Tag: clean

Burnt recycling

Whilst waiting for my first recycling collection of the year — the snowy weather has lead to the cancellation of the previous two — I’ve been browsing through Swindon Borough Council’s cabinet paper on plans for incinerating cooking Swindon’s rubbish. I couldn’t help but notice that rather a lot of what is sent for recycling seems not to be recycled.

The principal risk is how it deals with household waste, however, there is evidence that it will at least manage the residual waste from the Recycling Centre…. To fully manage our entire waste stream, an additional two units, on top of the three funded through this case, are required.

That rather reads as though the majority of the first two units will be used to burn leftovers from recycling. With 50% of Swindon’s rubbish actually being recycled, just how much more than that 50% is having to be weeded out? And given the oft claimed high quality of Swindon’s recyclables, just how little of what people elsewhere think they’re recycling is actually going to landfill?

Fly-tipping spin

If Mr Palacio of Swindon Borough Council is to be believed, the increase in fly-tipping in Swindon is because his team is doing more to clear it away.

Richard Palacio, Swindon Council’s environmental enforcement manager, said the increased number of reports of flytipping was down to extra resources being deployed by the council to combat the problem.

That’s as logical as the streets and alleyways of central Swindon are clean. The statistics announced by Defra show an increase in enforcement by councils across the country, not just in Swindon, yet there has been an 8% increase in recorded fly-tipping in Swindon, compared with a 9% decrease nationally.

Either Mr Palacio’s team are highly ineffective, or he’s talking rubbish in more ways than one.

Recycled disorganisation

Less than two weeks before a change to their recycling service, Swindon Borough Council has only just started to publicise the change. A story in the Adver tells us of the change.

The move is in response to residents’ irritation that only plastic bottles can be collected as part of the council’s recycling process. But from July 1 yoghurt pots, margarine tubs, take-away containers and much more can all be bagged up for the council to collect…. The only plastic that cannot be collected under the new scheme is black plastic because it cannot be separated from other colours by the waste processors the rubbish is sent to.

Residents are asked to put their mixed plastics into clear or white plastic sacks which can be bought at supermarkets. They can also use the council’s clear bags for plastic bottles, although no more will be delivered.

The new collection will be on the same day as residents’ wheelie bin collections. For those on weekly blue bag collections it will be the same day as the green waste and plastic bottle collections.

I wouldn’t usually quote at such length, but at the moment this is the only information we have on the change. In its very limited wisdom, the council has not yet put any information about the change on its website. If the council really wants people to recycle more, they need to make rather more effort to publicise these changes. It seems they’ve learnt nothing from the farcical publicity that accompanied the introduction of wheelie bins and weekly recycling collections.

A high-tech bonfire

A company planning to build an incinerator a wood-burning energy generator at Park Grounds Farm near Wootton Bassett would like people to believe it is something better than an incinerator. According to Mr Overfield, the chief executive of Purepower Holdings, it’s much more high-tech than that.

This is certainly not an incinerator. An incinerator is basically a glorified bonfire, whereas this is a piece of advanced technology that can transform the wood brought to the site into enough energy to power 5,000 homes.

So in what way is this different from an incinerator. Again, according to Mr Overfield, it’s advanced!

This is advanced conversion technology, which basically sees the wood heated up to 1,000 degrees. The wood becomes a gas and we put that gas into an engine that uses that as a fuel to power generators.

Hmm…. Perhaps Mr Overfield should have a word with the people at SITA UK ltd who know a thing or two about incinerators, having plans of their own for ‘Energy-from-Waste’ facilities. Here’s the SITA description of their process.

Inside the furnace, a series of grate bars move the waste through the furnace where it is dried and burned at temperatures of around 1000 °C. Burning waste in the furnace creates 2 different materials:

  • Hot flue gas – which is then used to create energy. This is known as renewable energy.
  • Incinerator Bottom Ash – which can be used in construction.

That’s an incinerator producing gas at 1000 °C, unlike Purepower’s ‘Advanced Conversion Technology’, which is something-too-high-tech-to-be-called-an-incinerator creating gas at 1000 °C. If you’re not convinced that this is an incinerator, look at what the equipment supplier at Purepower’s other bonfire power plant project manufacture: furnaces.

incinerator noun a furnace for burning rubbish

I suspect that to Mr Overfield, something that looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and waddles like a duck, is not a duck but an advanced amphibious aeronautic organism.

Cleaning up

It’s all very well Mr Wright suggesting that local Police Community Support Officers be given the power to give fixed penalties to dog owners who don’t clean-up their dog’s excrement, but the PCSOs are already fully stretched and have other important priorities, such as drugs and other anti-social behaviour. If forced to make a choice, which we are, I’d rather they were dealing with those issues.

I’m also not convinced by Mr Wright’s view that it’s a serious problem in the Railway Village. In Faringdon Road Park, yes, but not the Railway Village. And at the time when most of the dog walkers are around, early morning and early evening, I’ve not once seen a PCSO in the area… but I have seen most, though not all, dog owners cleaning-up after their pets.

Not quite found her vocation

I see that Ms Snelgrove has been assisting her red nest colleagues in tidying my local area. The reasons given are all very laudable. Ms Snelgrove:

The problem is that litter attracts more litter. We want to make sure the canal walk is free from litter and we think it is part of our civic duty. We want to set an example and help keep Swindon a lovely place to live.

Mr Montaut:

We want to make the public aware that communities need to work together to keep areas clean. The cost of cleaning waste is high and there needs to be a cycle of change to keep areas clean.

