Western societies generate huge amounts of digital waste as we seek to regularly update our smart phones, tablets, PCs, TVs and other technology gadgets to the latest model and to buy new electronic goods more frequently. We no longer even seem to consider the possibility of repairing a tech gadget or sticking with a phone that is just a couple of years old. But what becomes of all the old, unwanted electronic devices?
As reported in the Guardian much of this waste ends up in massive dumps in China and Ghana but some items will be repaired, where possible, and then sold or reusable components will be removed.
It is ironic that many of these devices were originally produced in China, shipped to the consumer in the UK and when no longer required are shipped back to China to be disposed of. But there are organisations seeking to change this situation, for instance the Electronics Take Back Coalition (ETBC), and encourage responsible recycling of electronic items.
In the UK we recycle food and garden waste, glass, paper, and some plastics with some regions recycling over 60% of household waste produced and yet we recycle much less when it comes to electronic items or e-waste at around only 13%.
But the e-waste problem is not only generated by Western countries, there are also increasing numbers of consumers in Africa, India and China itself, and the annual amount of e-waste produced is growing fast.
So what is the solution to the growing amount of e-waste?
Clearly recycling and reusing materials from unwanted technology devices forms part of any potential solution but it is also consumers’ attitudes towards new technology that needs to change, in addition to how manufacturers reuse components.
It will also help change the situation if designers of new technology consider their environmental responsibilities by considering what materials they specify for use in their designs. New materials are being developed from natural products such as soya and marine organisms to eventually replace petroleum-based components.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency 50 pounds of gold, 550 pounds of silver, 20 pounds of palladium and more than 20,000 pounds of copper could be recovered by recycling 1 million 1m mobile phones so there is also a financial incentive to managing our e-waste in a more sustainable way.
The county of Essex, just like very other county in the UK, generates a huge amount of waste; molst recent figures show well in excess of 700,000 tonnes of waste each year. To put that into perspective, it is about the weight of 7 aircraft carriers.
Yet only 38% of household waste currently gets recycled, this means the rest has to be burned in incinerators or go to landfill sites.
Essex County Council have an aspiration, not a goal or an objective, but an aspiration to achieve 60% recycling of all household waste by 2020.
The Essex Waste Partnership, like other similar organisations in the UK, aims to reduce and reuse as much household waste as possible but there will still be hundreds of thousands of tonnes of rubbish each year, in Essex alone, which cannot be recycled. So it will still be necessary to find a way to treat that rubbish that cannot be recycled in a way that reduces it’s impact on the environment.
Residual Waste Treatment
A £100million residual waste treatment facility has been provided in Basildon by a Urbaser and Balfour Beatty consortium under a 25 year contract. This is a Mechanical and Biological Treatment (MBT) facility to treat non-recyclable household waste, trade, street sweepings, and all rubbish from recycling centres in Essex.
Biowaste Treatment Facilities
Other facilities are provided in Halstead to treat food and garden waste via an anaerobic digestion composting facility, which produces compost for farming as well as enough renewable energy to power the facility and supply the surplus to the National Grid. Another similar site is planned in Basildon near the MBT site.
Recycling bins in Essex
The Future Challenge for Rubbish Removal
Whilst recycling rates across the UK have improved significantly in the past 10 years rubbish removal still presents a problem; there are still large amounts of waste destined for landfill which is a situation that cannot be sustained indefinitely. Both UK and European laws have been put in place to reduce the amount of rubbish, especially biodegradable waste, being disposed of in landfill and have set ambitious targets to meet.
A recent article in the Guardian asked whether new industrial waste technology, coupled with a change in public behaviour could eliminate the need for landfill sites. New techniques are enabling some waste to be dug up and the methane gas it produces to be used to generate electricity; other rubbish is being re-used as building materials.
Recycling in the UK has undoubtedly been effective at cutting down on waste because only 50 per cent of our household waste ends up in landfill. While 50 per cent might sound like a good reduction that still means tens of millions of tonnes of trash is not being recycled. But even so we can see that with technological advances from comapnies such as Advanced Plasma Power (APP) that there might be a future ahead of us where most, if not all, of our waste is re-used or recycled.
