Thursday, 5 May 2011

Beyond Rubbish?

I spent Easter weekend with some residents of South Cambridgeshire District Council, which includes the city of Cambridge. Their district has ‘Beacon status’ being one of the top 3 for recycling – it recycles 80% of domestic waste, compared to Birmingham’s 32%. They told me how it all works.

The council has invested in 3 bins for each household. All waste is in bins. I didn’t notice any rubbish or litter in Cambridge.

1. All cooked and uncooked food, along with garden waste and other compostables goes in the green bin, which is collected fortnightly. It is all composted outdoors in huge boxes, sieved and sold to residents as garden compost. The high temperatures 90 C, inside the heaps kills all the bugs that might make smells or disease. No bin bags are produced or left around. The Council has found that the rats and vermin problem has declined hugely since they did this, reports my friend who is a vet.

2. All dry paper, plastic, glass, metal etc goes into the blue bin. There is a compartment within to keep paper separate for recycling. A company called Donarbon Ltd has a plant that mechanically sorts all of this for recycling. There is an education centre where you can visit, watch and learn.

3. The black bin is for residual waste i.e. the remaining 20% by weight. This is only collected fortnightly, but my friends say they actually only need to put it out every few weeks, as it is inert and non smelly.

There is no incineration of waste. Carbon is being locked up in the composting process, so the carbon footprint must be really low. The residual waste goes to landfill, As they are successful in persuading people not to put food in the black bin, methane emissions will reduce.

Their website states: “The Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) MBT plant, which cost just over £41Million to build and equip, is the centrepiece of the 28-year PFI waste management contract between Cambridgeshire County Council and Donarbon, whereby Donarbon will be responsible for treating the majority of household waste from Cambridgeshire and ensuring that councils meet their recycling and landfill diversion targets.”

Imagine if Birmingham had an 80% recycling rate and a hugely reduced rat population, how much nicer would the city be? There would be no more sights like these:

Websites for further information;

John Newson

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