Monday, 27 November 2017

Recycling! now is the time to give it back!

My previous blog post placed focus on the two faces of recycling in Derby UK.
On the one hand as Zero Waste Week was taking place the council was using social media to project an image of its recycling success while at the same time hundreds if not thousands of Derby residents in areas such as Normanton and Arboretum ward had had their kerbside recycling service removed a few years back. EIR / FOI data shows there are actually around 9,000 properties without a blue bin recycling service in the city. 
You can read more about the two faces of Derby recycling here-

The importance of recycling cannot be ignored - both from a sustainability aspect and a financial aspect as it is so much cheaper to recycle than to send waste to landfill or incineration.
The removal of recycling in the city was carried out for some questionable reasons in recent years and one thought is that this was an attempt to procure a feedstock for the controversial Sinfin waste gasification incineration plant in the city which is due to start operation soon.
They failed to address recycling contamination issues in those areas, left recycling bins festering for weeks if not months and then claimed contamination was a serious issue.
Contamination IS a serious issue if you do not address the issue!
The councils answer was to remove the service - quite convenient when you need to procure waste to burn!
What happened was they convinced other Derby residents that residents in the areas in question either didn't care or were to stupid to understand how to recycle!
The council was then able to sweep away the blue bin recycling service in many streets even though it was shown via FOI that they had no evidence to justify the service removal when the council targeted my own street - thankfully in my case they did not remove the service.
Replacement bring sites were put in place finally to provide some form of service for those who wanted to recycle.
What they actually did was install prime fly tip hot spots such as this one at Grove Street carpark in the Arboretum ward.

One of the saddest sights I have seen at a recycling site in recent times was a bag of plastic recyclables left at the bring site above which will have had no chance of being recycled because the bins were full and fly tipping surrounded the site.
The fact someone went to this trouble shows people care! The note on the bag says PLASTIC.

With the bring sites becoming quite a state 2-3 of the sites were removed by the council - once again condemning residents to having no recycling service.
This prompted me to put a question to the council cabinet member for waste Cllr Asaf Afzal at a recent Full Council meeting in the city regarding bring site provision. 
Question from Simon Bacon to Councillor Afzal
The city council removed the bring recycling site on Havelock Road in Normanton due to fly tip issues. This means that local residents have no ability to recycle their rubbish. When will the city council be replacing this bring site with an alternative site in that area of the community?
As you have mentioned these sites have attracted fly tipping. The council do not intend to replace any of the bring sites with alternative sites due to the costs and resources needed to maintain them.

From this we can see that the council does not care that their residents have had their ability to recycle removed as it is a case of - no its gone and your not getting it back!

But in recent months the council has done something positive which is to finally listen to local people who pushed for fly tip and wheeled bin enforcement in the city.
Enforcement of the wheeled bins - where residents are issued section 46 notices advising them that they can only have their waste bins in the streets at specific times.
In my view one of the biggest issues with bins on streets is the fact that this led to recycling bins being contaminated - as people passing in the street used them as normal bins for litter or fly tippers made use of the fact they could place whole bags of mixed waste in the bins.
So considering that the council now had staff in place to improve the street scene by targeting bins on streets but also importantly that these same staff were engaging with residents what better time could there be to use the enforcement staff to provide information on recycling at the same time they engaged with residents about their bins - an all in one process which would both address bins on streets and recycling contamination issues.
 once carried out in an area it would seem sensible to put back in place the blue bin recycling scheme due to the reduced risk of bin contamination and the fact that recycling is so much cheaper
So the question had to be posed!

Question from Simon Bacon to Councillor Afzal

With the successful work being carried out by the councils new Community Protection Officers to remove bins off streets in areas such as Normanton, will the council now return the blue bin recycling service to the streets targeted by the CPOs due to the reduced risk of bin contamination?

The contamination levels of the blue bins were very high. It is the council's intention not to return the blue bin recycling scheme to these areas as it proved expensive to operate and administer.
What we have is a council that for some reason does not want to recycle! its recycling rate has collapsed in recent years and surely the return of a service taking us back in the right direction - A CHEAPER SERVICE should be the way forward.


