New standards on noise produced by the kerbside collection of glass could shift responsibility to vehicle manufacturers.
The Waste Industry Safety and Health Forum (WISH) and the government’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are finalising work which will look to enforce legislation on noise levels produced when glass is collected from the kerbside.
Mitch Gibson – chair of the WISH working group on noise from glass collection – said it was likely the onus would shift from the end user retrofitting measures to minimise noise, to the manufacturer being encouraged to engineer this into their vehicles.
He said: “The fallback position has always been hearing protection but what we are looking at is saying to procurers ‘you need to up your game and not just be cost driven because ultimately the knock-on cost could be astronomical’.”
Mr Gibson added: “There are technical solutions but there will be a cost implication.”
The new standards have been informed by testing methods which hope to better replicate real collections.
The current noise measurement standard for recycling vehicles uses PVCu tubes and does not include kerbside sorting options. It is claimed this does not represent the noise actually created during collections.
“There are technical solutions but there will be a cost implication.”
“The old test used to use PVC tubes to represent plastic bottles but what we did was use what we would encounter at the kerbside,” explained Mr Gibson, who said the measurements should produce more accurate figures to inform the enforcement of the new standards.
The debate over kerbside glass noise has been long-running and has struggled to find solutions which are effective but do not also increase costs and limit the volume of waste which can be collected.
Noise at Work regulations state that the lower exposure action values are a daily or weekly exposure to 80 decibels (dB), with a peak sound pressure of 135 dB. The higher values are a daily or weekly exposure to 85 dB, with a peak sound pressure of 137dB.
It has been suggested that commingled collections of glass and dry mixed recyclables can reduce noise, though this reduces the quality of the recyclate collected.
With responsibility likely to shift to vehicle manufacturers, the businesses involved have been working on ways to reduce noise.
Kerbsider vehicles have previously been found to have significant risk of exceeding sound exposure limits – but both Terberg and Romaquip, who are major producers of Kerbsiders, say they have taken steps to limit noise.
David Walker, engineering manager at Terberg, said: “Over the last 15 years Terberg have worked hard in reducing noise on our range of Kerbside recycling vehicles using various methods and this has included working alongside the HSE to carry out noise testing.”
“Recently both Terberg Matec UK/Dennis Eagle have actively worked in conjunction with the HSE to assist in providing vehicles and personnel for testing to allow the HSE to produce the necessary test procedure for the latest requirements.”
Romaquip have also said it is working with HSE to reduce noise created by their vehicles and claim it has been singled out by Hoare- Lea Acoustics, WRAP and HSE as the quietest in the sector.
It is expecting their vehicles to be able to operate within the new standards, if they are introduced.
The new standards are likely to require change from councils as well as manufacturers.
Ashley Wild of Hart district council, who is health and safety representative for the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC), said in May that standards must be upheld if councils will have to invest in more expensive equipment.
He explained: “Whilst manufacturers claim that technical solutions are available, the cost implications don’t make them particularly attractive to procurers unless they are enforced.
“Ultimately, specific clauses may need to be included within tender specifications to include measurement of noise emission in accordance with the draft standard. This could include a pass/fail clause with regard to all technically possible solutions.”