Therese Coffey Confirmed As New Waste Minister

Therese Coffey

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has confirmed that Therese Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, will be the government’s new Waste Minister.

Dr Coffey was appointed to Defra by Prime Minister Theresa May at the end of July following the promotion of Rory Stewart to International Development. However, it was not confirmed at the time whether she would inherit the former parliamentary undersecretary of state’s responsibilities for steering waste and recycling policy

Dr Coffey’s ministerial duties as parliamentary undersecretary of state for the Environment and Rural Opportunities were published on the Defra website earlier this month – confirmation that she would be overseeing waste and resources at government level.

Her responsibilities include:

  • natural environment, including biodiversity, the marine environment, and international wildlife trafficking
  • rural life opportunities, covering rural childcare, education and skills, and health
  • floods, water and waterways
  • air quality
  • waste management

Dr Coffey was previously the deputy leader of the House of Commons serving under Chris Grayling and served on the Culture, Media and Sport Committee until she was appointed parliamentary private secretary to Michael Fallon, minister for business and energy. Mr Fallon had responsibility for the WEEE directive which is now overseen by Defra.

It remains to be seen whether Dr Coffey will take up Mr Stewart’s campaign to harmonise recycling collections or will choose to pursue her own agenda. The new Secretary of State for Defra – Andrea Leadsom – is known to have supported retaining weekly refuse collections in previous years.

Some waste industry members are likely to be frustrated that Dr Coffey will preside over the ‘waste management’ brief, which was entitled the more progressive ‘resource and environmental management’ when Mr Stewart took up the role in May 2015.

Councils Push For Highways England To Clean Up Kent’s Roadsides

Clean Up Kent

Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council has partnered with other local authorities in Kent to push for Highways England to clean up and prevent litter on the Garden of England’s roadsides.

A joint letter on behalf of the county’s 13 councils has been sent to Simon Jones, the director of Highways England, urging him to agree to a plan of action. The letter demands better co-ordination so that councils can clean roadsides when roads are closed for maintenance and greater clarity over whose responsibility it is to clean up which roads.

It also says the councils should, along with Highways England, run a joint campaign discouraging motorists from throwing rubbish out of vehicles.

Councillor David Lettington, TMBC’s cabinet member for environment services, said“We are determined to crackdown on those who continue to litter the borough of Tonbridge and Malling and welcome the opportunity to work with neighbouring authorities to tackle litter across Kent. 

“Working regularly with community groups and schools to educate local people on the importance of taking care of our environment only gets the message out so far and more needs to be done to reach a wider audience.  

“Taking a collaborative approach in this way will hopefully further spread the anti-littering message and improve our approach to tackling litter over all.”

Councillor Rory Love, chairman of the Kent Resources Partnership, added: “The litter is thrown out of cars and lorries by inconsiderate drivers and passengers as they pass through our beautiful county but it’s the rest of us who have to suffer it and pay for its removal. 

“There is an urgent need for a joint plan between Kent councils and Highways England to tackle the unacceptable level of litter.”

Carrier Bag Usage Drops 85% Since 5p Charge Introduced

Carrier Bags

Early figures suggest that the number of single-use plastic carrier bags used by shoppers in England has dropped by more than 85% since the introduction of the 5p charge last October.

More than seven billion plastic bags were handed out by seven main supermarkets in 2014, but this figure plummeted to just over half a billion in the first six months after the 5p charge was introduced.

The data is the government’s first official assessment of the impact of the charge, which was introduced in a bid to help reduce litter and protect wildlife – and the expected full-year drop of six billion bags was hailed by ministers as a sign that it is working.

Therese Coffey, Environment Minister said: “Taking six billion plastic bags out of circulation is fantastic news for all of us. It will mean our precious marine life is safer, our communities are cleaner and future generations won’t be saddled with mountains of plastic sat taking hundreds of years to break down in landfill sites.

“The 5p charge has clearly been a huge success – not only for our environment but for good causes across the country that have benefitted from an impressive £29 million raised.

“It shows small actions can make the biggest difference, but we must not be complacent as there is always more we can all do to reduce waste and recycle what we use.”

The charge has also resulted in donations of more than £29 million from retailers towards good causes including charities and community groups, according to the Department for Environment, Food And Rural Affairs.

England was the last part of the UK to adopt the 5p levy, after successful schemes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Retailers with 250 or more full-time equivalent employees have to charge a minimum of 5p for the bags they provide for shopping in stores and for deliveries, but smaller shops and paper bags are not included. There are also exemptions for some goods, such as raw meat and fish, prescription medicines, seeds and flowers and live fish. Environmentalists welcomed the move but have called for a more comprehensive scheme which includes all retailers and all types of bags.

