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Greener Recycling

The environmental benefits of recycling are well documented but Martin McGrath of the McGrath Group explains there is much that the industry can do to enhance sustainability by cutting the carbon footprint of the recycling process itself.


s a provider of recycling services, our activities are usually a fundamental part of our clients drive to implement sustainability and a major contributor to their environmental performance. Our ability to continuously increase our recycling rates, to the point where we have now reached Zero-to-Landfill, has helped customers to achieve and report significant savings in equivalent CO2

emissions and boost their environmental credentials.

However, the discipline of achieving our own internal sustainability objectives and demonstrating continuous improvement via environmental management systems, has encouraged us to look beyond this basic indicator of performance, which we can demonstrate and achieve using our own processes and scrutinise other environmental aspects of our operational activities.

We decided to take a close look at our energy consumption. The discipline of gathering data to benchmark and baseline the McGrath Group’s carbon footprint has been revealing. Over 90 per cent of the organisation’s total energy use is accounted for by fuel for plant and transport.

As the volumes of material that we process at our Materials Recycling Facilities (MRFs) at Hackney and Barking have steadily increased over the last 3 years, our energy requirement has risen in correlation with this increased tonnage. Until and unless new, fuel-efficient technologies are introduced to

mechanically sort and re-process wastes there will continue to be limited scope for reducing our energy demands here. The same cannot be said, however, for collection and transportation of wastes from source to their final destinations. We have been able to roll-out a number of initiatives to reduce the energy required for our logistics operation. In the last two years we have introduced several techniques to reduce the number and length of journeys we make and the fuel required to power them.

By replacing one-size-fits-all solution with smarter, bespoke mix and match container and collection services which are tailored to the precise needs of each site, we have been able to significantly reduce the frequency and number of collections necessary – sometimes by up to 15 per cent while maintaining or even enhancing the level of service experienced by the client or the public.

In 2009 we introduced innovative new multi-compartment collections vehicles into our fleet. These contain three separate compartments each with its own bin-lift systems which enable us to collect and maintain the segregation of different waste streams. With careful planning we have been able to use these vehicles to consolidate several collections, which would previously have required separate journeys, into one.

Of course, an even more tangible way of reducing the fuel bill and emissions is to eliminate road journeys altogether which is what we have achieved by

replacing them with more sustainable modes of transport. In 2006 we started work to develop two wharves at our Barking MRF which is situated just north of the Barking Creek Tidal Barrier where it meets the River Thames and just a few miles downstream from Central London. A Department for Transport Freight Grant contributed to the £2 million cost of the development which now helps fulfil several of the Thames Gateway’s sustainability objectives including to be carbon neutral and deliver 50 per cent of required material for development by rail or water.

The 4.5 metre draft wharves are licensed by the Department of Transport and can accommodate 100 metre vessels. Each shipload (quantity) replaces an average of 140 lorry movements. Since the wharves opened in 2007 we have moved in excess of 300,000 tonnes of, mostly construction, material. As well as reducing the number of vehicle movements we have also been able to find ways of decreasing the length of journeys required to collect and transport wastes and recycled material. The introduction of the state-of-the-art waste management system IWS which integrates GPS tracking and route planning software has enabled us to introduce efficiencies into our existing logistics operation.

Our transport management team are able to use the systems to plan the most efficient route to and from collection sites using in-built Satellite Navigation which accounts for traffic flows and congestion with instructions relayed via radio contact. GPS also enables them to track the location of collections teams in the field and identify and instruct the nearest vehicle to carry out reactive collections. This technology has greatly enhanced our response times while reducing overall journey distances.

12 feature :: waste management & recycling Building & Facilities Management – November 2011

Waste Management & Recycling

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