We need a waste system that will be efficient, effective and popular. Residents of the city need to be involved and enlisted to help in this redesign of our waste system. The new system must work backwards from the materials that can be used or reused and create a reliable system for collection that feeds those ‘end-uses’, such as the paper and plastics recyclers.
We should learn from other cities which have much higher recycling rates than Birmingham to see how this can be done, but also involve residents in deciding what will work best in their area, so the system is also flexible to meet the needs of very different areas in terms of street design and population density.
The new waste system should contribute to the City’s Carbon Reduction strategy, by;
- minimising the amount of carbon released into the air from burning, instead by
- locking up carbon into new products, or into compost and soil, or inert landfill.
Energy and materials prices continue to rise due to population and economic growth around the world. The ‘throw away society’ will surely not return as everything becomes too valuable to just dispose of. Landfill sites are almost full and legislation to ban landfill of food waste and recyclable materials may be imminent. Birmingham needs to plan a waste collection system that produces useable materials, not rubbish for ‘disposal’. This can be the basis for many jobs, companies, even industries in the city.
There are social enterprises, charities, commercial business already trying to recover wastes within the city. These should be involved in designing a waste system for the future that will maximise the opportunities for value to be recovered and jobs created.
If food waste and other putrescibles can be separated out and collected from homes and businesses it can be digested by bacteria to be a source of renewable energy. This happens in many towns; Bristol, Cheltenham, Preston, Leeds, Cambridge. This will reduce the problem of rats and other pests. There is a lot of learning already about how to manage such systems.
Aston University has a leading European Bioenergy Research centre. www1.aston.ac.uk/ebri/ They have developed an efficient system to digest and gassify biological waste This biogas can be used in combined heat and power plants in the city.
We should plan for a very substantial increase in recycling rate from current 32% of municipal waste – to a predominantly recycling system with very little residual rubbish being collected. This has implications for the bins and vans used for collection. Small businesses need a whole system to conveniently separate their wastes for recycling and incentives to do so.
Did You Know....?
Recycling one tin can saves enough energy to power a television for 3 hours and the new can would be ready to use again in just 6 weeks.
One tonne of newspaper requires 24 trees to be felled. Recycled paper produces 73% less air pollution than if it was made from raw materials.
One recycled plastic bottle would save enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for 3 hours. Plastic can take up to 500 years to decompose.