Monday, 4 September 2017

The two faces of recycling in Derby UK

The recycling rate for Derby UK in recent years has been pretty dire! since the removal of the free garden and food waste recycling scheme and its replacement with just a simple paid for garden waste scheme the recycling rate went into freefall! pushed on yet further by removal of recycling services completely in some areas of the city due to claims of bin contamination.
When the council caught on to the fact that residents were monitoring the recycling rate via council cabinet documents they promptly removed the data from the council cabinet score cards!
The council is to some degree pegging its hopes on a claimed 7-8% recycling rate at the controversial Sinfin, Derby incineration plant where rigid plastics and metals are to be extracted for recycling before the rest is burnt - but until that site is up and running that material is out of reach.
With Recycle Week on the way Derby City Council on social media are putting on a recycling face such as here on Facebook!
In a similar vein on Twitter they are also putting forward a green front
With Zero Waste week here the council is also promoting that on Twitter
Has the council had a road to Damascus change of heart regarding recycling or is it just a cynical ploy to make it look like recycling matters to them?
But what are the realities for some residents living in the city?
The council drive to recycle isn't always all it is cracked up to be!
Vast areas of the city had their blue bin recycling scheme removed when the council said residents were contaminating their recycling bins.
 The pitiful replacement bring sites the council has installed have simply become fly tip hotspots.
This site on Havelock Road in Normanton ward rapidly became a fly tip hot spot

So the council removed it - meaning residents totally lost their ability to recycle -

On a similar theme at Grove Street in the Arboretum ward the council also installed a fly tip hot spot
and if the council doesn't empty the recycling site when full what message does it send to the public?

Some residents care enough to gather their plastics and even mark the bags as plastics in a vain hope that what they are taking to the recycling site will be successfully recycled.
Meanwhile over in Hampden Street, Normanton bin contamination led to rejected bins - but at no point in the six weeks that three blue bins sat festering on the street did the councils bin men tag the bins as contaminated!
 then all of a sudden the bin men emptied two of the bins even though they still contained the same level of contamination that must have led to their rejection.

So the social media front is of a council looking to promote recycling -
 something that they have not gone out of their way to do in recent times but out on the street residents who feel they have a right to recycle still suffer a 2nd class service with random bring sites that are then either removed or simply not maintained to a high standard.
In some cases residents do not even get a 2nd class service -


Sunday, 25 June 2017

Hidden contracts! the public strikes back!

On 22nd October 2015 I Simon Bacon the writer of this blog applied to Derby City Council in Derby UK via FOI / EIR requesting the following information relating to the controversial joint waste contract linked to the highly controversial Sinfin, Derby gasification incineration plant.
 Derby City Council responded on 17th December 2015 in which it disclosed some of the requested information but withheld some of the information in part 2 of the request claiming the adverse affect to the confidentiality of commercial information. What was provided was a series of documents with many redacted (blacked out pages) where the council and its supporters - Derbyshire County Council and Resource Recovery Solutions edited the documents to hide certain aspects of the documents which they did not want the public to see.
Here are a couple of examples from schedule 14 of the contract which covers the performance mechanism.

As you can see from the images when they redact information they really black it out!
I appealed this ruling and Derby City Council carried out an internal review and responded to me on December 24th 2015 that it maintained this position.

Having considered this battle of wills further I made a complaint against Derby City Council on 22nd February 2016 to the ICO - the Information Commissioner. The ICO then gave full consideration to my strongly put appeal while engaging with Derby City Council further.
The council and its fellow contract members attempted to paint a picture which included impacts on interests of Resource Recovery Solutions (RRS) siting that the withheld information included price mechanisms, volume allocations and proprietary contract tools and processes.
The council argued that RRS operated in a competitive waste market and disclosure would allow competitors to work out the deal and how it was structured resulting in a loss of its competitive edge.
The council went on to argue that the Sinfin waste sites novel nature has the capacity to become a "BEACON OF EXCELLENCE"
ENERGOS the developer of the incineration equipment being installed into this beacon of excellence had gone into administration in mid July 2016.
It was suggested that the competitors of RRS would benefit from the unique know how contained within the information and thus undermine the ability of RRS to utilise this for its own benefit damaging its commercial interests.
Other than the Derby, Glasgow and Milton Keynes projects that have moved ahead there is little evidence of other projects moving forward using such technology and in recent weeks a proposal to install similar tech on the Isle of Wight has been dropped - so not quite the beacon being suggested.

