As mentioned in last week’s blog, a jolly band of Sussex Green Living’s recycling ‘wombles’ enjoyed a tour of Biffa Mechanical and Biological Treatment Facility at Warnham recently.
And when I say ‘enjoyed’ I really mean it! If anyone had told me even a few years ago that I would be excited about a tip trip, I would have been very sceptical – but there we are, that’s how life rolls.
Diane Dodsworth was an excellent host and one of those rare passionate people who loves their work so much that she also uses her spare time to volunteer, educate, encourage minimising waste and embracing the circular economy as opposed to the old-fashioned ‘deliver-dispose-dump’ mentality…which is clearly past its ‘best before’ date!
The facility is owned by West Sussex County Council and Biffa manage it for us.
- Immediately obvious was the huge number of PLASTIC BAGS (yes, still – even though every supermarket can recycle them), so Diane advocates simply buying loose fruit and vegetables as everyone used to do. If that seems too hard, use compostable bags.
- BATTERIES are another problem, and are prone to start fires, which means that the facility has to be shut down, which obviously costs in wasted wages, wasted water, and waste itself backing up. Many supermarkets and handyman shops now collect batteries too and they can be collected from your door if you leave them in a bag on top of your bin.
- CARDBOARD and PLASTICS can be burned to create Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) and electricity can be generated and fed into the grid. They need to be CLEAN, DRY and LOOSE to be recyclable, otherwise a massive lorry load of ‘good’ stuff can be rejected and need to be sent to landfill in Surrey, Holland or Germany.
Dianne says rightly, we need to (a) stop creating waste in the first place and (b) if we create waste we need to deal with it.
Incineration seems to be the best technology available at present. Dianne tells us that word of mouth has been shown to be the best way of disseminating information rather than giving people written information via the council. Physically giving people food waste bins is also helpful as they can see how much they are wasting.
So consider where an item has come from and where it will go to. Many people bought memory foam mattresses, for example, only to discover that they can feel too hot. There were a huge number of mattresses and pillows to be seen on our visit, all needing to be buried or burned.
And yes – I’m excited about learning more on the next Wombling trip to Ford – watch this space for an update!
By Morag Warrack