GAIN presentation on Surrey’s Joint Municipal Waste Strategy (JMWS)

 

Venue: Waverley Borough Council, Godalming

Audience: Joint Waste Management Strategy Members’ Consultative Board &

Surrey Joint Officers Advisory Group

INTRODUCTION

 

Thank you for letting us come today.

 

Before I go into the details of our presentation, let me clear up a few things.

 

We’re neither eco-warriors nor experts.  We’re just ordinary residents who have become concerned and informed and would like to help in finding solutions to our waste problems.

 

We are aware that Guildford is something of a late starter when to comes to recycling and that   

and other districts within Surrey are doing much better.

 

We have never been just an “anti” group. Right from the outset our work has been much more than this. Several of you may remember our Community Waste Workshop at Chilworth in July 2001, which was well received. That’s just one example of the constructive steps we have taken.

 

In terms of location, we don’t just think about Guildford. We have always opposed incineration in principle, wherever it is proposed and tried to develop partnerships to explore county-wide solutions.

 

OVERVIEW OF KEY POINTS

 

Summary of the key points:

* Changes on the horizon

* Facing up to our environmental responsibilities

* Sizing up the problem and separating streams

* Examples of good practise

* What do we want?  An incinerator free approach

* Public involvement

 

1) Changes on the horizon

Change is the one thing we can expect in the future:

·        The recent Cabinet Office Strategy Unit Report “Waste not, want not” emphasised waste minimisation followed by recycling and composting. This Government document places these measures above incineration in the waste hierarchy. ( and we hope Surrey’s Draft Structure Plan will be amended to reflect this!)

·        Changes to Landfill Tax Credit Scheme announced in Gordon Brown’s Pre-Budget Statement

·        Joan Ruddock’s Municipal Waste Recycling Bill, second reading on 14 March

·        Revisions to the Animal By-Products Order are expected by May 2003. This will herald changes to how food waste is handled (Composting Association have been working with DEFRA on this).

·        EU Bio Waste directive is expected to be ratified in 2004. This will require local authorities to collect kitchen waste.

·        Variable charging (or “pay as you throw”) could be introduced in order to give residents a financial incentive to participate in recycling. It was suggested in the recent Strategy Unit report and is certainly gaining the support of many local authorities.  The Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) has written to Secretary of State for the Environment urging the government to make recycling a "compulsory rather than voluntary exercise". .

·        An Incinerator Tax is increasingly discussed.

 

With these and many other changes looming on the horizon a flexible strategy is required.

·        [Newcastle Waste Group, Select Committee]There are uncertainties around changes in regulation, both from the Government and the EU; producer responsibility; taxes; consumer attitudes; uncertainties in terms of waste composition (eg. new materials); waste growth.

     All of this means that a waste strategy needs to be flexible and able to adapt to change.

·        [Newcastle Waste Group, Select Committee] “predict and provide is dead” In the past the waste industry was based on “predict and provide”, estimates were made about how much waste would be produced in 5, 10 or 20 years, and then ways were sought to dispose of the expected waste. Many waste facilities especially landfill and incinerators are based on long-term expectations. However, given all the changes in the waste stream this approach is no longer satisfactory. Authorities should plan for progressive waste reduction.  (Gordon Halliday, Chair of the North East Region Technical Advisory Board & Assistant Director of Environment at Northumberland County Council)

·        Dominic Hogg, Eunomia Research advises that, “Local authorities must consider a dynamic context when thinking about how to deal with residual waste.  Don’t opt for facilities that requires a fixed input amount. Need a flexible strategy, an adaptive strategy. Materials will develop and be changed over time. On this basis there is no argument for incineration.” The trap awaiting the unsuspecting is over specification of fixed throughput, capital intensive facilities.

 

For us, the community: we feel that to put up incinerators in Surrey would be advertising to the world that we are not clever enough, either politically or technically, to recover our discarded resources in a manner which is responsible to our community or future generations.

And we’d be stuck with them for at least 25 years.

