Sunday, 27 December 2015

Recycling going DOOOOOWWWNNN !

Waste is a major issue across the UK, across Europe and beyond as globally we fight to save natural resources via recycling and composting. Europe has set a 2020 recycling target of 50% and is about to set an increased target of 65% by 2030 as part of its circular economy package. Here in Derby UK the city council joined forces with Derbyshire County Council to set a 2020 recycling target of 55% although it isn't clear if the councils will meet that target. For their part in this Derby City is consistently failing to boost recycling by removing the free garden waste collection and now removing blue bin recycling from areas of the city which has led to a dramatic decline in the recycling rate for the city which you can read more about here  .
The graph below shows the recycling rate for Derby UK since 2005/6 -
Reaching a high of 48% in 2010/11 the cities recycling rate entered a steady decline before falling an impressive 9% once recycling restrictions were put in place. This places Derby recycling back to pre 2007/8 rates. Lets Recycle magazine are now reporting that the recycling rate in Derby fell faster in 2014/15 than any other council in England ! You can read more about it here !
The council really has managed to turn its recycling rate around because god forbid for them they were almost getting pretty good at it before someone realised with a waste incineration contract to be provided for recycling didn't really sit comfortably with such projects due to the requirement to procure waste to feed the beast.
The councils poor attempt to turn round the recycling by providing bring sites for the communities recycling was removed from has simply led to the development of fly tipping hubs
Even when people try and recycle at the bring sites they are restricted by the small opening for materials to be put in - meaning larger material such as cardboard boxes get dumped around the facility - which then attracts any amount of non recyclable waste.
Derby has a recycling target! when will the council wake up to this?

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

FOI - Freedom Of Information or Fear Of Informing the public

Freedom of information often known as FOI is currently a commonly used method of finding out aspects of your local councils business. We as council tax payers have a right to know what our taxes are being spent on.
It was with this in mind having noted recently that Derby City Council was facing charges from its recycler Biffa for contamination (which previously was not the case) that I set about requesting a copy of the contracts linked to the blue bin recycling scheme which I thought was a simple thing to do and expected few problems.
I asked for the following-

a copy of all current contracts relating to the blue bin material collected and its onward treatment - ie BIFFA etc.

The council had 20 working days to provide the requested information and I sat back and waited.
This is when the council started to play hard to get because on day 18 they decided they didn't know which contract I wanted and asked me to clarify this for them - I concluded this was a delaying tactic and so lodged a formal complaint - and clarified which contract I was interested in when responding to the councils FOI dept.
They then wheeled out another excuse to delay issuing what is only a contract linked to some recycling ! this time they said the following -
"In accordance with the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 - Regulation 7, Question 1 due to the volume and complexity of the request , we will need to extend the period to respond from 20 to 40 working days.  The revised deadline for our response is 21 October 2015."
So they had managed to stretch their response time to 40 days! what were they trying to hide!
Finally they gave their response - and it wasn't good news ! they partly declined to answer my requests siting commercial interests.
They said the following

"Your request has now been considered and part of the information you have requested in Question 1 is covered by an exemption under Freedom of Information.  We have attached part of the information however, in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 this part of the email acts as a part Refusal Notice.
The exemption applied is Section 43 – Commercial Interests  
We have applied this exemption because detailed costs cannot be disclosed as this would prejudice the commercial interests of both the Council and third parties.
Disclosure of this information would compromise future tenders and the cost of providing this service in the future could increase, as a result. Also, third parties could be commercially disadvantaged if their detailed pricing information was in the public domain.   
On balance we feel that the potential prejudice to the commercial interests of the Council and the other parties in disclosing this information outweighs the public interest in making it available in the public domain. It is therefore, not considered in the public interest to release this information because the cost of providing this service could increase in the future which could affect public services provided by the Council."

Now what struck me straight away was that this was a contract processing my rubbish using my money and I had a right to the facts. I already view the councils accounts so would know many of the facts they were looking to withhold.
So what did they do? well they issued a few documents relating to the processing of recyclables but then redacted large parts of the most recent correspondence between the council and Biffa - as shown below.

