UK is behind in the race to become a zero waste society

17 Dec 2013

landfill and birds

As targets are being set across the globe to increase the level of recycling, the UK is no exception and through England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales individual goals are being agreed. However, with statistics coming out on an annual basis, it would seem that the UK is falling dramatically behind in the race to become a zero waste society.

Recycling has been a part of society for decades and started to really pick up within the 1960s and 1970s as we realised we were being far too wasteful with potentially reusable resources and materials. Over the past few years a great deal of money has gone into the research and development of recycling and many ways have been developed to sort, process and transport the materials all over the world.

We are now at a point where even more materials are being recycled and the processes are becoming far more sophisticated. The government is therefore pushing for a bigger focus on the amount of waste we are producing and how much is being recycled.

Do we generate too much waste for 50 per cent status?

It has been reported that in England we generate around 177 million tonnes of waste each year. This is a huge amount and works out at around 3.4 tonnes per person which is, by anyone's means, excessive when there are a large number of recycling options available. The aim is to get to a 50 per cent recycling status in the UK by 2020 and, as a country, we have increased at one of the fastest rates around the globe in recent years.

However, some reports do state that we are behind in targets to reach the 50 per cent goal, and this is a concern for everyone. Homes and businesses across the country are trying incentives and councils are making it easier for people to recycle. The times of four different bins for the different types of materials are no more, as it was deemed too complicated and therefore put people off.

Could public awareness be the key?

There are also a number of changes going on with collection times and the way in which the recycling is sorted - fortnightly collections, alternating between recyclables and general waste, are becoming more commonplace. Eventually, the aim will be that everyone recycles the majority of their waste and understands the importance of doing it. Awareness is also being pushed by the government and many charities are running events to boost the public knowledge.

Between 2012 and 2013, the amount of local authority managed wasted sent to be incinerated saw an increase of 13 per cent. This is a worrying enough statistic, least of all because it is paired with a 27 per cent decrease in the amount of green waste sent for composting during the first three months of 2013. This hints that we are starting to fall behind, and with some countries already passing the 50 per cent mark we need to up our game.

Although more focus is on recycling, there clearly needs to be more effort made by UK residents. Companies such as TDS Safeguard are on hand to develop recycling strategies specifically for your business or home. Large-scale waste recycling companies such as this are becoming affordable and highly beneficial, especially if you are not completely sure on just how much of your waste you could be recycling.

This post was written by Amy Bennett on behalf of TDS Safeguard, the WEEE recycling company for both domestic and commercial properties.

Everything you need to know about anaerobic digestion

04 Dec 2013

Anaerobic digestion plant

If you haven't heard about anaerobic digestion yet, where have you been? This innovative treatment is an ideal way for businesses in the agricultural and industrial sectors to recycle their waste and cut their carbon footprint. In the 2007 Waste Strategy for England, businesses were encouraged to consider anaerobic digestion (or AD) as a way to assist in meeting the UK energy targets.

Anaerobic digestion isn't just some new fad though - this technology has actually been around since the 1800s. But, as concerns about the environment grow, so has the demand for ways to generate renewable energy and, as a result, more and more businesses have been investing in AD over the past few years.

But if you're still feeling a little left in the dark, don't worry. In this post, written by GTS Maintenance, you'll find everything you need to know about this clever technology!

What Is Anaerobic Digestion?

The term anaerobic digestion refers to a special treatment applied to organic materials. It can be applied to a range of natural biodegradable materials, including food waste, slurry, sewage sludge and manure. This material, known as biomass, is naturally broken down until it emits a new gas - known as biogas. Biogas is a methane-rich gas, comprising of around 60 per cent methane and 40 per cent carbon dioxide. This gas can then be used to generate energy.

How Does it Work?

The process takes place inside an anaerobic digester; a large, sealed tank which is void of oxygen. The biomass is heated to around the temperature of blood, when it will react with the naturally occurring micro-organisms and bacteria. It goes through four stages; hydrolysis, acidogenesis, acetogenesus and methanogenesis. The end result is that the biogas is emitted and a material called digestate is left behind. Both the gas and the digestate material can be re-used, therefore making it a very effective way to recycle your waste materials.