Typical waste reprocessing plants that incinerate waste instead can process up to 170,000 tonnes of rubbish each year, which is equivalent to the amount of waste produce by a large city. This quantity can create enough gas to generate sufficient electricity to power up to 9,000 homes. The same process produces, as a by-product, approximately 20,000 tonnes of aggregate that can be used in the construction industry.
Waste plants that are already using these incineration methods have not completely eliminated waste because ash is also produced as a by-product and cannot currently be re-used but companies hope to find a use for it in the future.
Burning waste, even when it produces useable end-products is not necessarily the perfect solution because it reduces the possibilities for recycling and some people believe we should focus more on re-use rather than simply destroying our waste.
Waste Technology: Digging up Old Rubbish
Old landfill sites that were being filled before the advent of large scale recycling are known to be full of waste that actually could be recycled – some estimates put that quantity as high as 45 per cent. These products could include millions of tonnes of glass, ceramics, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, plastics, paper, wood and textiles. With new waste technology in action there is now a landfill mining plant in Belgium expected to be operating by 2016 that will be aiming to do just that – reclaim the recyclable materials from old landfill sites.
Most local councils in England and Wales now provide recycling bins so that we can all do our bit to preserve our environment. Unfortunately they haven’t necessarily collaborated with each other and different councils in nearby towns have different systems of recycling.
Recycle rules different in neighbouring councils
For instance one town just outside London provides a large green bin for garden waste, a large blue bin for glass bottles and cans (but not cardboard or paper) and a smaller bin just for food waste (which is recycled to power the local buses no less).
A town 8 miles away, meanwhile, has a large green bin that can take garden waste and food waste, and a large purple bin (whoever thought of that colour?) for glass, cans, cardboard, paper and pretty much anything else that is recyclable.
Very confusing for anyone recently moved bewteeen the 2 towns. In fact, as yoy travel the country you can see an assortment of different colour and sized recylcing bins – of course, it’s great that we can recycle without going to the local bottle bank or tip but I do wish that councils had assl discussed together the best approach instead of all doing their own thing.
Most councils have been recycling Christmas trees for many years but now they are turning their attention to summer items. Several councils in and around London are letting everyone know that you can even recycle your barbecue, along with a lot of other summer items. A great reminder to people how easy recycling is and that you can now recycle almost anything – although maybe not in your own colour-coded bin by the back door.
Hopefully all councils will take up this idea of recycling barbecues and promote it; then we won’t have to live with rusting barbecues in our gardens when summer is over.
Essex is a county associated with many different images – the actresses Maggie Smith and Michelle Dockery (of Downton Abbey fame) were born there, as were comedians Russell Brand and the late Rik Mayall, the singer Jessie J and model David Gandy. And let’s not forget it’s the place that gave us TOWIE, of course, for our celebrity-obsessed culture. So is there more to Essex than celebrities? Did you know there are also some great tourist attractions in the county such as English Heritages’s Audley End House & Gardens, the magnificent Tudor building Layer Marney Tower and the almost fully complete Norman castle at Colchester (shown in the image by M. Barker).
It also has some beautiful rolling countryside complete with windmills, country cottages, rivers (and riverside pus) and meadering streams. It also, of course, has it’s 350 mile coastline that includes the well known towns of Southend-on-Sea and Clacton-on-Sea. Away from these busy seaside towns there are bracing cliff-top walks, sheltered coves if you want to avoid the wind and miles of beaches. Maybe surprisingly it also has a thriving oyster fishing industry of the prized Colchester Native oyster and on the back of that some renowned seafood restaurants.
So there really is more to Essex than you might at first think if you have never been there and people from Essex are rightly proud of their corner of England.
Image of Colchester Castle by M. Barker (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Common
The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew are one of London’s top tourist attractions for both international tourists and those from within the UK. Kew Gardens is, in fact, the world’s most famous botanic garden. Situated around 30 minutes from central London, it is a beautiful place with a range of historic buildings(including some follies) and those amazing steel and glass palm houses alongside the wide open garden areas full of an incredibale collection of rare plants.
