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English recycling scheme set new standards.

A local authority in northwest England is believed to be the first local authority in Europe to have inaugurated a plan allowing it to recycle up to 99 percent of its domestic waste.

The scheme for the development, carried out with a private sector partner, of a "total recycling solution" was launched by Halton Borough Council, which collects refuse from 48,000 dwellings in Cheshire, northwest England, in September 1992. The council signed a unique agreement with Biomass Recycling Ltd. to launch the Halton Biomass Scheme, which it believes will set the standards of the future in waste management innovation until the year 2012.

It calls this simply "setting international standards for a new century of domestic waste recycling."

The council's objective is first to reduce and discourage the production of refuse, and then to recycle at least 98 percent of domestic waste by the year 1995: this at a lower cost in real terms than present disposal methods and with by-product benefits ranging from fish farming, afforestation and peat conservation to the production of electricity from methane gas and increased employment and tourism.

Recognizing that it was a major consumer of goods and services, Halton council had already produced and put into practice an environmental strategy. This involved recycling waste paper, cardboard and newspapers, reducing energy consumption in council buildings and vehicles, and introducing high standards of insulation and low energy lighting units to council housing and other buildings. It already has facilities allowing one percent of domestic waste to be recycled, operates a scheme to remove chlorofluorocarbons from refrigerators that are to be salvaged -- nearly 200 in the first three months of 1992 -- and when possible recycles spectacles (eyeglasses). It also picks up old vehicles for scrap and to prevent householders dumping them -- 144 in the first four months of the year.

Local employment

Within a few months of the launch of the new Halton Biomass Scheme, domestic waste produced by more than 125,000 residents in households across the local towns of Widnes and Runcorn will have become the resource to support a lucrative fish farming industry and provide a boost for local employment and tourism.

The new venture will utilize Halton's entire annual collection of 40,000 tonnes of domestic waste, with possibly a further 10,000 tonnes a year from the council's household waste sites and some from street cleansing operations. It will be launched at no additional cost to ratepayers and will ultimately create more than 100 sustainable jobs.

It also far surpasses British Government demands for local authorities to achieve a recycling rate for domestic waste of 25 percent by the year 2000.

Weekly collections of household waste will continue as usual so that all households, whether or not they have their own car, will be able to use it -- 58 percent of Halton's households do not have access to a car. Then, instead of traditional landfill disposal, the waste will be taken for sorting to a recycling complex within the borough.

The "average" contents of a Halton household dustbin are said to consist of: 33 percent paper; 7 percent plastics; 4 percent textiles; 10 percent glass; 8 percent cans; 20 percent kitchen waste (putrescibles); 10 percent dust and 8 percent other items.

Waste packaging

Under the Biomass Recycling scheme, metal, glass and other recoverables will be used to support new and existing commercial recycling activities in Halton. The waste packaging produced by commercial operators within the borough will be recycled through Halton's own system.

Organic waste will be processed in a series of on-site recovery areas, covered in high-density polythene sheeting and filled with water to form a series of man-made lakes.

Heat generated through waste decomposition will warm the water and support the rapid growth of prawns, crayfish and other crustaceans which will be commercially marketed and sold to retail outlets throughout northwest England.

As a further environmental bonus, composted waste will be utilized for agricultural purposes as a viable and cost-effective alternative to peat, thus reducing pressures on peat bogs which are increasingly regarded as precious.

On site, the material will be used to support the growth of new trees and other plant life and the process will also support a methane gas extraction facility. Gases generated as a waste product during the process of decomposition will not be allowed to escape into the atmosphere, but will be used to generate electricity for use both on and off site.

Reed beds

Any leachate will be contained within the site and will be processed through reed beds to remove the harmful elements; the reeds themselves will be harvested for the retail market.

The development will feature a garden centre and also a conservation site attraction which is expected to boost Halton's increasing share of income from tourists in the area.

The promised success of this latest chapter in Halton's continuing re-emergence from a legacy of industrial decay is generating great enthusiasm locally.

Chief Housing and Environmental Sciences Officer Howard Jones said, "We are delighted that the place which was once best known for its chemical waste tips will now become recognized throughout Europe as the place where the standards for a new century of waste management processes were firmly set."

He added: "This initiative represents a significant step towards the long-term improvement of the world's ecology."

Halton's partner in the scheme, Biomass Recycling Ltd. of Stafford, was formed to support local authorities and companies to meet the requirements of Britain's Environmental Protection Act, "This Common Inheritance," published in September 1990.

Standard bearer

The British Government strongly supports such joint ventures between public and private concerns and Tim Midgeley, a spokesman for Biomass, said, "We hope to see this type of joint venture as a standard bearer for all others to follow."

"This is a major step forward in sustainable resource utilization," Mr. Midgeley went on. "It is a commercially viable recycling programme which will help to overcome the belief held by many people that recycling costs the earth."

Halton council is now investigating further possibilities, including additional oil recycling facilities and the introduction of a scheme to recycle furniture when it is in good condition, and when it is not, to convert as much of it as possible into usable materials.

Margaret Laing, London Press Service special correspondent
COPYRIGHT 1993 National Environmental Health Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Halton Borough Council signs recycling contract with Biomass Recycling Ltd.
Author:Laing, Margaret
Publication:Journal of Environmental Health
Date:May 1, 1993
Words:1047
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