What Are The Benefits?

AD provides many businesses with a way to turn the waste products they inevitable produce into new, clean energy, which can then be used on their own site. It can be utilised by any industry which produces food or sewage waste, including agricultural, sewage and food processing, and there are different sized systems available dependent on the amount of waste produced.

The methane-rich biogas which is generated can be used as a source of renewable energy to power electricity generators and provide heat. It can even be altered further and upgraded to filter out the majority of the carbon dioxide - the end result is biomethane, which can then be used as vehicle fuel or to provide gas. Plus, the digestate can be used as fertiliser, suitable for organic farming systems.

By utilising anaerobic digestion, you can help reduce the amount of waste which you are sending to landfill. This in turn helps to reduce harmful emissions of harmful greenhouse gases, as biodegradable material which is simply sent to landfill will emit a large amount of methane, and carbon dioxide if it is simply left to rot.

How Widely Used Is This Technique?

The spotlight has fallen on waste over recent years. Currently, England generates around 177 million tonnes of waste a year - a disproportionate amount to what is reused or recycled. The government are trying to put measures in place to move towards a zero waste economy, which means that waste resources are fully valued and everything that can be reused and recycled is.

As part of this, the UK government and the European Union Directive have begun to introduce legal and financial incentives for diverting waste away from landfill, so taking advantage of this technology could even bring financial benefits for your business too.

Additionally, more people are looking to businesses to set an example when it comes to waste management and energy use. By utilising a technology which uses waste to create clean energy, you can help enhance your business's reputation and values, reflecting your business as a responsible, conscientious company.

By investing in anaerobic digestion for your business, you will be taking a step towards making your business greener, and helping the country meet its waste disposal and energy consumption targets.

This guest blog was written by Emma Williams on behalf of GTS Maintenance. GTS Maintenance design, install and maintain anaerobic digesters for businesses.

How to clear energy arrears when working from home

03 Dec 2013

electric-meter

More than 4.5 million energy customers - or eight per cent of the UK population - were in arrears to at least one of their gas and electricity providers in October this year.

The number has more than doubled since March, despite a warm summer, raising fears that the number of customers struggling to pay their bills during the winter could rise exponentially.

Debt Advisory Centre, the company which conducted the research and wrote this article, surveyed domestic as well as business customers for its poll.

It revealed it is just as easy for businesses to fall behind with their energy payments as individuals - and as many businesses are run from home, their gas or electricity may be supplied on a domestic tariff.

Residential or business?

If you work from home and have a domestic tariff, your energy company should offer you a payment plan to help clear your arrears. If this doesn't work out, it may insist that you have a pre-payment meter installed while the arrears are dealt with. Disconnection is usually the last resort.

However, if you have a commercial supply, you have less protection. You will also be offered a payment plan, but if this doesn't work out your energy supplier can disconnect your service after giving you 14 days' notice.

If you have a commercial contract but live at your business premises - in a flat above a shop for example - tell the supplier this: they may decide to treat you as a vulnerable customer.

Preventing arrears

First, make sure you are on the cheapest deal you can find. If you have just taken over a business with a commercial energy contract, contact the energy provider to negotiate a new contract, otherwise you may be tied into a ‘deemed contract' and end up paying more than you need to.

Likewise, if you took out a contract after 18 January 2010, your supplier should give you between 60 and 120 days' notice that your contract is about to end. You have 30 days from the date of this notice to either renew your contract by letting it carry on or switch to another provider.

Check for the best deals, including green energy, on switching sites, and try to use as little energy as possible. Take advantage of any free advice or energy saving equipment your energy provider offers; make sure you and your staff switch off equipment that's not in use; and consider installing insulation where possible.

Your energy supplier should conduct an actual reading at least once every two years, but it's a good idea to take more frequent readings yourself. Give these to the provider so you don't fall behind on paying for the actual energy you use.

Back billing

However, estimates are very common and energy companies can back bill you for up to six years if an actual reading shows you have used more than was estimated. This can result in a very large bill, which will be treated as arrears if you can't pay straight away.

Most suppliers have agreed to follow a voluntary code when dealing with back billing - you can find out more about this on the Energy UK website.

