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Smell the coffee

Smell the coffee

Jonathan Standen 07 May 2019
Addressing Climate Change through Waste Management Practice in the UK The Climate Change Commission (CCC) last week issued a stark call to the UK Government and industry to urgently put in place measures to ensure the UK contributes to stopping global warming. The Commission’s report ‘Net Zero - The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming’, published in May 2019, sets out how the UK should set and vigorously pursue an ambitious target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to ‘net zero by 2050, ending the UK’s contribution to global warming within 30 years’. The report sets out that a net zero greenhouse gas target for 2050 would respond to the latest climate change science and fully meet the UK’s obligations under the Paris Agreement (2015). As a way of reminder, the Paris Agreement is an agreement achieved within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) dealing with greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting to apply from the year 2020.The CCC reporting states that ‘In committing to a net zero GHG target, Parliament must understand that, while many of the policy foundations are in place, a major ramp up in policy effort is required. Noting that the foundations are in place including diversion of biodegradable waste from landfill, efficient buildings and low carbon heating, these policies must be strengthened, and they must deliver action.’ The net zero target goes beyond the reduction needed globally to hold the expected rise in global average temperature to well below 2o C, and beyond the Paris Agreement’s goal to achieve a balance between global resources and sinks of greenhouse gas emissions in the second half of the century. There is need however to replicate this ambitious target across the world. If this was achieved coupled with ambitious near-term reductions in emissions it would deliver, the report states, a greater than 50% chance of limiting temperature increase to 1.5%; this perfectly illustrates how much work is needed globally to address the problem we all now face. The reporting sets out a spectrum of sectors which must be addressed, including the role that food consumption and waste management plays in the overall strategy. Specifically, it recommends that biodegradable waste should not be sent to landfill after 2025, which will clearly require additional regulative and enforcement efforts with further supporting action implemented through the waste chain. The report encourages societal choices that lead to a lower demand for carbon-intensive activities, including an acceleration in the shift towards healthier diets with reduced consumption of beef, lamb and dairy products, and reductions in food waste, with one fifth of UK agricultural land shifting to tree planting, energy crops and peatland restoration. A significant contribution to methane gas emissions from landfill sites directly comes from the disposal of food waste. In the UK, it is estimated that that annually 10 million tonnes (Mt) of food are wasted. A fifth of UK greenhouse gas emissions are also associated with food, mostly created during its production. In the UK, emissions from waste sector have fallen by 69% since 1990, due to the UK’s landfill tax, which has reduced the amount of biodegradable waste going to landfill. There has also been an increase in methane captured at landfill sites. Further active steps are now being taken in waste management through the drive for greater recovery and the minimisation (if not cessation) of landfill of biodegradable waste, though the need for greater coordination within across the UK is clearly evident. Scotland currently has a target to reduce emissions of all greenhouse gases by at least 80% by 2050, when compared to its 1990 levels. The target, originally set in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, is under review as part of the new Climate Change Bill currently being considered by the Scottish Parliament which may provide for a more ambitious target to come forwards. The Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012 ban biodegradable municipal waste (BMW) from landfill in Scotland from the 1st of January 2021. As yet, no transitional arrangements are in place, which will have significant implications for those who have responsibility of managing the waste stream. In preparation for the Regulations coming into force, the Scottish Government has now made public a report [1] it has commissioned on the current and future markets for the disposal and recovery of BMW. The reporting concludes that ‘despite the significant notice that has been provided of the ban, the alternative waste management options that will be needed may not be available at sufficient scale or at an affordable price at the point when the ban commences’. Authorities which account for 55.5% of residual household waste have made the financial investment to ensure solutions are in place before the ban comes into force. However, other authorities which account for 23.6% of household waste have no alternative arrangements in place at the moment. The remainder