Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Wasted opportunity to get strategy right

Brent Council Executive last night refused to accept the recommendations made by the Scrutiny Committee on the Waste Strategy despite the efforts of Elaine Henderson and Viv Stein of Friends of the Earth who addressed the meeting (see below). They also decided to go ahead with consultation on the West London Waste Authority's plans for more waste processing depots in the borough, serving several nearby boroughs, despite concerns about the concentration of such facilities in Brent and lack of information on the actual processes that will be employed.  In his contribution Cllr Powney, lead member on these issues, appeared not to provide any substantial answers to the questions raised.  On waste the issue was reduced to budgetary demands rather than green principles.

Viv Stein's speech:

Brent Campaign against Climate Change endorses the views of Brent FoE regarding the waste strategy.  Having attended the previous Executive committee and last week’s Scrutiny committee I felt compelled to speak as I was so astounded by some of the comments made by Cllr Powney.

Both the Brent Campaign and FoE are in favour of increasing recycling, increasing green jobs and cutting carbon.  But this new system is likely to CUT UK jobs, INCREASE emissions and is UNLIKELY to achieve the huge increase in recycling to 60%, which Cllr Powney admitted last week is “very important to get this right as will be a major financial problem for the Council if we don’t.”

You might think this strategy is all about climate change and cutting emissions.  So much so that it mentions climate change 28 times in the document.  But will it really have such an impact?

Yes we do understand there will be less emissions in the collection within Brent – with fewer lorry journeys (as less frequent collections) and instead of recyclables sorted manually on the kerbside they’ll be crushed (so you get more in the trucks).  But when you consider:

-there will be larger vehicles, using more fuel
-the mechanical separation at the materials recovery facility (which uses loads of electricity)
-the additional distances lorries have to travel to these
-the likely reprocessing overseas (as we’ve heard the commingled low-grade materials are likely to be sent further away including China), something not ruled out now by Brent, our emissions do not stop at Brent’s borders, so overall they will actually INCREASE.

Camden Council did an energy audit of their commingled collection, when they switched from kerbside sorted and found that, The carbon footprint of the co-mingled collection system, transfer and MRF is 77% greater than for the kerbside sorted waste collection.”  They then changed to a twin-stream system, with paper collected separately, as Brent FoE proposed previously.

My question is – has an energy audit been modelled into the proposed new system?  If not, how can you possibly claim it will reduce emissions?

We’ve heard that commingling will produce low quality materials, so another question is – is this paving the way for incineration of Brent’s waste? Only last week the UK Confederation of Paper Industries expressed concerns that increasingly paper that could be recycled, may be used to generate energy instead.  This is both an incredibly inefficient use of resources and as a means of energy production, besides all the other concerns that incineration brings.

One of the main reasons why commingling is bad is that the crushed glass contaminates everything, but it also has implications for emissions.  According to WRAP (waste resources action programme) “co-mingled collection of glass frequently results in glass used as road aggregate, which creates 2 kg of CO2 for each tonne of glass. Whereas, glass that is not compacted during the collection phase is made back into bottles and jars, which saves 314kg of CO2 for every tonne.”

So to conclude I am asking for the Exec to reconsider the current kerbside sorted system, and if for some reason you really can’t, I would urge for an amendment that “glass be separated for collection in a twin- stream system” which would be preferable. (These could be collect in the existing green boxes and put in a wheelie bin on the kerbside).

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