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The importance to FMs of consolidated policies for waste recycling

What is the solution to the lack of consolidated policies regarding waste recycling (for example, some locations require two collections while others might require seven)? What can government do to resolve this issue? Does your company regard this issue as a problem?

Waste management and recycling can be confusing. Regulations may differ from county to county, and indeed on a national level, but often FMs and sustainability managers are left in the dark as to what is expected from them. The lack of clear national policies also makes life difficult for those service providers and recyclers who have to adapt their procedures according to which part of the country they're in.

PFM asked industry experts what the solution is to the lack of consolidated policies regarding waste recycling (for example, some locations require two collections while others might require seven)? We also asked what government can do to resolve this issue.

Edward Ward, production manager at the Portakabin Group, says there's no doubt the legal requirements associated with waste management are a complex and diverse issue that present significant challenges for SMEs who don't necessarily have the resources of more sizeable companies.

"There are many different directives driven by the EU and implemented in the UK — and the interpretation of this legislation needs professional expertise. For example, in addition to the removal of general waste, we have to comply with legislation that governs the disposal of packaging, hazardous waste, and electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). There are regulations relating to drainage, air emissions and noise which may involve dealing with numerous organisations such as the Environment Agency, local government or utility provider."

Ward says Portakabin uses specialist environmental consultants to provide it with quarterly updates to ensure it's continually aware of new requirements. He adds that interpreting new regulations and assessing if his business falls within the scope of a piece of legislation is also a highly complex, specialist issue, and requires professional expertise.

"Government bodies are often reluctant to give environmental advice on specific issues as their remit only extends to clarifying legislative requirements. In contrast, the HSE website is an excellent resource that provides a wealth of sound guidance documents and advice on a broad range of health and safety topics to assist organisations with compliance and best practice. Environmental and waste management regulations and issues are equally difficult to interpret but there is little practical guidance available on the day-to-day application of legislation."

Ward suggests a solution to address this would be for government to provide one central source of practical advice and information, which he says would be hugely beneficial, much more user friendly for businesses, and could also encourage more organisations to improve their waste management and reduce environmental impact through recycling.

"Currently businesses are required to apply the waste hierarchy to their operations but this doesn't necessarily result in high recycling rates. We believe companies large and small have an ethical responsibility to use resources responsibly and to reduce the volume of waste sent to landfill. We are proud to have achieved zero waste to landfill at our international manufacturing centre in York some years ago but are still continually looking at new ways to minimise waste as a genuinely environmentally-responsible and committed organisation."

Matt Kuwertz, sales and marketing director, Emprise Services, says that sadly, a 'watering down' of the EU Waste Directive into English law has meant it hasn't provided further incentive to gets businesses recycling more.

"Consequently, the much needed investment required to boost the infrastructure England needs to help make recycling much more cost effective, especially when vs landfilling or incinerating waste, is patchy. This is in contrast to Scotland who have taken the legislation more literally and created an environment where people have to recycle more but that has allowed businesses to invest in infrastructure and resource creating large scale opportunities that in turn bring the costs down dramatically."

Kuwertz says England needs to follow suit as there is big opportunity in job creation, environmental benefit and carbon reduction — we just need sound waste orientated policy to shape the future and unlock that opportunity. "We're passionate about increasing the percentage of waste our clients recycle and if more waste could be collected as part of the same collection then there would be an additional environmental benefit as a result by virtue of fewer collections, less diesel, miles travelled and would potentially result in a more cost effective service.

"Emprise is committed to identifying new ways of reducing environmental impact through the implementation of energy efficiencies, promotion of environmentally friendly waste and recycling solutions and the introduction of reduced CO2 fleet vehicles."

Tony Mottram, commercial director at GPT Waste Management says policies are set based on data available and that the data shapes the process to manage a particular issue or inform GPT on how best to resource a solution. So why are there so many conflicting approaches and policies regarding recycling? "In order to answer the question there are a few things to understand."

Mottram says the capability of the supply chain dictates whether policy objectives can be achieved in a sustainable manner — but that herein lies the problem. "The market is a commercial one; profit drives investment in waste processing alongside emerging technology. It's important to consider a few things: recycling, infrastructure and data.

"For several years, the waste industry has invested in recycling as there was significant financial reward from extracting and commoditising recyclate," Mottram explains. "Over the past four years we've seen a reduction in the cash value of commodity recyclate which has meant that providers have had to align themselves to different strategies. The cost of the 'bin' was heavily subsidised by the value of recyclate at the end of the process, as this value diminishes, the cost of the 'bin' increases."

With respect to infrastructure, Mottram says Energy from Waste (EfW) through incineration is the 'next big thing' in the UK and is the preferred alternative to landfill. "We're many years behind our European waste colleagues, who seem to have very different waste policies which are more aligned to supply chain capabilities. The number of waste operators is consolidating, so a large number of regional providers have been bought out by national providers which will mean the capabilities of the supply chain may be affected."

Then there's data. "UK policies are shaped by the data provided by those handling the waste so government calculates the volume of waste produced in the UK. This figure is significantly over-inflated as it fails to consider the impact of inter-company waste transfers being processed. So there is a volume of waste which is double-counted which in turn is being fed into the top line numbers."

A one-size-fits-all solution for domestic waste collections is easily achievable, concludes Mottram. "But in order to do so, the policies councils operate to need to be aligned to the supply chain which can logistically support it and if indeed there's only one route to process, such as EfW, the need for multiple bins and multiple collections may be a thing of the past."

As the UK's leading FM title, PFM has been reporting on facilities management in the UK from its beginnings, and highlighting best practice in Europe and the USA.
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