Working Together - Working Towards Zero Waste

This public meeting was organised by Sheffield Friends of the Earth as part of Sheffield Environment Weeks. The aim of the meeting was to seek positives ways of improving waste management in Sheffield. Representatives of National and Regional Friends of the Earth, waste management companies, and local political parties were invited to attend and speak.

Anna Watson, waste campaigner, spoke for the national organisation, Tim Sander, regional co-ordinator, spoke for Yorkshire and Humber Friends of the Earth, Bernard Little spoke for the Green Party, and Peter Lowe spoke for CPS CiVic. The meeting was also attended by Jackie Field (Council Advisor for Waste and Recycling), Cllr Terry Barrow, Rachel Wileman (Sheffield First for the Environment), Kevin Hurst (ONYX), and Mike Doherty (Sheffield City Council).

Anna Watson, National Friends of the Earth Waste Campaigner 
Nationally Friends of the Earth are calling upon local authorities to produce a strategy aspiring towards zero waste and to aim to recycle 50% of municipal waste by 2010. They should support local schemes, such as nappy washing services and composting bins, and lead by example, by reducing, reusing and recycling council waste. Friends of the Earth estimate that 80% of municipal waste is recyclable or compostable, yet in Sheffield we are currently recycling only 5% of our waste according to the latest Audit Commission data. Daventry Council recycle 44% of their waste.

Tim Sander, Yorkshire & Humber Friends of the Earth
Yorkshire & Humber is the second poorest performing region in the country for recycling – only 10% is currently recycled. The Regional Assembly has recently consulted on a draft Waste Strategy, "Let’s take it from the tip", for managing the 3.5 million tonnes of waste produced annually in the region. This strategy may be affected by the recent decision to refuse planning permission for a new incinerator in Hull. Planning permission for a new, larger incinerator at Bernard Road in Sheffield was recently granted.

Bernard Little, Sheffield Green Party
Bath has recently become the first local authority to adopt a zero waste strategy. This has involved establishing kerbside collection of paper, compost, cardboard, glass and plastics. This shows what forward-thinking local authorities are aspiring towards

The City Council’s decision to sign a contract locking themselves into a 28-year strategy dependent upon incineration means that we are starting from a very unpromising situation. Nevertheless, the Green Party is keen to begin a constructive dialogue with Sheffield City Council and calls for the Council to establish a recycling monitoring group to oversee promotion of recycling schemes.

Tim Sander, Regional FoE Speaking at the meeting


Peter Lowe, CPS CiVic
The CiVic system is a recent innovation the can manage either segregated or unsegregated household waste. It is already established an operating in Durham. Waste is stored in a series of vats, where a process of aerobic digestion, promoted by agitation and aeration, produces a temperature of 60-70 degrees centigrade. This results in extremely rapid composting of biodegradable waste. Recyclable material, such as metals, are then removed resulting in 60% of waste being recycled after segregation. The residual waste is landfilled.
This system won the 2002 Composting Association Award for Innovation. A model of the system was displayed in the hall to demonstrate how the system works. Interested parties were invited to visit the plant in Durham.

Comments from the audience
In response to a question regarding the opportunity to comment on the Sheffield Waste Strategy, Mike Doherty suggested that this should be done by lobbying elected Councillors.

Jackie Field commented that:
Sheffield City Council had a long way to go but were committed to waste reduction and recycling.
The recycling targets were small, but the Council should achieve and exceed these targets.
Dialogue with voluntary organisations should be improved.
This process will take time and require education of people – including Councillors and Council Officers

In response to a question regarding Daventry Council’s achievements, Anna Watson replied that this was mainly through composting and public consultation, such as using questionnaires to identify barriers to recycling. Daventry welcome visitors who wish to learn from their experience.
Signing up to prevent junk mail being delivered is a good way of preventing waste.

Terry Barrow commented that:
Voluntary groups could join the Waste Management Liaison Group of Sheffield First for the Environment
Concerned members of the public should attend Area Panels to make their views known
She opposed the use of charging for excess waste as this could lead to dumping of waste in areas where the public cannot afford to pay

Kevin Hurst expressed regret that he had not offered to speak at the meeting because he could provide many examples of how ONYX were promoting positive approaches to waste management.

Unfortunately the meeting ended without formal thanks being passed on to the speakers and the representatives of organisations who attended the meeting. However, Steve Goodacre, on behalf of Sheffield Friends on the Earth, was able to pass on our gratitude to these people for giving up their time.
There was a general agreement that, despite differences of opinion regarding the position that Sheffield currently finds itself in, we need to work together to gain public support and acceptance for reducing, reusing and recycling waste.