At the time of the launch, the Government expected the scheme to reduce use of single-use carrier bags by up to 80% in supermarkets and 50% on the high street. It is also expected to save £60 million in litter clean-up costs and generate £730 million for good causes.

Kent County Council Unveils 20 Year Waste Stategy

Kent County Council

A consultation has been launched by Kent County Council (KCC) for the Kent Waste Disposal Strategy, which will form the backbone plan of how household waste is disposed in the county between 2017 and 2035.

KCC is responsible for the disposal and recycling of Kent’s household waste whilst the district and borough councils are responsible for collecting it.

The amount of waste produced is expected to rise by 22% due to a significant increase in housing growth forecast across Kent – going from 711,000 tonnes to 864,000 tonnes – between now and 2031.

By utilising more recycling and recovery opportunities of the more difficult to deal with waste, such as mattresses and hard plastic objects not current recycled, KCC has managed to reduce its annual tonnage of material sent to landfill from 11% in 2014/15 to 4%.

KCC is keen to hear responses to its ambition to deliver a high quality value for money service, with an emphasis on achieving zero waste to landfill.

KCC said: “We are keen to know what you think about the overarching ambition of the Strategy, the key priorities involved and the specific objectives we have set out. We welcome any comments or concerns that will help us improve the Strategy before KCC moves forward to implementation, supported by further public consultation in 2017.”

The draft strategy sets out the current position, identifies future pressures and outlines how KCC intends to maintain a sustainable waste management service in the face of budgetary pressures.

KCC has set out five priorities, which are as follows:

  1. Working Together: We will work together with our key partners on projects to deliver our ambition.
  2. Innovation and Change: The services we design and provide will be resilient through accommodating change and growth.
  3. HWRC Service Delivery: We will provide a value for money service.
  4. Customer service: We will provide an accessible service whilst encouraging customers to reuse and recycle, and let people know what happens to their waste.
  5. Commissioning: Our commissioning and contract management approach will provide value for money and the best possible service.

Views can be given until 2nd October 2016 and the full draft strategy can be viewed online at http://www.kent.gov.uk/wastestrategy

Starbucks To Trail Recyclable Coffee Cups

Coffee Cup

In a bid to reduce the 2.5bn disposable cups deposited in landfill or incinerated each year in the UK, coffee chain Starbucks has announced that it will begin trialling a fully recyclable coffee cup in stores nationwide.

Earlier this year, it emerged that popular coffee chains, such as Starbucks, Costa and Pret a Manger recycled fewer than one in 400 paper cups. The reason for this being that conventional takeaway cups are made from paper but are laminated with plastic, making them difficult to recycle.

At the time this prompted Starbucks to offer customers a 50p discount for bringing in their own cups to use, but the chain has now decided to trial and introduce the Frugalpac cup into its stores.

Created by British entrepreneur Martin Myerscough, the Frugalcup, which launched last week, is recyclable thanks to a thin plastic liner designed to separate easily from the paper during the recycling process.

Starbucks is set to be the first retailer to test the product, saying it will trial the Frugalcup in some branches.

A Starbucks spokesman said: “We are very interested in finding out more about the Frugalpac cup and we will be testing it to see if it meets our standards for safety and quality, with a view to trialling its recyclability.”

Martin Myerscough is currently in talks with other coffee shops and supermarkets about using the cup as their standard product.

He said: “We’ve spent the last two years developing our cup and we hope now that coffee chains and cup producers will see Frugalpac as an answer to this issue.”

Currently, more than 30 companies have signed a pledge from the Paper Cup Recycling and Recovery Group to significantly increase paper cup recycling rates by 2020, including brands such as Caffé Nero, Starbucks, Costa, Pret a Manger, Mc Donalds, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose and Greggs.

Volunteers Sought For Great British Beach Clean

Dirty Beach

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is asking for volunteers to join in “The Great British Beach Clean”, an annual weekend dedicated to picking and monitoring coastal litter.

MCS is a UK charity dedicated to protecting sea, shores and wildlife. It regularly organises beach cleans as part of its BeachWatch programme and has put out an ‘urgent’ call for volunteers to ‘help tackle the tide of litter washing up on british shores’.

The Great British Beach Clean will be taking place between 16th-19th September 2016 and is part of the and is part of the International Ocean Clean-up, a larger worldwide initiative coordinated by the Ocean Conservancy, a charity focused on protecting the ocean and the communities that depend on it.

Over 6,000 volunteers took part in the UK event last year, cleaning 340 beaches and recording the largest amount of litter per kilometre in its history, a total of 3,298 items. This year the charity is being supported by the People’s Postcode Lottery, which it hopes will make this year’s event a bigger success.

