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t took 18 months to develop but waste management contractor, McGrath, believes it has been worth the wait - the world’s first report that calculates the carbon emissions generated during the waste management process. In December waste contractor, the McGrath Group launched a new waste reporting system which provides clients with data on the CO2 emitted during collection and recycling of their wastes. It is believed to be the first in the world to be compatible with Scope 3 Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reporting. Since October 2013 all UK quoted companies have been required to report on their greenhouse gas emissions as part of their annual Directors’ Report. The GHG Protocol defines three scopes of emissions: Scope one, direct emissions from in-house sources for example, owned or controlled boilers, furnaces and vehicles. Scope two accounts for emissions from the generation of purchased electricity. Scope three is the optional reporting category which allows for the treatment of all other indirect emissions such as third party deliveries, business travel activities and use of sold products and services. Waste management which is carried out by a third party falls under Scope 3.

Although Scope 3 reporting remains voluntary for all types and sizes of organisation, many are taking a lead and seeking ways to gather data to report their Scope 3 emissions. The public sector is leading the way in Scope 3 reporting with a number of Local Authorities volunteering to submit their indirect emission as well as several higher educational establishments such as the Universities of Leeds and Warwick. Tim Pryce, Head of Public Sector at the

Carbon Trust, said: “While we would always recommend that public sector bodies focus on Scope 1 and 2 emissions first, as they are easiest to measure and control, measuring a Scope 3 carbon footprint can be an enlightening experience. Going through the process can help to highlight inefficiency

in supply and value chains, identifying key areas for improvement and, crucially, saving money. “A focus on quantifying carbon beyond your own boundaries does more than just help an organisation to reduce its own emissions and energy costs. The public sector often has an important role to play in driving sustainability in the wider economy. Thanks to the scale of its operations it can have an influence through procurement, policies, planning, and education. For example, we have seen a number of cases where including environmental performance indicators in procurement policies has directly led to suppliers greening their own operations, in order to stay competitive.” To respond to this burgeoning need for more accurate data on indirect emissions, the McGrath Group decided in early 2013 to research the feasibility of developing systems to gather data and report the equivalent carbon emissions generated during the waste management process and make their report Scope 3-compatible. “We asked our in-house Environmental

Team to look into the practicability of developing a methodology for calculating the energy expended during each stage of the waste process,” said Tara Donaghy, Business Director at McGrath Group, “There are basically three distinct stages involved in the collection and recycling or disposal of wastes - transport, sorting and reprocessing - so we needed to determine the energy consumption for each.”

TRANSPORT Transportation of wastes from client sites to their point of destination typically involves two journeys. Firstly from the collection site to a Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) where they are sorted into individual material streams and thence to a re-processing facility where it is processed into raw materials for the manufacture of new products. This arrangement is typical for mixed wastes and part segregated recyclables which form the vast majority of wastes generated from commercial and residential sources. Even wastes that have been pre-segregated will usually be taken first to a MRF to be inspected for quality control purposes and/ or bulked awaiting re-processing. There are of

course exceptions. Some waste materials


are taken directly from site to their ultimate destination missing out the MRF altogether: hazardous waste such as asbestos will be removed straight to a licenced landfill site. Organic wastes such as food collected on-site in special caddies will usually be taken directly to a specialist food processing facility. And some MRFs may have re-processing capabilities themselves. For example, at McGrath’s Barking MRF rubber, timber and concrete are processed on-site removing the need for a second journey. “To determine the energy expended during transportation we needed to calculate the distance travelled and fuel consumption of our vehicles,” explains Tara Donaghy, “We asked the developers of our in-house electronic waste management system to integrate a postcode application which would calculate distance based on site and destination postcodes while our environment team gathered data on the average fuel consumption of the various vehicles in our fleet.”

However, each waste consignment is not transported in isolation – to reduce the cost and environmental impact of the collection process many waste contractors typically combine several collections in one journey. To account for this McGrath made a number of assumptions based on average payloads, weight and volumes of consignments.


Determining the energy expended during the sorting phase was less problematic. Their MRF uses an integrated system in which a series of mechanical, magnetic and manual processes are combined to segregate mixed waste streams into individual discrete material types. Mixed waste consignments typically pass through the entire sorting system while others, such as pre-segregated items, may just require one or two of the sorting processes. Each waste type was assigned a combination of sorting processes and using in-house and published sources it was possible to calculate average energy consumption of each consignment.

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