have long-term solutions in place but are unprepared for the short-term. The reporting also confirms that ‘commercial waste operators without access to alternative infrastructure appear yet to have made adequate preparations for the ban’. The ban in the short-term is predicted to lead to a significant rise in residual waste treatment costs for organisations that have not already secured a long-term contract, particularly so given the estimated capacity gap in waste treatment infrastructure in Scotland, which stands at approximately 1 million tonnes. The consequence of this, in the short-term at least, is that there will be a greater reliance on exports and landfill in England, though in remaining capacity terms this is also becoming limited. In England, the new Government’s Resources and Waste Strategy published by Defra in December 2018 seeks to reverse the focus on disposal to landfill with the aim to ‘redress the balance in favour of the natural world…to move to a more circular economy which keeps resources in use for longer.’ The Strategy puts in place a framework to support the step-change needed in recycling performance. In England, the ambition is to recycle at least 65% of waste arisings (and in Scotland and Wales 70% by 2025), but the recycling rate has slowed, particularly so over recent years, and it presently stands at approximately 45% (up from 11% in 2000/2001); in comparison, Wales is set to become the world leader for recycling by 2020, currently achieving recycling rates of 63.8% for municipal solid waste, which includes household plastic and other packaging. With recycling rates in England having now plateaued, during recent questions at the House of Commons Theresa May emphasised the need to maximise the amount of waste recycled, rather than sent to incineration or landfill, and warned that whilst work to drive down waste to landfill was welcomed, ‘if wider policies don’t deliver our waste ambitions in the future, including higher recycling rates, then the government will consider the introduction of  tax on the incineration of waste’. There is however a need to incentivise industries to reduce their emissions in ways which do not adversely affect competitiveness. But what part of the residual waste, the non- recyclable elements which remain after recyclable elements, have been retrieved? If the 65% recycling target is achieved, then Defra forecasts that there will still be up to 20 million tonnes of residual waste to be managed by 2035. Now, approximately 3 million tonnes of residual waste is exported from the UK to fuel energy generation.  Retaining that material in the UK, and diverting it from landfill, offers up a potential resource in the form of refuse-derived fuel; this could be treated through energy-from-waste processes to benefit home-based demands for energy generation and CO2 savings, necessary to contribute to the reduction in global warming. To conclude, it is clear that there needs to be a rapid transition to practice which, together with other greenhouse gas producing sectors, will contribute to meeting the UK’s climate change commitments. However, the true measure of success is for the UK, along with other world nations, to provide leadership including the delivery of their GHG objectives ahead of time.   [1] Waste Markets Study – Full Report (April 2019)

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Where the cold wind blows. Meeting the need for natural building materials
Lichfields has been successful in obtaining a positive determination from Kirklees Council for a proposal by Johnson Wellfield to extract a million tonnes of sandstone over a term of 20 years from a new 24ha mineral working area at Crosland Moor, Huddersfield. Stone-built properties are a familiar feature of the northern landscape, no less so than in the former mill towns of the West Riding, where the wealth of the area derived from the local manufacturing industries was displayed in the form of magnificent civic, commercial and community buildings.  The local quarries from which dimension stone for those buildings was extracted are often long since exhausted.  However, new stone workings now operate to meet today’s demand for the high quality ashlar sandstones known in the trade as ‘Yorkstone’;  they are used in high specification architectural and masonry applications, often for heritage projects, not only in the immediate area but also throughout the UK. Johnsons Wellfield, based at Crosland Hill, Huddersfield is the UK’s leading producer of natural Yorkstone building products[1], extracted from its Crosland Moor minerals workings and located in the locally-occurring Rough Rock sandstone outcrop.  With its presence in Huddersfield for over 150 years, Johnsons Wellfield’s history is interwoven with the local built vernacular.  