Mr Wright:

We can all do a small part to help put things right. It is as simple as that.

All good stuff and nothing anyone could disagree with… except I’m not sure it is quite so simple. Canal Walk is one of the better maintained parts of Westcott, with regular visits from the council’s cleaners. If their intention was to encourage the community to keep the area clean, why so little publicity in advance of Saturday’s outing? Were they frightened of being joined by members of the public other than party activists? And if she regards it as part of her ‘civic duty’, can we expect to see Ms Snelgrove back cleaning the streets when the cameras aren’t around?

If they really wanted to make an impression on the area, rather than seeking a photo opportunity, their time would have been much better spent encouraging those whose garages face onto Canal Walk to take up the council’s offer of cleaning off the graffiti that defaces Canal Walk to a much greater extent than litter ever does.

Not so smart

I’m a little puzzled about what the significance of Swindon Borough Council’s StreetSmart initiative really is. The puff for it in the Adver gives the impression of a great coming together of services: parts of two departments merged into one.

Until now, the services grouped under the StreetSmart banner operated separately in two council directorates – transport and environment and leisure.

As far as I can tell, they still do. What’s changed, according to the StreetSmart page on the council’s website, are the arrangements for contacting some of them.

StreetSmart brings together, under the StreetSmart team at the Swindon Direct Contact Centre, all the services which keep the Borough’s streets and open spaces looking tidy and well tended. It also provides just one point of contact for those services

So that’s a bit more co-ordination of the teams, a lot of rebranding — addresses and titles of pages on the website renamed to include the new brand and a main page with a pretty little logo at the bottom and a not-so-pretty logo at the top — but still two separate departments. And if it’s taken this initiative to provide a single contact number for these services, just what has Swindon Direct been doing since its creation earlier this year?

Swindon Direct was meant to provide a single point for council services. It was already the one number you could call about all the services now covered by StreetSmart. And the ‘new’ number for StreetSmart has been in use since Swindon Direct was created, but as the direct dial number just for waste & recycling. If your problem is with car park maintenance, do you now call the StreetSmart number or the Car Parking number of Swindon Direct?

It seems the council has already recreated the problem that Swindon Direct was meant to solve.

Black is the new orange

As it wasAs it isI see that the railway village has been kitted out with new black boxes to replace the original orange recycling boxes. I presume it’s been done to reduce their visible impact in this historic area, but a pair of large black boxes are just as obvious as a pair of orange ones. As they seem to have been specially ordered for the area, I wonder if anyone considered making them a pale brown colour to better blend with the stone facades of the houses?

Freezers to replace wheelie bins

Just a week after Swindon Borough Council suggested doubling the number of plastic bags used for throwing away rubbish, we now have an even less efficient suggestion from a local resident: freeze your rubbish, then put it in your wheelie the night before collection. Ms Harris, whose idea this is, seems to be rather proud of her ‘logic’ in coming up with this idea.

I’ve done it ever since I’ve had a wheelie bin and I’ve never had maggots. It was an idea I just came up with myself. My husband says I apply logic to everything and it doesn’t always work, but this does.

It’s such a great idea, I’m thinking of buying an industrial freezer and providing, for a reasonable fee, maggot protection services to my neighbours…. On second thoughts, perhaps not. Let’s examine Ms Harris’ logic.

It’s simple. Instead of throwing away old plastic containers, that you get things like strawberries in, keep them. Put all your scrap foods and bits and bobs from your plate into the container…

That assumes you buy sufficient amounts of overpackaged food to store the scrap food in. It also assumes that the problem waste is sufficiently dry not to leak out of the container.

then put them in the corner of the freezer.

The corner of the freezer? Just how big a freezer is this? Someone cooking meals daily could easily generate more than just a ‘corner’ of waste in one fortnight. Those not doing serious cooking but reheating pre-packaged food are likely to have large amounts of bulky soiled packaging even less suitable for this treatment. And placing waste in proximity to waste: I’m sure the Health & Safety wonks would have a fit about that. Freezing significantly slows the decay process, it doesn’t totally stop it.

Anything frozen will not attract vermin or maggots or anything.

In a fortnight, true, but until it freezes you’ve got waste potentially oozing whatever contamination it already has over food in the freezer.

I’ve done it ever since I’ve had a wheelie bin and I’ve never had maggots.

There’s as much sense to that as there would be to burning all food just to avoid the risk of it being undercooked. Admittedly, the council’s own suggestion of double-wrapping rubbish is not much better.

According to Swindon Borough Council’s own figures, each week’s rubbish collection costs less than 75p per household.* Anything that costs more to prevent the maggot infestations is a step backwards in efficiency from the well-known Victorian solution to the problem.†

*Up to 1 tonne of rubbish per household per year with the cost of collection in 2004/05 (in the era of weekly collections) £38.62 per tonne.
†Yes, I know just a minority of households have suffered wheelie bin infestation, but the council’s advise is to everyone, not just the afflicted few.


What do you do if you’re worried about getting maggots in your wheelie? According to Swindon Borough Council you wrap them up well, twice.

Food waste shouldn’t be left uncovered in the house, as it can attract flies to lay eggs on it before it goes into the bin, so it’s best to place it immediately in the bin, securely and preferably double-wrapped.

So that’s the council recommending that you increase what you throw away. Rubbish will have never been so well cosseted. If as the council claim,

Wheelie bin lids, if kept tightly closed, prevent flies from getting at the contents.

why the need for double-wrapping?