Part 1: What a Load of Trash!

A view on waste collection in London, October 2006

On 16th October 2006, I made my way over to a seminar hosted by "London Remade" to check into initiatives being made by London boroughs on waste collection methods.

What was incredulous was that our bottles, cans, newspapers, etc that we put into the recycle bins are not actually recycled here in London but either goes back into landfills or off on a slow boat to China (at the time it is indicated that 50% went to China) as a facility is not available to recycle the materials.  Presumably the Chinese will see our rubbish as a resource!

We have had bottle and can recycling for years and I remember 15 years ago, talking to a friend's father who manages a large waste processing plant in London telling me that it all just ends up in landfill.  I did not want to believe him then and it hurts the brain to know things have not changed now.  I am so happy that global warming has happened as it is causing a change in thinking; a change in technology that is long overdue by corporations who have deliberately stilted progression because it would reduce their profits.

The presentations and discussions centred upon finding a solution to collect rubbish from businesses and households and how much each method would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  The style of collecting rubbish via trucks is causes slow moving traffic and many tonnes of carbon emissions.  So some solutions were proposed.

Boats and rail: An initiative proposed by Transport for London (TFL) suggested regenerating London's canals and using the rail facilities to transport large amounts of waste to a centralised waste handling facility.  This would mean that waste transportation trucks spend less time on the road as they dump their loads into barges or into rail containers.

Suck it Underground:  Stockholm, Sweden uses a system to collect waste via a network of pipes under the city that is sucked into a central location approximately 2km away via huge turbines that create a vacuum.  The system is easy to implement in new estates, but becomes difficult in existing cities and towns and roads will have to be dug up (which seems to be a continual occurrence in London as the water board does not talk to the electricity board, etc).  It is claimed carbon emissions are much lower than the above solutions despite the huge turbines required to create the vacuum and the pipes rarely get blocked. 

One thing for sure is that there would be less waste trucks on the road and a system that would see that bins were never full.  This sounds like a great system although the cost of implementation will mean a break-even of about 10-12 years.

The regeneration of the Wembley area around the new Wembley stadium is to have this technology implemented at a grand cost of £4,400,000. 

Reducing Waste

Personally although costly, the latter is a great solution but should be in combination with educating the population to reduce their waste (see optimising recycling) and manufacturers to produce less packaging. 

Switzerland, Sweden and Germany encourage recycling.  Approximately 70% of their total waste is recycled.  This might be due to the cost of putting trash in the municipal bins in the first place.   It's free to recycle but costs various amounts to take trash away.

Ideally, reducing waste at the source should be made a priority and manufacturers of "shop bought products" are regulated.  That is all manufacturers should be able to identify how the rubbish that is produced from buying their product can be reused, or recycled and/or how their product and packaging is broken down by the environment.