John S Glover, managing director of London-based waste and recycling company, Bywaters, responds to the recent opinion from Simon Weston, director of raw materials at the Confederation of Paper Industries, concerning Northampton’s decision to award a contract to Veolia which will see recyclables collected commingled.
I read the 26th February 2018 Opinion piece by Simon Weston on Northampton’s switch to commingling.
Within the “Sustainability” world there are people with totally diverse opinions and these people tend to be talkers rather than practical doers. Having spent almost 53 years in the industry I have come across every possible type of thought about what should be done. If one listens to ALL the “Experts” nothing will happen because they are all pulling in different directions.
Why not lock them all in a big room and see if practical policies can be introduced? Don’t let them out until they have agreed an immediate way forward.
In Bywaters case we make decisions in conjunction with our customers and put the plan into practice. The result is harmony and success, whoever the customer is and action is immediate and successful. The true rate of recycling levels then tends to jump by more than 50% over a six month period. Many figures previously suppliers by others to customers have included a wide exaggeration/flattery figure.
Apart from moaning Simon does not provide any solutions, particularly at a time when market prices for all materials have hit rock bottom.
When it comes to quality we have no complaints and we have successfully shipped all materials to regular contacts for the last ten years. Our final quality control for items such as mixed paper is 50 metres long and can accommodate as many quality controllers as are required. At the end of the day the end customer for the product has always called the shots.
We have constantly read in the press (including the Mail & Telegraph) that our industry has been exporting rubbish and not recyclables. At no time is anyone identified who is doing this. A few weeks ago I hosted a meeting with the Parliamentary Environmental Audit Select Committee at Bywaters premises at Bow. I think it is true to say that the Committee receives so much lobbying that it is difficult for them to see the wood from the tree and the Chair, Mary Creagh MP, pointed out that lobbyists make statements but do not supply evidence to back up the alleged “facts”.
I have received anecdotal evidence that single stream collections give a higher cost outcome to local authorities and, furthermore, there is plenty of contamination even in single stream collections. Even at these times of difficulties our latest “costs” to customers seem to be 25% more economical than our local authority actually pays. We should be getting a medal. The experts set up the much more expensive contract!
Of course the rather solid Chinese fence is a big problem for our industry and paper buyers from elsewhere are cashing in by buying our fibre more economically. However we have to let a little time go by and see if the market settles down. There are those in China that are frustrated by the lack of supply and so many of the buyers with English or European names are actually owned by the Chinese.
Simon alludes to storage of “poor quality” product. This is 100% not on. We provide a “Just in time” service to our customers and about 3,000 tonnes comes in per week and is matched by 3,000 tonnes going out.
We have made recycling easy for our commercial customers, including the Government and the NHS. Local authorities tend to get stuck in inflexible “one-size fits all” arrangements, sometimes for 25 years at a time. In 2018 everlasting flexibility is the key.
The first thing that should be done is to ensure that no food waste contaminates commingled, single stream or residual collections. When this is done and the collections passed through a suitable plant the actual level of recycling could easily jump by 10%. I have only been banging on about this for ten years!
AUTHOR: John S Glover, Managing Director, Bywaters (Leyton) Ltd