BAN Waste Select Committee evidence

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Phase 1 Day 5 2001-10-11 Andy Moore (Avon Friends of the Earth and Recycling Consortium)

written evidence submitted in advance

David Mansell - Personal History

David has extensive operational and research experience of waste recycling.

After graduating with a first-class honours degree in Environmental Sciences, he undertook post-graduate research on the economics of recycling. From 1989-90, he worked as National Co-ordinator of the UK2000 Recycling City project. He then worked as the first Recycling Officer for local authorities in York (1990-91), Bath (1992-96) and Bath & North East Somerset (1996-1999). In Bath, he was responsible for developing an award-winning green box kerbside collection service in partnership with Avon Friends of the Earth. This enabled Bath to be one of the first local authorities in the UK to achieve the Government's 25% recycling target.

While working in local government, David also contributed to the work of a number of other organisations. He served as Media and Policy Officer (1994-99) for the Local Authority Recycling Advisory (LARAC), was a member of the Department of Environment Working Group on the Role of Local Authorities in Recycling (1996-97) and sat on a panel (1997) advising the Audit Commission during the preparation of a management handbook on good practice in waste management (Waste Matters).

In 1996, David was admitted as a full member of the Institute of Wastes Management.

From 1999-2000, David worked as an independent researcher and as an Associate Consultant with M.E.L Research. During this time, he worked on a number of projects which included: the development of recycling and waste management strategies for local authorities; evaluating integrated methods for recycling, composting and refuse collections; monitoring and analysing the performance of recycling services and trials; and a comprehensive study on recycling participation in Bristol (involving collection round and participation monitoring, focus groups, a questionnaire survey and waste analysis). David was also appointed as a Special Advisor to the House of Commons Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee Inquiry on Delivering Sustainable Waste Management, which reported in March 2001.

Since October 2000, David has been employed as a Development Manager with Avon Friends of the Earth. His responsibilities include service monitoring and project management, which has included studies on kerbside collection methods for dry recyclables and kerbside collection options for organic wastes.

Avon Friends of the Earth

Avon Friends of the Earth has been involved in providing kerbside recycling collections since the early 1980s. It now operates as a non-profit distributing company providing a wide range of recycling services to over 350,000 households and 2,000 businesses in Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol, South Gloucestershire and Stroud District.

Avon FoE employs 151 people, has a combined fleet of more than 50 collection vehicles and operates from 6 depots, which includes 2 high-throughput sort lines for plastic bottles and cans, a shredding and baling line for commercial paper, and bulking facilities for paper, glass, cans and other materials.

Avon FoE has extensive experience in the collection, handling and marketing of waste materials, which currently amounts to more than 30,000 tonnes per annum.

Avon FoE has a number of subsidiary and sister companies, including The Recycling Consortium (communication and education services on waste and recycling), Network Recycling (consultancy, waste analysis and events recycling) and Merlin Recycling (textiles merchant and export).

The Role of Recycling in Municipal Waste Management

The Government's Waste Strategy requires local authorities to put efforts into developing their recycling services. This has been given statutory backing with the new requirements to achieve Best Value performance standards for recycling and to divert biodegradable municipal waste from landfill to meet targets set in the EC Landfill Directive

In 1999/2000, each household in the UK produced an average of 1,206 kg of household waste, which contributed 89.5% to total municipal waste [Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs: Municipal Waste Management Survey 1999/2000]. Environment Agency figures indicate that in Tyne & Wear average annual household waste arisings are 1,054 kg per household [Environment Agency (2001) - Strategic Waste Management Assessment for the North East].

In the UK, the best kerbside collection services, such as those in Bath & North East Somerset and Daventry, currently recycle about 145 kg per household served per annum. The best kerbside composting services, such as those in Daventry and St Edmundsbury, collect about 315 kg per household served per annum. The best recycling facilities at Civic Amenity Sites, such as those in Devon, Dorset, Essex (high diversion trials) and Hampshire, achieve recycling rates of over 50%.

If these high levels of performance were achieved in Tyne & Wear, more than 525 kg of waste per household per annum would be collected for recycling and composting, which is equivalent to a recycling rate of nearly 50%. However, this level of recycling is only being approached in Daventry and a few trial areas at present in the UK, but it demonstrates how much can be achieved.

Other countries are achieving more. In Germany, national household packaging recycling rates are 92% for paper and board, 83% for glass, 77% for steel, 69% for plastics and 63% for aluminium [Greater London Authority (2001) - Rewarding Recycling: An Assembly Investigation into Barriers to Greater Recycling in London; Appendix A3]. In Austria, Flanders in Belgium, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands more than 60% of biodegradable municipal waste is composted [Greater London Authority (2001) - Rewarding Recycling: An Assembly Investigation into Barriers to Greater Recycling in London; Appendix A3].