 

 

2) We want to face up to our environmental responsibilities

We know from working on our stalls that people are becoming more aware of environmental issues including those associated with waste. Many share the view that we have a collective responsibility to the planet and that we cannot carry on as we are.

 

We thought it was very telling that at the public meeting on Surrey’s Community Strategy, above all else, it was reducing the impacts of our waste that people wanted to talk about.  And even more interestingly, residents from near waste facilities were in a minority.  These were concerned citizens from right across the county.

 

As our community waste leaders, we hope that things have moved on a long way from the damming concerns of the House of Commons Environment Select Committee when it expressed its dismay that “The majority of those involved with waste in this country appear to be guilty of thinking without imagination and planning without ambition, of finding problems instead of solutions.”

 

No waste treatment is impact free.  But we note with great care the advice from Toxicologist Mikoslav Dobrota at the University of Surrey – the human body is generally most susceptible to air borne pollution because we have least defences for dealing with toxins introduced through our lungs (compared with drinking or eating them). 

 

3) Sizing up the problem and separating streams

We are convinced that a crucial part of facing up to our environmental responsibilities involves separating out the various waste streams at source.  If you leave waste to be mixed in a bin bag or wheelie bin, you’ve lost it’s potential.  It becomes nasty, smelly stuff that’s yucky for residents and workers to handle. When it’s separated it becomes glaringly obvious that it’s a resource.  Sorting gives us an opportunity to change the attitudes of householders and businesses.

 

We hope you will treat the three waste projection graphs you have been working with, which lump all waste together, as just a first step.  We believe that it is only by separating volumes of waste into different streams that the possible solutions begin to emerge. 

 

We also wonder why you have assumed that there will be no more void space for landfill of any kind, even for stabilised waste.

 

We wish to register a big concern at the way in which Commercial & Industrial waste (C&I) is being lumped together with household waste in your analysis of our waste challenge. We fear doing this could force crude, quick fix solutions and cut off future options for waste treatment.  We note the reasons given for adding Commercial and Industrial Waste to your remit.  However, we would wish to stress:

·        The Gov does not ask JMWS to deal with C&I Waste, only household. DEFRA guidelines state that the scope of the JMWS should be Surrey’s municipal waste.

·        It is usually easier and faster to achieve increased recycling rates in the commercial sector because the waste tends to be more homogenous.

·        We were surprised by the assumption in your figures that recycling by business in Surrey would not improve for the next 20 years.

·        Commercial waste disposal does not respect county boundaries or use long-term contracts. 

·        The County would have very little influence over which companies used its facilities. 

·        The EU Landfill Directive focuses on biodegradable household waste.

 

We are very surprised by your assumption that there will be no waste minimisation and assume that you will be producing further graphs, which show the role this can play.  We are, however, pleased that you did not use 3% per annum growth in household and commercial waste.   Experts at the House of Commons Environment Committee argued strongly that the 3% compound rate of growth was an unreasonable measurement and a poor basis for projections. Waste minimisation will gain momentum, for example some supermarkets chains are already using starch based 'plastic' food packaging, which is biodegradable.  Curbing growth in the rate at which we produce waste is so crucial that we are very keen to work with you on this.

 

We believe that you can get a bigger reduction in waste to landfill over time from recycling, composting and waste minimisation than you can from incineration.  We had wanted to produce various scenarios based on your three base case graphs you considered last June for today.  However, when we looked at the figures it became apparent that the graphs really were based on a rough first pass.  We hope that this is something we can follow up in future.  

 

There is a strong body of evidence, which suggests that recycling/composting levels of at least 60% can be achieved. All that’s required is the right political will and leadership from districts, county and national government.

 

4 Example of good recycling practise in the UK

Several schemes in the UK are now working towards reaching recycling rates of 50-60% although it is in Europe, where recycling has been taken seriously for longer, that such levels are being achieved on a large scale.

 

Daventry District Council serving a population of 69,000 (http://www.daventrydc.gov.uk/) has the UK’s highest recycling rate.  They achieved 42% in 2000-20001. Their recycling rate for 1997/8 was below 10%. They have operated a four-bin kerbside collection system across the district since September 1999.  This includes dry recyclables and organic recyclables (garden and kitchen). Fortnightly collection of residual waste goes to landfill.

