think they can be Encouraged? (Bill Colwell)

It was Pam Jose's view that the involvement of local people was vital. Community businesses created local jobs and that was good for the region. It provided local leadership and local "champions" to generate interest and maintain commitment to the recycling principle until the time as it became the norm.

In response to another issue raised (ie wartime railings) Pam commented that she was not aware of any instance in the North East where materials taken for recycling had not actually being recycled unless they had been contamination in the material. There were instances however where people were unaware of the in-house recycling policy and did not always comply with it.

(4) How big a problem is the lack of markets for recycled materials? What would you like to see WRAP (the Waste and Resource Action Programme) do to improve the situation? (Joanna Bourne)

Pam Jose suggested that the absence of ready markets was the biggest single problem for recycling. In the face of this WRAP were trying to create markets for recycled materials and resources were being put into this nationally and in the North East. Several bids were being made to WRAP which would have a significant impact in the region in due course.

(5) What are the Positives and Negatives of separating waste at:- Source, Vehicles, Centre?

Pam indicated that because significant costs would be incurred (by the Council) it was essential to look at the broader picture. For instance significant job creation could outweigh some of the costs. Waste separation was labour intensive and mean local jobs which was not a bad thing. Mechanical separation was extremely expensive and needed high volume which was not there yet. Separation at source was the only way and it was not possible to accept mixed waste.

(6) Do you think it could be financially viable to set up a kerbside collection for plastics in the near future for Newcastle? (Sylvia Conway)

In answer Pam indicated that Newcastle already collected plastics and the scheme appeared to work well but in the region only 3 out of 24 Local Authorities collected it. Although there seemed to be a concern to move towards plastic recycling the economics were just not right as it was simply too costly to collect. It was essential to endeavour to establish markets before setting up a collection scheme however it may come in the future.

(7) If Householders are informed and encouraged about separating waste but insist on putting out a mixed waste can you suggest ways of dealing with this - eg prizes. (Geoff Stokle)

Pam commented that offering prizes encouraged people not to take personal responsibility for their waste (just a pat on the head for what they should to anyway)

The Chair asked if a reward for the community for good practice in relation to waste would be a positive move.

Pam suggested that it would be better to create a sense of civic "duty" and award a "rebate" for good practice. She also confirmed that there may eventually be a move towards charging by waste (although expensive) or penalties for non compliance (like New York).

(8) What impact on large manufacturers like ICI would the European directives in the pipeline have? (Carolyn Spencer)

Pam indicated that they would have massive impact, in car manufacturing, for example there would be a requirement to design into the vehicle a percentage of recyclable / coded materials. There would also be a need to involve scrap metal dealers to determine how cars could best be scraped and how materials could be returned to the manufacturers and recycled back into new cars. A similar process would also be required in relation to electrical / white goods.

(9) The Government has asked for bids for the extra paper mill for newspapers. Was a bid going for the North East? (Chair)

Pam indicated that she was not aware of this although a feasibility study this year at Teesside had been undertaken and although she was not aware of the results it was apparent that the volume in the North East / Scotland was not large enough compared to the South.

The Chairman furthered enquired if all the five Local Authorities came together in terms of any new contract this would create greater volume of paper and plastics and thereby stabilise prices and longer term contracts. He also asked whether NER was party to a bid for kerbside collection scheme.

Pam confirmed that a unified approach by the five local authorities would be likely to increase volume and stabilise prices. She also indicated that NER had not individually put in a bid but had agreed to work in partnership with two of the community companies who had put in a bid if they were successful.

The chair thanked Pam Jose for her presentation and useful question and answer session.