Waste Management and Biomass News June 2021 Compiled by 1st Choice Waste
Waste management and biomass fuels are never far from the UK news. This month, the worlds largest retailer Amazon was reported to be destroying Millions of pounds worth of new and wrapped items.
A UK Amazon Warehouse Was Caught Destroying 130,000 Unsold Products a Week
Despite its status as the world’s largest retailer, Amazon has a history of unsavoury business policies that keep the company in the headlines more than its shareholders would like, from its neglectful stance on workers’ health to its tendency to veer into the world of antitrust—and that says nothing of the general animosity many feel towards the company’s departing CEO. Now an exposé by the British news station ITV News sheds light on the brand’s wasteful practices, reports housebeautiful.com.
A warehouse in Scotland was revealed to be trashing an average of 130,000 items a week, including Dyson fans, Hoover vacuums, Mac computers, and even COVID-19 masks. All of the electrical items shown in the video were loaded onto trucks and disposed of at a waste management facility nearby, while the non-electrical items were sent to a local landfill and recycling site.
“Overall, 50% of all items are unopened and still in their shrink wrap. The other half are returns and in good condition,” a former worker told IGTV. “Staff have just become numb to what they are being asked to do.”
According to the segment, this strikingly large amount of waste is a byproduct of the company’s overall setup. Amazon charges vendors to house their goods; the longer these products remain unsold in the warehouse, the more Amazon charges them, leading many vendors to choose the much cheaper option of disposal rather than the more costly alternative of paying to have the items shipped back to them.
“We are working towards a goal of zero product disposal, and our priority is to resell, donate to charitable organizations, or recycle any unsold products. No items are sent to landfill in the UK,” a spokesperson told ITV. “As a last resort, we will send items to energy recovery, but we’re working hard to drive the number of times this happens down to zero.”
We’ll have to see if Amazon stays true to its word, but here’s one unpromising bit of evidence: As leaked documents have shown, another of the company’s UK warehouses was found to have only donated around 28,000 items of the supposed 124,000 total items marked for destruction.
Man fined for breaches of waste management legislation
A man from County Down was issued with a fine of £2,000 for breaches of waste management legislation, according to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), report agriland.co.uk.
The defendant, Brendan Small of Flush Road, Newcastle, was fined at Downpatrick Magistrates’ Court in Northern Ireland earlier this week on Monday (June 7).
Northern Ireland Environment Agency officers investigated a site on Flush Road, Newcastle, from September 2018 to February 2019, where they found large quantities of construction and demolition waste, high-value scrap metal and rubbish being burned.
Further site inspection showed the waste had been crushed using an industrial crusher. No permits or licences were in place at the time of investigation to permit these activities.
Small was interviewed under caution and admitted to crushing the waste and depositing the scrap metal on site. He now has a permit for the crusher.
Brendan Small pleaded guilty to the offences and was fined £1,000 under each of two articles of the Waste and Contaminated Land (Northern Ireland) Order 1997, DAERA notes.
These related to the unauthorised deposit of, and the unauthorised treatment of, controlled waste at the lands in question, the department added. An offender’s levy of £15 was also paid by the defendant.
Getting ready for a waste revolution
For more than two years now we have known about the Government’s intention to reform the UK’s packaging producer responsibility regulations in the name of extended producer responsibility (EPR).
Now that the dust has settled on the frenzied 10-week period of industry consultation on Defra’s updated proposals and we have a clearer idea as to what the reforms will entail, it is time to take stock and prepare for the most radical changes to producer responsibility rules in a generation suggests George Atkinson of mrw.co.uk.
While the new EPR-based packaging waste system and consistent local authority collections will begin to be phased in from 2023, and with deposit return schemes (DRSs) for drinks containers starting at different times across the UK around the same time, actions will be needed by those businesses which will be affected far sooner than you might expect – especially if they wish to mitigate the scale of the cost increases that reforms may bring.
Particular focus will be on the owners of some of the UK’s biggest brands because the responsibility to fund the EPR system will largely reside in their hands, or pockets.
Alongside importers of non-UK branded goods, under EPR such businesses will be required to foot the bill collectively for all the waste management operations associated with the packaging they help to place on the UK market – not just contributing to packaging recycling costs as they currently do through the packaging recovery note (PRN) system.
With the costs industry will be required to fund set to inflate from around £200m-£300m a year currently incurred through the PRN system to around £2.7bn in the first full year of EPR, it is of no surprise that many businesses both domestically and internationally are taking notice of the changes afoot in the UK.
As the UK’s first and largest producer responsibility compliance scheme, Valpak feels duty-bound to play a leading role in helping businesses to navigate the financial and administrative challenges presented by reforms.
At this stage, we are utilising the full capabilities of our extensive expertise across our data management, packaging consultancy and recycling services divisions to forecast EPR cost liabilities of those of our members who will be affected.