As you can see not only did they redact figures in the letter - which incidentally was relating to the contracts extension but also redacted whole paragraphs - so it wasn't possible to even work out what was being redacted.
These things are sent to try us but it is our right to know so there was only one thing to do - make an appeal to the council about the redaction.
If you make an FOI on a subject don't just accept the first result - they don't want to tell you their secrets so will try and fudge you with a redaction so set out why you should be issued a full copy of what you have asked for. In my case in the end I was successful when the Principal Information Governance Officer at Derby City Council found in my favour.
So what were they trying to hide? nothing more it would appear than the fact the more recycling that goes into the blue bin the less the council - and so us as residents pay via our taxes!
You would think this would be exactly what the council SHOULD be promoting to its residents - to inspire residents to recycle more but instead it hides the facts from the public by redacting aspects of the contract!
The unredacted letter appears below -

Why do the council fear telling the public the truth ! why do they fear FOI !



Monday, 19 October 2015

NO ! please don't pay us !

CUTS ! CUTS! CUTS! that's all we hear about in Derby UK from the council and the leader Ranjit Banwait. Service after service is being cut and jobs and pay are being reviewed!
The latest example being here
With this in mind you would expect the council to generate income from buildings and sites it owns in the city to help fight these cuts ! well it would make common sense wouldn't it ?
Well you would think it would but then this is Derby City Council we are talking about which is why we learnt in recent weeks after I put a question to the council at a recent Full Council meeting that the council is not being paid any rent for the use of the Sinfin Tannery site as a construction site for the controversial Sinfin waste incineration plant. The site comprising 4.2 hectares of land sited next to Sinfin Lane in Sinfin, Derby will be used by Resource Recovery Solutions - a Shanks / Interserve company for more than two decades to process and burn via a gasification process the waste of Derby and Derbyshire.

On 16th September 2015 I asked the following at the Derby City Council Full Council meeting.

"Question from Simon Bacon to Councillor Rawson 
At a recent Blagreaves Forum Councillor Banwait suggested the council lacked property that it could generate income from to help in these times of financial hardship. The city council is owner of the Sinfin Tannery site on Sinfin Lane which is now in use as a building site for the joint waste management contract.  
Please confirm how much the Council is being paid yearly since work started for use of the site?"

The council response - given by Councillor Martin Rawson came as something of a surprise !
"The Council is not seeking to generate an income from this site; we are building a waste processing centre on it with our partners.  The facility will provide a sustainable way of dealing with the residual waste produced by the City and parts of the County."

So while we have the leader of the city council claiming we lacked property to generate income we gift a valuable parcel of land to others !

The deal Derby residents are getting is as raw as an uncooked sausage !


Tuesday, 18 August 2015

The council that paid to fight itself! yep thats Derby for you!

Level playing fields tend to be fair! as a resident you have faith when something is fair! but then this is Derby UK where the playing fields are not level and very unfair!
Back in 2008/9 the councils of Derby and Derbyshire came together to set up a joint waste contract with a waste incineration plant at its core and as part of this a contract was put in place where the councils agreed to pay planning costs of the selected developer above an agreed appeal contingency fund. It soon started to raise campaigners eyebrows when a copy of the contract was issued to us - but the redactors pen had been out in force and the appeal contingency fund figure was redacted - as shown below!
This left us all smelling a big fat rat which really I guess we should not have been surprised about!
It was only a number of months later when we came across an un redacted copy of the contract that we found out the reality was that the little black smudge was hiding a BIG FAT ZERO ! the fund was nothing! as can be seen below.
The waste contract itself even states how the developer will pay up to the limit of the contingency fund with the councils paying 90% beyond it even though the fund was ZERO. As that figure was redacted it could be concluded that the councils and their contractor was looking to deceive the public by making such a claim in the contract while hiding the facts from the public. The contract states as follows. - " 9.4 Appeal Contingency
9.4.1 The Contractor will bear all costs of any Proceedings (including, for the avoidance of doubt, the costs of obtaining any Leading Counsel's opinion under clause 9.3) up to the limit of the Appeal Contingency following which the Councils shall indemnify the Contractor for nine tenths of all amounts reasonably and prudently spent or contracted to be spent in excess of the Appeal Contingency in the proper and diligent conduct of the Proceedings provided that:"
Now why would councils spending tax payers money agree to such terms? further why would Derby City Council as planning authority agree to something that potentially puts their planning committee at odds with the proposal - and so condemn the council and so its tax payers to pay costs to fight itself!
Back in April 2013 the local newspaper the Derby Telegraph ran a story suggesting the council faced costs of £1.2 million from the legal battles over the waste incineration plant - this story can be read here and it was this story sat at the back of my mind that led to me making a Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request in recent months in relation to the claimed costs.
The result of my FOI request showed that actually the claim that costs would be £1.2 million were wide of the mark but nobody had attempted to set the record straight until I made the FOI. The response from the councils FOI dept was as follows.

