A presentation was given to the Committee on local, national and local authority waste-related stories that have been in the media.
It was reported that Suez has completed the works to tackle odour emissions at the Path Head landfill site in Gateshead. This was following enforcement notices issued by the Environment Agency after heavy rainfall led to an accumulation of surface water at the site. Residents complained of odours causing sore throats, nausea, headaches and dizziness. Suez imported 30,000 tonnes of soil to seal the area and installed 12 additional gas wells.
In Newcastle there are ongoing problems with waste collection services. Newcastle City Council is aiming to save 12% from its refuse and street cleansing budget by introducing more efficient working arrangements. It was reported however that this has resulted in disrupted collection services as staff are working-to-rule and doing no more than the minimum contractual requirements. This has led to an estimated cost over £41,000 for additional collections and staff overtime to clear the backlog.
Nationally it was reported that Air Products has announced it has scrapped the second phase of the construction of a gasification plant on Teesside due to technical problems and rising costs. The company will exit the energy from waste market and sell the partially completed plant, this will result in an expected write-off of approximately £770M.
A report by the Association of Public Service Excellence (APSE) has been published which states that by 2020 the combined spending by local government in the UK will be lower than at any time since 1948. It is also predicted that ‘liveability’ services, such as parks, refuse and recycling, highways and street lighting, are at risk of being abandoned to long term decline. The report also states that there is a risk of more inequality opening up according to how strongly an authority can grow its business rate income.
It was also reported that WRAP has carried out research that says that 1.9M tonnes of food is wasted in the UK grocery supply chain every year. However 0.7M tonnes that could have been wasted is being distributed to people in need or is used as animal feed. WRAP research found that if businesses took more action to prevent avoidable food waste they would save £300M per year. However, the food manufacturing and retail sectors are reporting less than 5% food produced as being waste or surplus, which is the lowest it has ever been.
Committee was advised that Hull City Council is spending £100,000 on expert advice to tackle recycling contamination through a public awareness campaign. In Hull 20% of the 24,000 tonnes of recycling collection are things that should not be there, which costs the Council £50,000 per month in penalty clauses. Also, Councils in the East of Lancashire are looking to implement four weekly collections due to budget cuts.
The Committee was informed on a number of health and safety incidents within the sector following a number of recent deaths. It was reported that the waste sector’s fatal injury rate is ten times greater than across all industries and three times higher than the construction sector, with 33 deaths in the last five years. The Committee watched a short video of some incidents captured on CCTV showing the potential dangers faced by council collection crews.
That the Joint Executive Committee noted the information presented.