More recently, its high quality ashlar masonry products have been used locally, with considerable acclaim, as part of Huddersfield University’s new Oastler Building, and for paving in the St Georges Square adjacent to the town’s suitably impressive Grade 1 listed railway station. Further afield, the company’s stone has been used recently in paving along the Thames Embankment, at the National Cenotaph and within Westminster Abbey. St Georges Square, Huddersfield Image courtesy of Myers Group Ltd To maintain its leading position, Johnsons Wellfield has made significant investment in new stone processing technology to meet challenging customer requirements. Advanced robotic masonry equipment now enables the manufacture of both intricate and specification-perfect architectural features, placing the firm at the forefront of this business sector. An established, skilled workforce of over 100 employees makes this happen, in turn significantly contributing to the local economy. Ashlar Block Processing Image courtesy of Myers Group Ltd Without a guaranteed and continuous supply of suitable stone block, the raw material in the ground from which the building products are derived, production would ultimately cease. Johnsons Wellfield- like all other minerals operators - therefore need to plan ahead and ensure that there will be continuity of supply of permitted reserves to sustain its business into the future. It can be a significant step between identifying suitable resource and converting this into a permitted minerals reserve, particularly given that minerals can only be worked where they occur.  In preparing a scheme for a planning application, there are often tensions between the sensitivities of the local environment (such as historic and conservation area assets and Special Protection Area designations), nearby settlements and justifying the need to extract an available and viable minerals deposit which outcrops in a particular location.  Potential objectors may say why here, why not somewhere else? Faced with exhaustion of their present minerals reserve, Johnsons Wellfield identified a new 24 ha extraction area located nearby, and secured the ownership rights to it. The Crosland Moor site offered a proven resource of a million tonnes of ashlar block, capable of sustaining Johnsons Wellfield’s needs over the next 20 years. The challenge was to design a scheme which met policy considerations particularly given its countryside location, on an unallocated site within the Green Belt.   A team experienced in preparing minerals planning applications was assembled by Lichfields to address the sensitivities presented by the proposal, not least: the proximity of the neighbouring settlement and conservation area of South Crosland; the upland landscape context; and biodiversity interests. Taking on board feedback from a community consultation event, a number of options for the development were considered through the process of environmental impact assessment and a scheme was designed which incorporated mitigation measures, thereby  minimising potential impacts from arising from the extraction of stone and site restoration. Such measures include: the restriction of hours of working; the implementation of  dust suppression measures and the application of noise controls to mobile plant used in the extraction process. An important design consideration was to ensure that the supply of ground water serving historic water troughs and spring-fed domestic water supplies located in the local area were not affected by the proposed development. The design of the scheme of phased extraction, screen bunding and restoration, together with state-of-the-art operational controls and the restriction of associated heavy goods vehicles movements mean that the operation will be low key in operation and will result in biodiversity enhancement throughout and beyond the restoration phases. Whilst the proposal was to return the site back to productive upland farmland following the completion of extraction and restoration, the statutory authorities required the inclusion of meaningful biodiversity enhancement within the scheme. Within the scheme, this takes the form of provision of habitat for hare and the creation of a wet scrape which will be of value to invertebrates. The site will ultimately be restored back to agricultural pasture in this countryside location, employing the existing configuration of drystone walling and gating, suitable for onward sale for farming in perpetuity.  An undertaking to create a new public footpath across the restored site will add much needed connectivity to the local network.  Extract from the Scheme of Phased Extraction The proposal has now been determined positively by the Kirklees Strategic Planning Committee,  with members having balanced the level of public support for the scheme (which reflected the need for the continued local employment of a skilled workforce) and the significant investment in manufacturing technology and the local economy coupled with concerns over the potential impacts of minerals extraction such as traffic, dust and noise over the permitted term. Development is due to commence on-site in 2019, following the discharge of pre-commencement planning conditions and the completion of working at Johnsons Wellfields existing minerals operation which the Crosland Moor site will replace. Lichfields provides: planning; technical team coordination; environmental impact assessment; economics and community engagement services to the project. [1] https://www.johnsons-wellfield.co.uk/

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