The ICO asked the council to provide a new schedule setting out in each instance the councils rationale for withholding information so that it matched the specific parts of the documents. Having been given further time to do so the council advised it had approached RRS and Derbyshire County Council but that they had declined to provide any further arguments or clarification.
The ICO in their ruling considered that the lack of clarity in the councils submissions suggests that the council either does not properly understand what the effects of disclosure would be or has struggled to meet the evidential and explanatory burden set by the exception.
 On 4th August 2016 the Information commissioner at the ICO RULED IN MY FAVOUR instructing Derby City Council to disclose the withheld information to myself as the complainant.
In early September 2016 Derby City Council was in no mood to lose their battle again a resident of Derby so instructed its legal team to appeal the ICO ruling and so work started on a legal appeal.

I as the original applicant was also in no mood to lose the battle and so registered as a party to the appeal which WAS set to be heard later in 2017 in London UK. After a delay of a number of months as two similar cases passed through the tribunal system the Derby case began to move forward.

In recent months a similar case relating to an incineration plant in Gloucestershire and its associated contract pretty much ruled in the original applicants favour - while the council in that case attempted to put a brave face on things while putting some spin on the ruling the applicants in Gloucestershire are very happy with the result of their battle. A similar ruling regarding an incineration plant contract in Worcestershire also placed pressure on Derby City Council who were then set a date by the General Regulatory Chamber who were running the appeal by Derby City Council where the council had to acknowledge if it proposed to continue with their appeal.
So two other appeals went against the local councils which forced Derby City Council into a corner over their appeal against the ICO ruling.
 Did they continue or did they rollover!

The councils legal team made the following statements when terminating the councils appeal.
"Our clients have been carrying out a fresh, detailed, careful and considered review of the disputed information with all interested parties taking into account the passage of time and developments since the initial request and the commencement of the Appeal.
Having concluded that reassessment and made recommendations accordingly, the interested parties have respectively reached agreed conclusions and advised the relevant public authority which has been able to make an updated decision on disclosure as a result.
Our clients have invested a great deal of time in reaching this decision and it is not one that has been taken lightly. Despite considering that much of the disputed information remains commercially sensitive and confidential, given the time that has now passed since the original request for information by the applicant and taking into consideration the current stage the facilities are now at, the likelihood of probable harm from disclosure of the disputed information into the public domain has reduced.
As a result our clients have asked us to confirm that the disputed information will be disclosed in its entirety. "
 Derby City Council admitted at a recent full council meeting that they and their supporters - Derbyshire County Council and RRS / SHANKS had already spent £20,000 on their fight to keep aspects of the Derby and Derbyshire waste contract secret - hidden away from the public. In a strange twist they appeared to be suggesting to the local newspaper the Derby Telegraph that they had NOT paid £20,000 to stop me from gaining a copy of the contracts as reported here
The council was simply playing with words - £20,000 was spent but the city council only paid a third of the payment!

What are they trying to hide from the residents of Derby and Derbyshire ? what is so controversial that they redact whole pages of their waste contract ?  In these times of austerity and government cuts surely the public have a right to know what their taxes are being spent on.




Tuesday, 6 June 2017

The candidates are not always greener on the other side!

As the general election approaches some of us turn to candidates that support our green values.  For some of us issues like recycling, air quality and incineration are key issues in our local communities and that could be considered a major issue for the city of Derby where recycling has collapsed, air quality is now being focused on by DEFRA and a new waste incineration plant is due to open soon, all of which is currently overseen locally by a Labour council.
The fight to improve recycling, air quality and the fight against a recycling guzzling incineration plant would you would expect be championed by the Green Party.
But this is where things become a bit strange because in the Derby North electoral district the Green Party have stood aside and have encouraged their supporters to vote for ex MP Chris Williamson
 the Labour Party candidate.
Marten Kats the Chairman of the Derbyshire Green Party was quoted on May 13th in the Derby Evening Telegraph as saying