Results from the 2015 International Coastal Cleanup published last week revealed that 8,193 tonnes of litter were collected during events in 93 different countries, which covered over 25,000 miles of coastline. In total nearly 800,000 people took part across the world.

During the 2015 international cleanup, the top five most commonly collected items were cigarette butts, plastic beverage bottles, food wrappers, plastic bottle caps and plastic straws, respectively.

The MCS says that it is ‘crucial’ that something is done to tackle coastal litter to protect marine wildlife from the risks of ingesting it or getting tangled up in marine plastic pollution.

Lauren Eyles, MCS Beachwatch Manager, said: “Over the last decade, we’ve recorded a huge hike in the amount of litter found on our beaches – up by over 65 per cent. We need help – and anyone can simply volunteer to take part.”

Clara Govier, Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, added: “It’s really important for everyone to learn about the dangers of marine litter and I’m delighted that players of People’s Postcode Lottery are supporting the Marine Conservation Society who are tackling this important cause. I would urge anyone who has the time to spare to take part in this beach clean.” 

More information on the Great British Beach Clean 2016 can be found on the Marine Conservation Society’s website.

Charites Serve Up 18 Million Meals Diverted From Waste

Farshare

According to annual figures released last month by FareShare, it received a record breaking 9,070 tonnes of food, worth £19.6m, from the food industry during 2015/16, enough for charities on the frontline to provide 18.3m meals to people in need.

Retailers and manufacturers including Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, The Co-operative, Kellogg’s and Nestle diverted the majority of this food from waste. Fareshare works in partnership with these companies to identify and redistribute in-date, good to eat food that has become surplus – often long before it reaches supermarket shelf for reasons such as forecasting errors, mislabelling or damaged packaging.

The food is then redistributed to charities and community groups. Last year, the number of charities benefiting from the scheme increased by 29% to 2489. These organisations include homeless shelters, children’s breakfast clubs and domestic violence refugees, enabling them to provide nutritious meals for their beneficiaries alongside life-changing support.

Without food from FareShare, one in five charities say they would probably or definitely have to close, while 58% say they would have to reduce the amount of food they provide, and one in four would have to cut back other services.

Lindsay Boswell, CEO, FareShare said: “Last year, with support from switched-on food companies, FareShare diverted more food from waste and supported more frontline charities than ever before, helping to feed over 200,000 vulnerable people every week. But there’s so much more to do – right now, we’re only accessing the tip of a food waste iceberg. Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of perfectly edible food gets thrown away, or used to generate energy or animal feed, every year – enough to provide 800 million meals for people in need.

“Demand for surplus food is outstripping supply. FareShare has 20 Regional Centres around the UK, and every one of them has a waiting list of charities that need food. We’re urgently calling for more food companies to work with us to redistribute their good, surplus produce, and for more volunteers to help us get that food to the people who need it most.”

90% Of Kent’s Waste Handled In The UK

Kent Resource Partnership

Latest findings from the Kent Resource Partnership’s (KRP) End Destinations Publication for 2014/15 showed that around 90% of Kent’s household waste was reprocessed in the UK.  

The KRP is a partnership comprising all 13 councils in Kent, set up to improve waste management in the county. The Partnership includes Ashford, Canterbury, Dartford, Dover, Folkestone, Gravesham, Maidstone, Sevenoaks, Swale, Thanet, Tonbridge & Malling, Tunbridge Wells and Kent councils.

According to the report, the total tonnage collected by the 13 Kent councils was just over 711,000 tonnes and 73% of this waste remained in the county. The last 10% – 72,130 tonnes – of Kent’s discarded household waste was sent abroad by waste companies, with the majority being processed within Europe.

In terms of resource destinations, just over 45% of the collected waste was recycled or composted, while around 43% was used for EfW and 11% went to landfill. This, the publication notes, places the KRP in a good position to reach its collective objective of sending no more than 10% of Kent’s discarded materials to landfill by 2015/16.

The publication also highlights that the Partnership surpassed its own recycling and composting target of 45% a whole year ahead of schedule and that it achieved the biggest single-year reduction since the production of its End Destinations reports since 2011/12; a significant cut of 7 percentage points.

Cllr Rory Love, Kent Resource Partnership Chairman said: “2014/15 is the fourth year for which this Partnership of all of Kent’s Councils has compiled data on the end destinations of household recycling and waste. Our motivation is that openness and transparency with our residents is the surest way to gain and retain their confidence in our high-achieving, recycling and waste resource services across Kent.”

Ray Georgeson, Chief Executive at Resource Association said: “The KRP continues to lead the way with its transparent approach in informing residents on what happens to their resources as well as where it eventually end up. We applaud KRP’s efforts and continued support with this particular agenda and encourage other local authorities and businesses to adopt a similar approach through the Charter.”

