Thursday, 8 December 2011

Birmingham's 150-year-old recycling centre

Yesterday, I was allowed to attend a visit to the paper mill run by Smurfit Kappa along with members of the scrutiny committee of Birmingham City Council. Beforehand, they visited the incinerator in Tyseley (to which I was not allowed to go on the behest of Veolia - wonder why).

As the council delegation was substantially delayed at their incinerator visit, I was able to ask quite a few questions before they got there and found the hosts very obliging and willing to talk about a range of environmental subjects. Mostly, though they were proud to be in this place where recycling has been taking place for about 150 years (there will apparently be some sort of celebration of this next year).

It turns out that they are quite happy with the current system of how paper and card is collected in boxes for kerbside collection, so long as it's not mixed with other recyclable materials (glass, tins plastic). They are happy to take all types of paper and cardboard and it all gets turned into one type of material (the outer layer on cardboard boxes, which you can see here on massive rolls.

I'd never been to a recycling plant before, so to see the scale of it was quite impressive. I realise that there are economies of scale from collecting all types of paper together, but it does seem a bit of a shame that better quality paper all gets turned into the lower grade stuff for cardboard boxes. Is there nowhere in Birmingham that makes recycled office or toilet paper? How far does that have to travel?

We are continuing our work to prepare evidence to give to the committee for the Municipal Waste Review when we want to propose a transformation of what's done in Birmingham and move to a resource recovery economy rather than a waste disposal system. See the articles on our website for more information.

Joe Peacock

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great to see recycling. The material should not travel far (basic Local Agenda 21 stuff) and the writer's point about using paper to make paper (not just low grade material), is a good one. I think the Govt wanted proposals for real business set ups (such as recycling) but the West Midlands has the wrong big noises who were out to promote road expansion and runway stretching. Change needed !