 "the Tories and UKIP represent a regressive alliance. Its clear for this country to move forward a more equitable and sustainable future voters in Derby North should stand behind Chris Williamson a principled and strong local candidate with deep roots in the community"
When challenged on this Marten Kats stated on Twitter
"we base ourselves on national issues, this is no endorsement of Lab on a local level. Also, we can't possibly stand everywhere."
But what about the candidate the Greens are supporting by not putting forward a candidate and by their encouragement of their supporters to vote for Chris Williamson?
Chris Williamson models himself as a supporter of wildlife and in the past has campaigned against issues such as fox hunting but at the same time he has also been a supporter of the controversial Resource Recovery Solutions waste incineration plant being built in Sinfin, Derby - found in the neighbouring Derby South constituency.
A green oasis in the heart of a residential and industrial area of the city of Derby the Sinfin Tannery site was home to a broad range of wildlife which had naturalised on an ex brownfield site. To make the site even more special the site was home to the only known population of common lizards in the city. In a few short weeks the wildlife oasis shown below was history.

In mid August 2014 Chris Williamson seemed over the moon when the Green Investment Bank granted the project funding. He took to Twitter to make clear his pleasure !
Chris Williamson@ChriswMP Aug 21
Delighted Green Investment Bank's confirmed it'll finance Derby's waste treatment facility that'll reduce landfill & cut 50k tonnes of CO2

To read more about the sites destruction from back in November 2014 check out my blog post

As for the site - the wildlife haven has gone for good as construction reaches completion as can be seen from this picture taken in April 2017

So we have in Derby North a Labour candidate who has supported the destruction of a green oasis in the city of Derby which will burn large volumes of potentially recyclable materials for over two decades and which will strangle recycling in the city while driving down air quality.
This is then waved through by the Green Party in Derbyshire because somehow national issues are more important but this is the GREEN PARTY! the very party those concerned about environmental issues would lend their support to in an election and yet in Derbyshire they are encouraging their supporters in Derby North to vote for someone who supported the destruction of a green open space so that an inefficient waste incineration plant could be constructed.

But then it becomes even more confusing with the added twist that the Green Party have put forward a candidate - Ian Sleeman in Derby South - where the controversial waste incineration plant that Chris Williamson supports is being constructed.
In a report in the Derby Telegraph on Wed May 17th Mr Sleeman is quoted as saying
"I would fight to reduce the harm caused by the Sinfin incinerator"

Hold on a minute Marten Kats the Chairman of the Derbyshire Green Party is saying this is about national issues - but isn't resource management, air quality and wildlife a set of national issues?
 In an attempt to side step the issue of lending support to a Labour candidate with questionable green credentials Mr Kats plays the national issues card but isn't it all rather odd for one of his own candidates to use a local green issue in his campaign when Mr Kats is trying to deflect criticism of his parties support for a Labour Party candidate that is at odds with the stance of his Derby South Green candidate?

Politics like grass isn't always greener on the other side!


Sunday, 26 February 2017

Something is rotten in the brown bin!

         Derby told DEFRA they had in use 89,215 brown bins in 2012/13.
It isn’t clear if that includes homes who had a 2nd brown bin.
Council accountants confirmed to me that in 2012/13 19975.11 tonnes of waste was handled via the brown bin at a cost of £49.13 per tonne – As confirmed by Russell Sexton at Derby City Council.
This is a cost of £981,451.63 plus a collection cost of a claimed £880,000 as confirmed by Malcolm Price at Derby City Council via email giving a total of £1,861,451.63
If these figures are correct that produces a cost per household in the last financial year to the council of £20.86 for a full year including food waste which clearly isn’t £40 without food waste for a part year.
If we presume there are 100,000 bins as is often considered to be the case that becomes £18.61
That waste in general has to be collected whatever bin lorry collects it – once in the RRS / SHANKS residual waste contract that waste would cost at least £100 per tonne to handle – ie circa £1,997,500 WITHOUT THE COLLECTION COST.
 2015/16 costs were at least £107.40 per tonne and at a recent Full Council meeting it was quoted as £120.00 in 2016/17.
 An FOI request was made for all documents relating to the brown bin £40 charge proposal.
Documents show the council expected a 10% fall in recycling – based on the 2012/13 recycling rate of 45% will mean a plunge from 48% in 2010/11 to 35% in the future.
The 2015/16 recycling rate for the city was actually 32.3%

The image below shows the fall in garden waste composting via the brown bin - prior to the service termination this material included a percentage of food waste composted via the brown bin service.