Source separation and convenient services are two of the keys to the achievement of high levels of recycling. However, even with convenient collection services, there is a relationship between recycling participation and socio-economic characteristics of residents. Recycling decreases as deprivation increases and recycling increases as social class, property values and household income increases [David Mansell (2001) - Bristol Recycling Participation Study; Report for The Recycling Consortium].

Nationally, Newcastle-upon-Tyne is ranked 26th (of 354 Districts) on average ward scores for the Government's Indices of Deprivation 2000. Therefore, it would not be expected that recycling participation in Newcastle would be as high as in more affluent areas, such as Bath & North East Somerset, Daventry and St Edmundsbury. This means it will be more of a challenge to achieve high recycling rates in Newcastle upon Tyne.

This challenge is on two fronts because the cost-effectiveness of kerbside collections is related to participation rates and quantities put out for recycling. So costs are higher in areas with low participation rates. However, such areas can also attract job creation and regeneration funding, which may be important mechanisms for helping to fund the establishment of convenient recycling services and a recycling culture in areas such as Newcastle upon Tyne.

In the UK, we are still at an early stage in learning how we can motivate households to recycle and for some households there is a question whether this can be easily achieved. In more affluent areas, most households will participate when a convenient and reliable service is provided. In less affluent areas, we still need to find the best methods for involving these communities. Pioneering work in this area is being carried out by a number of groups including Avon Friends of the Earth, The Recycling Consortium, ECT Recycling and Waste Watch.

In many developed countries, households are charged directly for waste collection services, with this charge increasingly being varied according to how much is put out for disposal. In most cases, the evidence from these areas is that variable refuse charging has a big influence in encouraging households to avoid and recycle waste. Another mechanism which may have a similar effect would be to stop accepting recyclable materials through refuse collections where they can be put out instead for kerbside collection.

Regulations such as these, combined with high profile communication campaigns and convenient service provision, may be necessary if high recycling levels are to be achieved throughout the UK.

The Community Sector believes that the long term aspiration and vision that should be adopted is to achieve zero waste. This is a powerful new concept that is attracting increasing attention, especially in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA. It aims to eliminate rather than 'manage' waste and challenges old ways of thinking and inspires new attitudes and behaviour [Zero Waste New Zealand Trust (undated) - The End of Waste: Zero Waste by 2020]. The Zero Waste New Zealand Trust summarises this approach as follows:

Zero Waste is a philosophy and a design principle for the 21st Century. It includes 'recycling' but goes beyond recycling by taking a 'whole system' approach to the vast flow of resources and waste through human society.
Zero Waste maximizes recycling, minimizes waste, reduces consumption and ensures that products are made to be reused, repaired or recycled back into nature or the marketplace. [Susan Kinsella & Daniel Knap (1998) - Zero Waste: Management Principles for the Coming Age of Zero Waste; GRRN Green Paper No. 1]

The Zero Waste New Zealand Trust believes it is possible to get 'darn close' to zero waste and advocates setting a goal of zero waste, so that public and private organisations can focus creativity and resources on getting closer and closer to zero in a journey of continuous improvement which will completely change the way we think about waste [Susan Kinsella & Daniel Knap (1998) - Zero Waste: Management Principles for the Coming Age of Zero Waste; GRRN Green Paper No. 1]. The Trust identifies three core principles for moving towards zero waste: ending cheap waste disposal, designing waste out of the system and engaging the nation [Susan Kinsella & Daniel Knap (1998) - Zero Waste: Management Principles for the Coming Age of Zero Waste; GRRN Green Paper No. 1].

Zero waste policies have been adopted by a number of local and regional authorities, including Canberra and Western Australia in Australia, Toronto in Canada, Del Norte, Seattle, Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo and Boulder City Colorado in USA [Susan Kinsella & Daniel Knap (1998) - Zero Waste: Management Principles for the Coming Age of Zero Waste; GRRN Green Paper No. 1].

Although it is a goal that requires action by all consumers, manufacturers, retailers and tiers of government, we believe all local authorities should adopt the zero waste approach and that it can lead to a new way of thinking about the waste problem.

In the interim period, while progress towards zero waste is limited, disposal options will still be required for household waste. Although it is also important that waste is not over-committed to long-term disposal contracts that hinder continued efforts to increase recycling and move towards zero waste. I would suggest that disposal options that should be considered are bio-stabilisation of waste prior to landfill and anaerobic digestion, pyrolysis or gasification, but only if these latter options can be demonstrated to offer environmental benefits over landfill on a commercial scale.

David Mansell,
Development Manager,
Avon Friends of the Earth,
1 October 2001

[Editorial note: references, formatted as footnotes in the original submission, have been retained in-line within the text, within square brackets.]