Avoiding landfill05 December 2018

Plant items are often disposed of before reaching the end of their operational life. However, alternatives to disposal are emerging – not only selling on, but also repurposing – which help the environment as well as support community projects near the point of use

We live in a world where the pressure to become more ‘green’ grows by the day, not only for consumers but also for industry. Disposal should always be seen as the last resort after repair and reuse, but machines and equipment may no longer be needed, parts could become obsolete, and waste material can become a health and safety hazard if left lying around site.

There are a variety of rules and regulations in place to deal with industrial wastes. These include duty of care legislation (https://is.gd/gijowa), which makes provision for the safe management of waste to protect human health and the environment. This code of practice is issued under section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. It applies if you import, produce, carry, keep, treat, dispose of or, as a dealer or broker have control of, most types of waste in England or Wales. (However, it does not cover wastewater, radioactive waste or animal by-products, for example).

There are also regulations in place to reduce waste electrical and electronic equipment being incinerated or sent to landfill, by encouraging their recovery, reuse and recycling. The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations 2013 are the underpinning UK legislation (https://is.gd/icifux).

The regulations are detailed and extensive, but the basic principles are that WEEE should be processed at approved authorised treatment facilities (AATFs) and producers pay for collection and treatment. Only AATFs can issue evidence notes proving that certain amounts of WEEE have been recovered and recycled. They make reference to a number of product categories: large and small household appliances, IT equipment, consumer electronics, lighting, electrical tools, toys and leisure goods, medical devices, measurement devices such as smoke detectors and automatic dispensers as for hot drinks.

The regulations do not apply to: filament light bulbs, products for military use, components included in finished products, spare parts, products integral to equipment that is out of scope, and large-scale fixed installations that perform specific industrial operations.

The latter includes systems such as car production lines, elevators or baggage handling systems, according to a spokesman for the Environment Agency. Non-road mobile equipment for professional use is also out of scope of the WEEE Regulations.

But if excepted plant contains batteries, the battery parts would be covered by other specific rules: (https://is.gd/jeviyo).

Selling on
Over the last decade or so, the rise of the internet and other means has allowed anyone to reach a large market for selling on their unwanted goods. There are general ways for the everyday person to sell – the most popular being eBay. As an alternative, a site operating without a profit motive is Freecycle, (www.freecycle.org), a grassroots movement of people donating spare and surplus goods to others in their local area.

For industry, there are usually sector specific websites, journals and associations that can aid in the selling of equipment and assets.

One example is used machine tool magazine Machinery Classified. Editor Andrew Allcock states: “Manufacturers with equipment for disposal are likely to dispose of it via a used equipment dealer trade network, in this case the European Association of Machine Tool Merchants, or directly through industrial equipment magazines, such as Machinery Classified.

“As a bare minimum, there is scrap value to be had from old, metal-based industrial equipment and there are many salvage dealers around the world, including in the UK, who deal in this trade.”

Recycling & reusing
We all know what recycling is. It’s the process of converting waste materials into new materials and objects and an alternative to conventional waste disposal. Recycling can prevent the waste of potentially useful materials and reduce the consumption of fresh raw materials, thereby reducing energy usage, as well as air and water pollution.

There are a variety of industrial waste handling facilities across the UK that aim to achieve this very objective. In fact, Scotland’s first fully-functioning battery recycling plant has recently extended its dismantling lines to prepare for the disassembly of Li-ion electric vehicle batteries.

Jeff Bormann, managing director of Belmont Trading UK, explains: “Elements within these batteries such as cobalt and nickel are valuable, so it is economically worthwhile to recycle EV batteries. Whilst this can be quite a time- and cost-consuming process, it has to be planned properly, hence our move to adapt our industrial plant to prepare for the increase in EV battery numbers.”

There are also companies that collected unwanted assets for recycling and reuse. One common example is the wooden pallet – often used to hold raw material and products that are shipped in and out of site.

In fact, a total of 42.5 million new pallets were produced in the UK in 2016, and 41.4 million were repaired, according to the Timber Packaging and Pallet Confederation and the Forestry Commission.

PH Pallets, a Manchester-based pallet company, is one example among many. As well as manufacturing new wooden pallets, the firm also supplies used and reconditioned pallets, while offering pallet recycling, repairs, collection, purchasing and rebuilding.

Donating & upcycling

Fujifilm Speciality Ink Systems, a manufacturer of inkjet ink in Broadstairs, Kent, uses around 15,000 wooden pallets, annually, across its operation. Historically, any pallets unable to be repaired or reused were sent for shredding at a local waste contractor, but this carried a direct cost to the business, and was viewed as a missed opportunity for recycling.

The company, therefore, identified a number of initiatives to recycle and reuse the pallets, as plant manager Gary Burgess explains: “One simple initiative was returning pallets to the supplier, but we also wanted to be able to assist the local community. We now donate clean pallets to local schools, charities and allotments. The innovative ideas they have come up with for our pallets have included furniture, compost bins, and one local farmer uses our pallets to take his harvest to market.”

Another community-level initiative is Wood Saints, which is the latest venture from All Saints Action Network (ASAN). The project is looking to take unwanted wood heading for landfill, from pallets and scaffolding boards to off cuts and floorboards, andcreate new products, or recycle it into useable material, such as kindling.

The project is also inviting construction, distribution and manufacturing firms in the Black Country and Shropshire to save money and boost their social responsibility by signing up to its collection service.

These are just some examples of what industrial companies can do to reduce their landfill input. There are a variety of options, but it is important that anyone looking to develop new practices seeks out legal help and checks what regulations apply. We all have a duty to protect the planet and finding alternatives to disposal is a step into the right direction.

BOX OUT: Recycling benefits go beyond the environment
A partnership between Amey, Recycling Lives and HMP Dovegate is giving offenders the opportunity to develop work skills –as they recycle TVs from Amey’s Household Waste Recycling Centres.

The partnership has seen a dedicated recycling academy set up within the prison, where up to 40 offenders are stripping out glass, plastics, circuit boards and wiring from the televisions. Once the parts have been extracted, they will go to Recycling Lives’ Recycling Park in Preston, before going to the global commodities market for processing into new products.

The HMP Academies programme is operational in 10 UK prisons, and helps to reduce reoffending through training and work both pre- and post-release.

Adam Offord

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Fujifilm Speciality Ink Systems Ltd
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