 

Key points:

1) They still recognise that they can do better. Having recently secured DEFRA funding they are launching a targeted awareness campaign aimed at areas with low participation with doorstep interviews (http://www.letsrecycle.com/localauth/news.jsp?story=1875)

2) Northamptonshire are working on their Joint Waste Strategy and have produced a “Waste Local Plan and Joint Waste Strategy Consultation and Issues Paper”. What’s interesting is that the paper does not contain any recommendations on which is the best approach, instead people are asked to answer a series of questions to find out what they want to do with their waste (http://www2.northamptonshire.gov.uk/council/documents/wastestrategy/)

 

5) So what do we want in Surrey? An incinerator-free approach

We want an incinerator-free approach.

 

Key priorities:

·        Curb growth in generation of waste

·        A crucial part of getting support and motivating the public would be a commitment to avoid incineration and to move from untreated, unsorted landfill ensuring any residual landfill is pre-treated and stabilised. 

 

(Which leads us to ask what you mean in your mission statement when you say that your mission is to maximise recycling and recovery?  What recovery did you have in mind?  Recovery is usually used as a euphemism for incineration.  Do you mean maximise incineration?) 

 

Refer to GAIN’s service request.& facilities required to deliver this. [SEE APPENDIX]

We would like the opportunity to work with you in looking at the environmental impact of various types of composters including Vertical Composting Units.

We also wish to explore the potential for Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) of residual waste with the stabilised residual being sent to sorted landfill. This can be built with a modular design so that it is flexible to deal with what’s left over. In terms of climate change emissions MBT has the lowest CO2 emissions when compared with incineration, landfill and pyrolysis.

 

We note SEERA’s new strategy for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (Oct 2002). We welcome the fact that it states that, “Unlike the national targets for renewable energy, SEERA’s targets exclude energy derived from municipal, commercial and industrial waste, including landfill gas combustion. We consider that renewable energy targets should not drive decisions on the management of waste”.

 

Will the public respond to the challenge of recycling and composting?

 

Welcome desire of members of the Board for greater public involvement. 

Waste reduction, improving recycling rates & waste minimisation : Key elements to success are good communication and education.

High profile national awareness campaigns are needed, like the “clunk, click” TV adverts. Government funding is needed

Increase participation rates for kerbside collection with targeted promotion (face to face discussions)

Incentives should be offered through variable charging (“pay-as-you-throw”).

 

People want to recycle: The Environment Agency did a survey last year and found that 9 out of 10 people would recycle if it was easy.

More open discussions are needed on the JMWS and SWLP to get people’s support.

We could not agree more with your statement that ”we are part of the solution”.

 

6) Public involvement in production of JMWS

Government asks you to involve us from the outset. (The DETR Guidance of Municipal Waste Management Strategies (page 10) requires that “the strategy should be open to meaningful and wide-ranging consultation”.)

Understand that you felt the need to spend time together at first building collective understanding between authorities.

We hope that your work is now reaching a new more open phase.

 

The importance of public involvement in decisions about waste strategy is vital. The “stakeholders” are supposed to have been involved from the start of the discussion, as well as in deciding priorities, developing policies and through to implementation. As Keith Collins from Ecologika says, “It’s better to work with people…take people with you”.

 

Hope that the committee will now feel ready to make its Agendas, reports and minutes available to the public. How about setting up a web site with all the relevant information. You are grappling with a community problem. We ask you to share it with the community.  That way more people will be drawn into helping to find the answers.  Wherever practical the public should be allowed to attend these meetings

 

The public would like to see creative partnerships at every level:  borough to borough, boroughs to county council, with contractors and with the public.

 

SUMMARY

Summary of the key points:

 

* Changes & need for a flexible strategy

* Facing up to our environmental responsibilities

* Sizing up the problem and separating streams

* Examples of good recycling practise

* What do we want?  An incinerator free approach

* Public involvement

 

 

This document was produced and distributed by

Guildford Anti-Incinerator Network (GAIN)