Although we have completed more than 100 of these individual cost forecasts so far, our work is far from complete. Our EPR Ready service will be a central part of our member engagement during the next few years.
As some members’ packaging waste costs could increase 30-fold and run into the millions, not only helping them to understand the scale of this cost increase but also helping them to identify where they can mitigate it is crucial.
As producer responsibility will continue to work a year in arrears, we are calling on brands to start looking for opportunities for light-weighting packaging and designing for cost-effective recyclability ahead of placing packaged goods on the market in 2023, which is the year full EPR bills will first relate to.
The reforms in brief
Currently, the financial responsibility to fund recycling packaging waste crosses the entire value chain, from raw material manufacturers to retailers. Under EPR, fewer businesses will be required to foot the bill for a far greater scale of costs than under current producer responsibility rules.
Going forward, brand owners and importers of non-UK brands will not just contribute to the costs of recycling waste packaging, but fund the entire net cost of all post-consumer packaging waste management operations, including collection by local authorities and private contractors, recycling and residual disposal.
While the extent to which liable businesses will attempt to spread these costs across the supply chain – and the degree to which consumer prices will be hit by the changes – remains largely unknown, Valpak Consulting’s PackFlow EPR project has sought to provide clarity in these muddy waters. We estimate that the new system could add up to £100 a year to household shopping bills, representing an inflation rise of around 0.6%.
Change is necessary, though reservations remain
Broadly, EPR is a force for good and we are welcoming of the Government’s ambition.
While the current system has largely achieved its objectives by making recycling more commercially viable by providing recyclers with an incentive to run their operation at the levels needed to meet national targets, some shortcomings are clearly apparent with the system that was designed to meet the needs of industry in 1997.
For example, local authorities are dependent on council tax revenues to collect waste, resulting in variable performance across the UK. The current regulations have not kept pace with the growth in e-commerce in recent years, resulting in an increasing amount of packaging escaping the regulations altogether.
And, finally, those receiving PRN revenues from producers are under only limited scrutiny in respect of how those revenues are utilised to the benefit of recycling systems either domestically or overseas.
It is hoped that the suite of packaging reforms proposed by Defra will address many of these deficiencies. The centralisation of local authority recycling collection funding, the enhancement of regulations, the doubling down on enforcement efforts, the development of consistent collections across the UK for consumers and a move to binary recycling labelling to do away with confusion over ‘check local recycling’ all offer reasons to be optimistic.
However, in Valpak’s view, there are many elements of the Government’s proposals that we hope they will reconsider throughout the remainder of 2021.
We are particularly concerned about the move to make producers collectively responsible for the management costs associated with business packaging waste, at the expense of £1.5bn.
In many instances, these costs, currently not a strain on the public purse, come from individual waste-producing businesses and result in waste management processes that already achieve high recycling rates at relatively good rates of operational efficiency.
Instead, we believe efforts should be focused on improving recycling from smaller business premises where significant opportunities for greater efficiency and performance are apparent.
We also disagree with the rationale behind assigning the cost of dealing with litter to producers, with our view being that the £200m costs should be shared more equitably between producers, enforcement authorities and other stakeholders in order to drive improvement.
We would also argue that the producer responsibility compliance sector should be located, as now, in the private domain. Competition in this area will enable liable businesses to find personalised compliance arrangements at negotiable costs, with competition between service providers driving innovation, service development and operational efficiency.
Schemes will also be crucial custodians of the transition to EPR should the Government seek to implement such fundamental changes in less than three years, as planned.
Any other course of action or further delay may significantly jeopardise the feasibility of the already ambitious implementation timeline.
EPR REFORMS AT A GLANCE
- Phased-in from 2023, EPR and consistent household collections will cover the entire UK; Scotland is progressing on DRS separately.
- A UK-wide scheme administration system will be appointed in 2023. One option proposed is a single not-for-profit administrator. Another would be multiple scheme-led compliance schemes, each with specialist responsibilities.
- Producer fees will be ‘modulated’, which is based on the recyclability of packaging. For example, brand owners using hard-to-recycle materials such as polystyrene will pay more. This will require more detailed data analysis.
- The spot trading of PRNs will cease. PRN volatility will be mitigated by removing spot trading in favour of contracts for recycling evidence that is far longer in duration and stable in cost.
- End markets for waste, both domestically and overseas, will be scrutinised more than now, probably funded by increased reprocessor and exporter accreditations fees.
- All packaging will be required to be clearly and consistently labelled to inform consumers whether it can be recycled.
East Anglian Resources goes into liquidation ahead of court sentencing for dust and fire prevention failings reports the Environment Agency
Ben works for the marketing team at 1st Choice Waste Management, he has a passion for marketing and helping businesses to grow.