The documents sourced via FOI show a planned charge of £20 per bin with £10 for the 2nd bin, this does not reflect the now applied £40 and £20 for the 2nd bin charge.
The final options appraisal further noted a charge of £20 and £10 noting this is relatively low compared to other councils.
It notes that the city will FAIL to reach the 2020 government target of recycling 50% of waste.
The council had planned to move recycling to the black bin and residual waste to the small blue bin.
The council was aiming for a 20 - 30% uptake in the chargeable garden waste collection.
A number of options were put forward for waste management – it is suggested in the documents that option 6 be selected
Option 6 To adopt a citywide garden waste charging policy based on 20% participation and implement a single bin comingled recycling collection service using the black bin. We would also rollout a weekly residual waste collection service using the smaller 140L blue bin
The blue bin supplied to residents has a capacity of 140 LTR which is relatively small and does not have the capacity to contain all of the recycling material currently presented at the kerbside. It is therefore proposed that the blue bin is swapped over with the black bin. The black 240 LTR bin will be used as the recycling bin and the blue bin will be used for the residual waste. A weekly residual waste collection service will be rolled out citywide.
A charging policy for the collection of garden waste is proposed which may prove unpopular with customers; however 30% of Local Authorities already charge with others coming on stream.
 This option will produce savings of £1.14m and will streamline our service delivery with the implementation of a single pass collection system for dry recyclables. This will prove very popular with our customers as they will no longer have to use red, orange and blue sacks. A weekly residual waste collection service will also prove very popular.
"Taking the four major factors into consideration it is recommended that Option 6 is introduced.”
The reality is NO considered option matches what has finally taken place as
 option 6 is not what actually happened.

The reality was that while the brown bin itself stayed the same, new larger blue bins were issued and small blue bins were removed. Dry recycling stayed in the blue bin and residual waste in the black bin.
FOI data showing a cost break down suddenly shows a £40 plus £20 charge for bin number 2 or more.
 No FOI papers show why this figure changed from the planned £20 and £10 charge.
The council in the FOI data consider that 20,000 residents would sign up for the £40 charge with 1 in 4 of those agreeing to pay a further £20 for a 2nd bin.
It is quite clear that garden and food waste was being processed far cheaper than the charge proposed and later applied and the vastly higher rate if it moves as it has done to the black bin residual route. The charge is shown in council papers to be lower than that now applied. Large volumes of waste will now be diverted from recycling and composting driving down the cities recycling rate and diverting waste to landfill and incineration and will likely be fly tipped.
They have managed to select a waste option that was not even in the options considered.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Consultation - an exchange of views they dont really want!

So that is what a consultation is considered to be - an exchange of views relating to a decision.
But what about a decision where those making the ruling consider that they do not NEED to consult or do so in such a way that those being consulted do not even know they are subject of a consultation!
My previous blog post broke the news to many that they were being consulted on a proposal to burn almost 18,000 tonnes more waste in Sinfin, Derby at a controversial waste incineration plant that has yet to even start operations! It was early December 2016 when the UK Without Incineration Network first advised me that they had spotted a consultation on the subject on an obscure Environment Agency website that 99.9% of people would never look at.
My previous blog post gave the background to this situation and was supplied to local media, Derby News, Derby Telegraph and East Midlands Today etc for further promotion to the public.