Total figure for the 1st and 2nd inquiries of £838, 198, which is made up as follows:-


  • Agreed contribution and settlement costs paid to RRS = £725,943
  • Internal City Council costs = £112,255; made up of:-
    • Staff costs = £11,859
    • Hire of rooms = £15,526
    • Legal costs,(to No.5 Chambers) = £84,870
So from the FOI we can see that while the council spent less than £85,000 on its actual legal case - to defend its own planning committee and in total less than £113,000 including staffing and room hire it blew £725,943 paying the costs of the developer.
How can a council - a public body such as Derby City Council sign a contract which places the developer in a win win situation where what ever the outcome the residents of Derby lose out !
A prime example of an uneven playing field!





Sunday, 14 June 2015

Fifty shades of greenwash !

When you think of a green investment bank you think of err a bank that is green that invests in green energy such as wind, solar and tidal power or innovative waste recycling technology. You don't think of a green bank investing in waste incineration which in many cases sits at the bottom of the waste hierarchy!
that is exactly the case playing out here in Derby UK where the UK Green Investment Bank are funding an ENERGOS waste incineration plant being constructed in an area of poor health in the city and a plant subject to mass objection by local people across not one but two public inquiries. The project is defined as an incineration plant as covered in my previous blog post
Funding to the tune of £64 MILLION has been secured by the developer SHANKS from the UK Green Investment Bank - often referred to as GIB for their project to burn the waste of Derby and Derbyshire.
What was exposed at the 2nd public inquiry into the Sinfin Lane project was that in its standard electricity only mode the plant would fail to meet the requirements of the R1 formula - which is a test of plant efficiency and by failing to meet the R1 standard the plant would be classed as a D10 disposal plant which sits in the disposal section of the waste hierarchy - or to give it its other name - the bottom of the hierarchy. SHANKS the company proposing the plants construction as part of a long term waste deal to dispose of the waste of Derby and Derbyshire have never put forward a customer for the large volume of heat and steam that the plant will generate as a bi-product of its disposal process.
The Green Investment Bank were quick to trumpet their funding proposal in a press release in August 2014 talking of a plant that would recycle 35,000 tonnes of materials and divert 170,000 tonnes from landfill of the 190,000 tonnes the plant will accept yearly. The 35,000 tonnes of materials recycled is at odds with the claimed recycling rate for the plant and must include the bottom ash being used in construction to get anywhere near that claimed by GIB and in relation to landfill diversion a percentage of the tonnage weight will be lost by natural drying processes which could be attained by pre treatment before landfill.
GIB also refer to the remaining waste being used to generate renewable energy in a statement by Shaun Kingsbury who is the chief executive of GIB. The elephant in the room with such a statement is that the GIB's own website defines such energy as coming from biogenic material but in the case of the Sinfin, Derby plant the mixed waste cannot be considered fully biogenic - because it contains plastics and other none biogenic feedstock. That's before we even consider if burning biogenic material is actually renewable! can it be if we have no control in relation to the replacement of such biogenic materials?
Further to this by providing funding for the Derby waste incineration plant GIB are supporting the burning of waste that could be recycled because the councils have signed up to a contract requiring them to procure waste of specific forms including tonnage, calorific, biodegradable and moisture content.
The Green Investment Bank has been challenged on a number of their claims - talk about fifty shades of green !
I await their reply !


Friday, 3 April 2015

Burn baby burn !