If you are a local resident you can have unlimited access to this beautiful space simply by taking out annual membership for around £50 per year. The suburb of Kew itself is located right on the Thames with it’s lovely riverside walks and has some beautiful period houses from the Victorian and Georgian eras so it’s no surprise that it is a desirable place to live with it’s leafy streets and fine architecture. (Let’s not dwell on the traffic that regularly builds up around the bridge and on the routes out to the M4)
Rubbish clearance Kew, a special part of London
Residents are justifiably proud of their special part of London, which makes keeping the Kew area free from rubbish and waste as much as possible a top priority. No one wants to see piles of waste in front gardens or full skips that take up valuable parking spaces for weeks on end or are an eyesore in front gardens. And yet skips and rubbish clearance are a necessary part of maintaining and refurbishing some of the beautiful local homes. So what is the answer? Simple, make sure you hire a skip from a reliable family-owned company such as ours.
We are available right now to remove any rubbish you have quickly, and for a really great price.
This image is of an old garage in Camberwell on Bethwin Road. It shows what a state some buildings can get into if they are neglected and why a good rubbish clearance service is so important for both the local environment and for owners of old buildings. It’s shocking that someone could leave a property to get into such a state, especially in central London where properties of every size, shape and state can command huge sums of money. Camberwell may have suffered in the past when certain parts of the area were less than desirable but it’s stock of large period houses has always attracted buyers keen to be close to central London.
Another side of Camberwell
Camberwell is also quite an arty place with the Camberwell College of Arts providing a great anchoring of artistic output and talent from across the UK. The concept of art and decay is echoed in this picture, through decay comes renewal and whenever images of industrial waste are shown I always think what new thing will come in its wake. With the current trends for recycling and upcycling, especially by artists and interior designers, it seems there is always something interesting and inventive that can be created from the items that many people would consider to be rubbish.
Serious rubbish clearance required
A site like this needs a good few skips though to get it in shape, probably a few tons of rubble would have to be shifted and note the inflow of street waste that has accumulated. In a way street refuse will timestamp any site like this that needs rubbish clearance.
Looks like the whole thing will need to be demolished and rubble removal needed, which of course is no problem for our team of rubbish clearance experts.
All parts of the UK are familiar with a range of different types of bins at their homes for recycled waste and with easy access to recycling faciities either at the local tip or other places large large supermarlket car parks and even in schools. So we all probably feel we are doing our bit in terms of recycling but just what percentage of our waste is recycled in the UK?
According to 2013/2014 figures it varies across the different local authorities from 17% in the London Borough of Newham to 65% in South Oxfordshire District Council
With high recycling targets being set by the government one option that offers a cost-effective way to transport rubbish to landfill or recycling plants is by train. It’s a safe, environmentally friendly option and can transport significantly larger volumes of trash than by road at a lower cost and less impact to the environment per tonne of waste.
Just how cost-effective it is depends, of course, on the distance the loads are being transported but clearly very short distances of less than 20 miles are unlikely to be cost-effective. But with major recycling plants few and far between the chances are that waste will be transported long distances to take advantage of high tech recycling facilities. What also contributes to rail as a cost-effective waste transportation option is that there are few seasonal fluctuations in waste production and fewer delays likely with freight trains than by road.
Waste Removal in London
London produces 4 million tonnes of waste each year and waste from west London, at least, has been transported out of the capital by rail for decades via Brentford in secure, enclosed containers. East London also now has a waste removal service via train and a nightly service can eliminate over 100 lorries from the congested roads in and around London. Nearly double that number of lorries is removed from our roads by the train transportation of waste from North London
Whilst less waste is now going to landfill because of government targets to increase recycling the waste still has to be transported to the treatment facilities that use the new technology to handle the waste in an environmentally way so the transport issue is essential to effective recycling.
However, if rail freight is to be part of the future of waste and recycling transportation then several new terminals will be required and there are limited sites in London that could be used for this purpose.