Recycling, use a carrot, not a stick

Over the last few years the level of recycling has certainly increased, unfortunately alongside ever more controversy over the bullying from local councils. It seems that there is a perception that the only way to get people to recycle is by implementing ever more rules and laws and higher fines, innovation and latteral thinking don’t seem to be applicable to local councils.

Here’s a simple alternative, remember you read it here first.

All my waste is valuable. It can be used as biomass for energy production, metals and various plastics for recycling, food and garden waste for composting. Even the waste from my toilet is extracted at the sewage treatment works, sold to farmers and spread on fields – actually there is a shortage!

Realistically, the thing that makes all this watse valuable is sorting. The more sorted it is, the better and the higher the value (the council doesn’t have to sort it).

An indication of the value of this waste is that local clubs will make money from paper, though there has been a glut. I have frequent visits from ‘scrappies’,  “any scrap metal” old car batteries are also wanted. Actually I keep all my old cans and make an annual trip to the scrap yard and sell them.

So, where am I going with this?

Lets get over the rigid, boring, council recycling regime and turn the whole thing on its head and start buying peoples rubbish off them.

If there is enough money and organisation in council’s to manage chips in wheely bins and weighing, and fines and frightening little old ladies and all that goes with that, equally the same can be applied to checking, weighing and paying for recycled materials from the home owner.

How to ensure the recycled materials (no longer waste) are fit for recycling?  Simple, apply the sale of goods act, after all, I as a householder am selling this material, it is not being thrown away. I now have a real incentive to sort my waste and ensure it has a value.

Not only do I have an immediate and quantifiable benefit in that I get paid, but also that my council tax has the potential to go down. 

If I do it, so will my neighbours and who then can complain about an interfering council, there are no losers, lots of winners!

More Plymouth household waste is rejected for recycling

Government to rule out ‘pay as you throw’ waste charge


Wasted Wood

One of the websites that I maintain is This is a log of all the major renewable energy projects in the UK, generally anything over 1Mw. One area I cover is biomass, I see projects that will result in millions of tonnes of wood being shipped to the UK to be burnt. 

While biomass is certainly renewable energy in that it has a sort of closed loop, trees grow, they get cut, burnt, more trees grow and suck the CO2 out of the air to be burnt again. I do wonder if lareg swathes of forest are being cut down and burnt to allow for fast growing plantations that disturb the soil and overall release far more CO2 than will ever be saved using the biomass ‘loop’.

While developing these huge schemes, chopping down and shipping forests across the Atlantic we are in the meantime ignoring huge volumes of biomass that is burnt as waste.

Ever seen a tree culled from the roadside? That tree is effectively the same wood as is being shipped across the Atlantic, but rather than being used as free fuel, it will be classed as a waste product and must be disposed of. Out in rural areas most likley on a semi legal bonfire, it might end up as landfill at best it is chipped and used as compost.

While we can’t power Britain by using offcusts from the hedge rows, surely we can divert the wood into the biomass fuel cycle and give it a use and value rather than treating it as a waste product  which has a cost.

Too difficult? Not at all, just a function of organisation and management. I can envisage a series of waste wood yards collecting biomass. Define what consitutes biomass and pay for it. Not so much that we have thieves stealing wood, but enough to cover the legitimate users fuel costs in getting it there.  The biomass plants can then have a single local source of fuel to augment their existing supplies.