One of the biggest myths in waste management is that the new Advanced Thermal Treatment (ATT) plants are not incineration plants! Time and again when these new plants are wheeled out by councils and developers we are told they are clean, green AND NOT INCINERATION !
Developers put forward exotic names for the processes they are trying to peddle like GASIFICATION or PYROLYSIS and they claim their processes do not burn wastes but heat them producing syngas which is then used for power generation.
While standard mass burn incineration burns waste in an oxygen rich environment developers peddling their alternatives often use controlled levels of air / oxygen and in some cases no oxygen in what they consider to be a more controlled process. These processes are now being pushed across the UK and in recent years a number of proposals have been put forward for Derby and Derbyshire.
Councils and developers when attempting to gain planning permission favour using terms such as gasification and pyrolysis because by doing so it keeps the word incineration out of the public eye because when rumbled councils and developers come up against stiff opposition.
Such processes are claimed to be clean and green and at times even those who object to waste incineration plants are fooling into thinking such plants are a better alternative to mass burn incineration and this extends to government who now offer subsidies for electricity produced by Advanced Thermal Treatment plants. The elephant in the room is that mass burn, gasification and pyrolysis are ALL incineration plants because no matter if its a throw it in and burn it plant or a plant that produces syngas via controlled processes when the gas is burnt its an incineration plant.
We know this because Europe have defined what constitutes an incineration plant in the waste incineration directive - often known as WID.  This set of regulations sets out the description of such plants, their control and the expected emissions standard for the plant.

So while up and down the country the same argument can be heard at waste gasification plant public consultations about the proposals not being incineration councils and developers cannot escape facts ! and the facts are EUROPE SAYS THESE PLANTS ARE INCINERATION PLANTS! So that is what they are!


Sunday, 8 March 2015

Bins on streets - Section 46 can help !

One of the most important waste related things we all need as residents is a successful waste disposal system that manages waste sustainably. A disposal system needs to be easy to understand and simple to take part in when we as residents are expected to recycle our waste - as we should do. We create the waste so it is only right that we dispose of it safely and correctly. The trouble is some of us either don't understand the process of waste disposal - recycling being a prime example or we don't want to take part at all - we just like to consume and dump, consume and dump day in day out.
If people don't understand the concept of recycling or simply don't care this can cause a number of issues. It can lead to bins being left unemptied if they contain items that should not be there. It can lead to lower value recyclate being gathered which may not impact on our council at first but long term can impact on values nationally and any falling price in recycling is a bad place to be because in the end that fall in prices finds its way back to the council via higher gate fees etc.

Where bins are left on streets - be it a contaminated recycling bin, an empty recycling bin or simply just a residual waste bin this situation drags a community down. A street full of bins degrades a community causing a blight by blocking pavements, attracting side waste and fly tipping, all aspects we don't want to experience as residents in our community. This is a very common issue in Derby in a number of wards including Normanton, Arboretum and Abbey to name just three. Sometimes residents have legitimate reasons for leaving bins on the streets such as lack of access to a rear garden. Sometimes the street is the only place for the bin in such cases but the council needs to confirm this is actually the case and not simply a lazy excuse. The council should also work to address access issues where possible - for example by clearing blocked alleyways or reviewing issues such as rights of access issues where a resident has blocked the ability of others to access properties from the rear by building fencing or planting hedging.
There is one government act known as the Environmental Protection Act 1990 which gives councils the power if they choose to make residents remove bins from the street outside set collection periods. Section 46 of the act which focuses on household waste collection gives councils the power to set out times when it is acceptable to place bins on the street and allows for action to be taken if bins are in place outside this period. For Some reason Derby City Council are not using that ability and so the streets of Normanton, Arboretum, Abbey, Mackworth and other wards are left with streets full of bins which leads to recycling bin contamination and fly tipping.
Is there a political will in Derby to use such powers or do those in power favour a cluttered street scene over making the electorate take responsibility for their waste disposal bins.


Saturday, 21 February 2015

Demolition Derby comes to Sinfin Lane.