Full details of the KRP’s End Destination’s Publication can be found here.

Aiming For “Zero Harm” In the Waste Industry

A new report published by the Environmental Services Association (ESA) has revealed that the majority of accidents within the waste sector occur through waste collection vehicle activities.

According to ESA, approximately 58% of non-fatal accidents in the sector are linked to waste collection activities, many of which are the result of slips, trips, falls or manual handling.

In ‘Aiming for Zero Harm in the Waste & Recycling Industry’, the ESA, a trade association for the UK’s resource and waste management sector, assesses the implications of the development of the industry on health and safety, and what is needed to maintain the safety of employees.

The report refers to Health & Safety Executive (HSE) statistics that show that despite accounting for only 0.6% of the total British workforce, injury rates in the UK waste industry are four times that of the national average.

It does, however, note that since the ‘Mapping health and safety standards in the UK waste industry’ report, prepared by BOMEL in 2004, which revealed that the fatality rate in the waste management industry was 10 times higher than the national average, a ‘concerted effort’ by the industry and the HSE has resulted in a downward trend in accident rates, with a 23.7 per cent reduction in accidents over the last five years.

The ESA report seeks to present data from the organisation’s members, which includes waste companies such as Suez, Veolia and Grundon, in order to provide a ‘specific injury rate’ for the waste sector. This has been disaggregated from Health & Safety Executive (HSE) data – which includes accident rates relating to local authority, third sector and non-ESA member waste company activities.

The Association claims that its members have been at the forefront of efforts to reduce accident rates, with the number of reported injuries having reduced by 78% amongst ESA members since the launch of the Association’s Accident Reduction Charter in 2004.

As the waste and resources industry moves into a circular economy, it says, the industry’s activities are becoming ‘increasingly mechanised and more labour intensive’. This means, it asserts, that ‘workers are handling greater volumes and a wider composition of material than ever before’, which brings ‘new and significant’ health and safety hazards into the workplace.

It gives the examples of source segregation at kerbside collections exposing workers to highway hazards and new technologies for recycling requiring workers to be more hands-on with machinery, rather than ‘in the cab of a compactor on a landfill’.

Rick Brunt, HSE’s Head of Waste and Recycling said: “HSE welcomes ESA’s analysis of their members’ performance, and I am encouraged that their findings give a clear indication that their members efforts are making a difference in the waste and recycling industry. The challenge remains for all organisations to play their part in Great Britain’s health and safety system to further improve the industry’s performance. HSE is committed to our work with organisations in the sector, such as ESA and WISH, as they drive forward further improvements” 

Sainsbury’s Trials Smart Fridges In A Bid To Cut Food Waste

Smart Fridges

UK Supermarket giant Sainsbury’s has partnered with German electrical brand Bosch to provide some of its customers with “smart” fridges, in a bid to dramatically cut food waste at home.

According to research by Sainsbury’s, 25% of households waste £235 worth of food every year due to buying products they already have in the fridge. Annually, this amounts to a waste bill of £1.5bn for UK householders.

The data revealed that fruit and veg are the most overbought items with 38% and 35% of shoppers regularly stocking up on more than they need. Milk, cheese and eggs complete the top five products that are most frequently over-bought.

Despite 70% of Britons trying to adopt the habit of checking their fridge before a food shop, over 40% admit to forgetting what they need by the time they get to the shop, or buying “top up” food on the way home from work that they actually don’t need.

The revolutionary new fridge from Bosch could put an end to this costly problem, Sainsbury’s says. The kitchen appliance uses two integrated cameras to snap photographs of the shelves and the door every time the fridge is open and closed. Shoppers can then access the images via an app on their smartphone or tablets as they browse the supermarket aisles. The Home Connect app also allows them to zoom in to see how much of a product they have.

Paul Crewe, Head of Sustainability at Sainsbury’s said: “Our customers tell us that despite best intentions, they often find it difficult to remember what is in their fridge which can lead to them over-buying. With 4.2million tonnes of food wasted each year in the UK we’re on a mission to help households plan their shopping better and reduce the amount of food they throw away.

“With our focus on finding innovative solutions we have teamed up with Bosch to trial their unique camera fridge which will give shoppers an instant view of the contents of their fridge whilst shopping – triggering a reminder to prevent buying more than they need.”

The Bosch fridge, which retails for £899, is the latest innovation to be put to the test by 20 families in the town of Swadlincote as part of Sainsbury’s Waste less, Save more initiative. Not only does the fridge take pictures which link up with the Home Connect app, you can also control the temperature of the fridge and freezer remotely and it’s VitaFresh technology will keep produce fresh for up to three times longer as normal.

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