To catch up on that post take a look here
As I considered this situation unacceptable I contacted the Environment Agency to make a complaint about the consultation as I felt that it was not in the spirit of public engagement as they were failing to gain the views of the community around the facility they were ruling on. The Environment Agency was fully aware of the controversial nature of the project and so should have expected local opposition and so should have been open to engagement.
The response from the Environment Agency appears to set out that we should consider ourselves lucky to even have online consultation access noting that in the last three months they have improved the web based consultation as previously people would have had to go to the local Environment Agency office (which sounds like last century consultation methods). They also say they have a policy of increased consultation where they consider there is likely to be a high degree of local interest and that this could include wider advertising for example in local newspapers -

We also learn that this has been the practice since 2010! the Environment Agency are so welcoming of public comment, views and opinions that they have been hiding the consultations for over 6 years squirrelling them away on some faceless government websites and in local Environment Agency office's for all those years.
After I replied to the Environment Agency further they upgraded my complaint to the Regime Team Leader no less who continued to trot out the excuses for the poor public liaison stating that "We do not publicise all applications" so god help local residents across the UK.
 The team leader went onto suggest that the Sinfin, Derby application was a "normal" variation application which we do not usually publicise. Hold on a minute this is an application to burn thousands of tonnes more waste at a controversial plant which has not even started operations yet! and the Environment Agency are saying they would not usually publicise.

Some are now likening the stance of the Environment Agency to something out of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - which included the following -

“But the plans were on display…”
“On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”
“That’s the display department.”...

“With a flashlight.”
“Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”
“So had the stairs.”
“But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”

 “Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.”

― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

As an update to this blog post I wrote to my MP - Margaret Beckett who was previously a government minister for DEFRA etc who then wrote to the Environment Agency Chief Executive James Bevan. He then passed it onto Mark Haslam the Area Environment Manager for the East Midlands who just sent her the same kind of waffle that they had already sent me. It appears that Margaret Beckett doesn't recognise the issue that if the public are not consulted then there is something very wrong!





Sunday, 1 January 2017

Are we permitted to comment ?

You may not have picked up on the fact that the Sinfin incineration plant - due to open in September 2017 after a delay due to the technology developer going into administration (fills you with confidence) has applied to the Environment Agency (EA) to burn nearly 18,000 tonnes more rubbish than it was granted to burn.
If your a local person - who may have objected in the past you would have expected the Governments Environment Agency to go out of their way to flag this proposal up to you because you have previously engaged with them on the sites permit.
Obviously there are grave concerns regarding this application to burn more waste - the site next to the air quality management area (AQMA) will have an even greater impact than is already proposed. Derby is now being targeted by DEFRA due to poor air quality and so surely greater scrutiny needs to take place with such applications.
Resource Recovery Solutions (RRS) / Shanks Waste claim it will not have a greater impact than was passed by the EA but all that consisted of was models of emissions - nobody will be carrying out real tests at ground level - the Environment Agency will not do so, Derby City Council - responsible for air quality in the city will not do so and the developer RRS / Shanks will not do so even after I requested they take on the example of UBB in Gloucestershire who are building an incineration plant and have agreed to fund air quality monitoring around their site before and after construction. When asked RRS/ Shanks refused.  
The important story here - other than something so controversial burning even more than planned and nobody will monitor the impact at ground level is that
When the permit was first applied for a number of years ago - and later granted residents were able to have their say. The EA held local consultations and residents could write in with their views - so the EA should have their addresses which you would hope they would use to write to the residents to advise of this latest proposal. It was also advertised in the local press in the Public Notices etc. PEOPLE WERE AWARE !
Move onto late 2016 and out of the blue I heard from the UK Without Incineration Network (UKWIN) that they had seen an application on a government website.
I looked into this and sure enough found the following

 What became very clear very quickly was that nobody was aware of this application - finalised in early December 2016 BUT ACTUALLY IT TURNS OUT submitted in JUNE as was later admitted by Will Spurr from Shanks Waste via the Community Liaison Group (CLG)
 they didn't even tell the CLG even though the CLG had met between June and December.

When challenged in recent weeks the EA have admitted that the only place the consultation is promoted is on their government website! HOW DOES THAT ENGAGE WITH THE PUBLIC ? hiding important consultations away on a government website that 99.99% of the population would never look at !

It shows that the councils, Shanks Waste / RRS and the Environment Agency have a total disregard for public views and opinions 
The councils knew because their contractor is Shanks Waste / RRS - but didn't tell the public!
Shanks Waste / RRS  knew because THEY were the applicant - but didn't tell the public!
The Environment Agency who knew have done the very least they could to tell the public!