Housing who needs housing eh ! Shanks Waste certainly don't having applied recently to knock down 1-5 Railway Cottages on Sinfin Lane in Derby. These cottages until recently were the nearest neighbour to the controversial waste incineration plant Shanks Waste and Interserve are building on the Sinfin Tannery site in the Sinfin area of Derby. After a lengthy battle to stop this proposal including two public inquiries and various legal challenges planning was granted and construction has started. In the late Autumn of 2014 the residents living in these homes got a nasty surprise when their landlord terminated their leases on the homes leading to them being forced from their homes in the run up to Christmas. Shanks Waste trying to smooth things over said they purchased with vacant possession - well yes because the previous landlord shoved them out in the run up to Christmas - such festive spirit!
Having paid £390,000 for the properties as a whole Shanks waste would not say why they wanted to buy them - they had never been earmarked in public as forming part of the site before so what was the reasoning! They claimed in an article in the Derby Telegraph that it was to allow flexibility and efficiency but they had no definite plans for the land. You can read more here
So we have a waste disposal company who can afford to spend close to £400,000 on a group of properties to then simply knock them down while there is a large city wide housing waiting list where people are crying out for homes.
As the waste incineration plant is being built on council land and is part of a 25 year waste disposal deal between Derby City and Derbyshire County Council it is quite clear who is paying bills for this proposal - Council Tax payers !
Update on 07th Oct 2015
This is how Shanks treats its neighbours - buy up the houses forcing the residents out and knock em down !

Monday, 2 February 2015

Educating Derby on rubbish is err RUBBISH!

With the current state of the streets in areas of Derby blighted by fly tipped waste, in the image below it's recyclable waste dumped on Middleton Street, Normanton

 recycling bins being removed because of claims that residents don't use them correctly which has been questioned on this blog before due to a lack of evidence and then the dire spiral downwards of the cities recycling rate from a high of 48% to a new predicted low of 32% covered in this previous blog post . It would seem a simple no brainer to spend a healthy amount of the councils waste budget on waste minimisation and education.
Sadly this is not the case as a recent FOI request on the subject put into Derby City Council after I viewed the councils accounts highlighted that in total the council was spending less than £50,000 on waste minimisation and education while paying Resource Recovery Solutions - RRS (a Shanks waste company) over £8.66 million for disposal of waste and operation of the Raynesway HWRC site. Of that £8.66 million less than £34,000 was paid to RRS for minimisation and education and when added to the spend from outside of the waste contract the figure was less than £50,000.
It struck me why are we paying a waste contractor over £8 million to handle waste - much of which will end up landfilled or incinerated via a contract which cost in 2013/14 £118 per tonne when the alternatives being reduction, reuse and recycling cost £10 per tonne or less! The council keep telling us they have no money due to government cuts but they are actually preferring to handle waste via its most expensive route.
Come on its a no brainer isn't it ? every tonne extra recycled costing the council £10 or reduced - costing the council nothing is a tonne the council isn't paying £118 a tonne to dispose of.
On 28th January I went to the Full Council meeting at Derby City Council to put a public question to the council in relation to why the council is spending so much on disposal compared to educating residents.

f. Question from Simon Bacon to Councillor Afzal 

In 2013/14 Derby City Council paid Resource Recovery Solutions - a SHANKS company £8,666,724 to handle 79,995 tonnes of the waste of Derby. Of that just £33,279 was spent on waste minimisation and education and when added to non RRS spend on waste minimisation and education of £13,984 equates to spending less than £50,000 on sustainable waste management education.   
Why is Derby City Council spending so little on waste reduction while spending so much on disposal via landfill and incineration.

The response was a fair bit of waffle about what they are going to do bla bla bla but they also set out that Household waste management costs for 2012/13 published by Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and reported by the Audit Commission, indicate that of £3.3 Billion spent nationally on household waste management, only £25.6 Million was spent of waste minimisation, which is less than 1% of the total national spend on household waste. Derby allocated around 0.5% of its 2013-14 waste spends on recycling and waste reduction initiatives. However, the national average cannot be considered an absolute target for spend and the city is satisfied it has got good value for money from the budget it has spent on educating its residents and young people in waste matters.

What the council is admitting there is that it spends less than the national average on waste education at a time when the streets are in a state, blue bin recycling is being removed and the recycling rate is spirally downwards.
As a follow up question I asked at a time when recycling is going so wrong in Derby is the council spending so little.
The answer came from the leader of the council Ranjit Banwait who indicated they couldn't spend more on waste education due to government cuts. What Councillor Banwait ignores in saying this is the saving that comes from educating residents on waste disposal becomes self financing due to the gulf between recycling costing £10 and residual disposal costing £118 - every tonne diverted via education saves £108 !
Landfilling and incinerating waste is rubbish ! we should be educating residents how to dispose of their waste in the correct way leading to cleaner streets, better, higher recycling rates and reduced disposal costs -