Don't be left in the cold

Contact your supplier as soon as you think you may have difficulty paying your bill to discuss your financial problems and come to an agreement about how much you can afford to repay each month.

They should give you time to pay your bill, but you will need to show that you can pay something towards the debt each month, in addition to your ongoing energy consumption.
Failing to repay the amount outstanding to your energy provider has big implications for your business.

Not only is your supplier likely to disconnect you after giving 14 days' notice, but the failure to pay will also affect your credit record and be visible to potential lenders and business partners.

If you have gone through all the steps mentioned above and are still struggling to pay your bills, it could be time to seek advice from debt experts.

Eight Simple Ways Business can Save Energy

22 Nov 2013

solartech

Saving money should be as important as making profit for every business all over the world, but unfortunately it is something that is neglected all too often.

However, reducing the energy they use does not have to be difficult or expensive. Read on as the energy efficiency experts at SolarTech offer eight simple ways your company can save money.

Unplug all chargers

Most chargers, be they for phones or laptops, consume a small amount of energy even they not plugged into the device. They are just some of the various electricals that are known as 'vampire' appliances - named as such due to the energy they feed on when not in use.

A good way to tell if a device is using power is to feel it for warmth, while they will often be identifiable by a small light as well.

Switch off all devices

This seems like a no-brainer, but it is incredible how often businesses (and homeowners) neglect to take this simplest of measures. Whether it is from laziness or sheer ignorance to the cost, failing to switch off devices that aren't in use can add hundreds or even thousands of pounds to annual electricity bills.

A standard desktop computer for example will use 0.1kWh of energy when idling, which is about 1.4 pence. If that computer is left on for two hours when not in use then it adds 2.8 pence a day. Not much then, but if you're a large organisation with 100 desktop PCs, all of which are left on for two hours per day unnecessarily, then that costs a whopping £728 every year (based on 52 five-day weeks).

Avoid screensavers

It's unrealistic to expect people to turn off their PCs every time they leave their desk, but make sure that the proper power settings are applied and avoid using screensavers, as these are far less energy efficient.

Turn down the thermostat

Turning down the company heating by just 1° can make a big difference to your company's annual bill. Encourage staff to wear jumpers or cardigans during the winter (or perhaps include them in your company uniform) to ensure you don't have to use the heating more than necessary.

Purchase indoor plants

It is important for the wellbeing of employees that the appropriate temperature is maintained, and in summer that may well involve air conditioning. However, did you know that plants can actually act as natural air conditioners? The moisture that they give off as a part of their respiratory cycle increases air humidity and makes it feel cooler - not to mention improve air quality.

Place plants or indoor trees in key areas and see if you can reduce your use of air con.

Install motion-sensing lighting

Switching off the lights every time you leave the room should be a given, but it is incredible how many people fail to do so. With this in mind, install motion sensors to take the human element out of it all together.

Fix all dripping taps immediately

If there is a dripping tap or leaking pipe you should endeavour to get it fixed immediately. The cost of the constant water waste will far outstrip the repair bill of even the most extensive plumbing problem.

Encourage staff involvement

The key to saving energy in the workplace is to engender a culture of efficiency amongst your staff. This can be difficult, so appoint an Energy Efficiency Champion (someone directly responsible for improving efficiency) to encourage and monitor company efforts to reduce the amount of energy used across every department.

John Rooney blogs about environmental issues affecting businesses and recommends SolarTech as the number one provider of solar panels and other energy efficiency technology.

SolarTech links to

Sustainability trends driving change in heavy industry

19 Nov 2013

andre-veneman

Due to its significant resource use, its waste and emissions, heavy industry has for many years been seen as an obstacle to sustainable development. But this is not the full story. Many leading companies operating in the sector - typically utilities, oil & gas and mining firms - are starting to take sustainability seriously and build it into their everyday operations.

Having a "license to operate" in different locations throughout the world - one that expands beyond simple regulatory compliance - continues to be a major driver of progress. This is especially true considering the recent oil, mining and nuclear disasters. Safety, social and environmental concerns are critical for these large oil & gas and utility companies as they work to ensure that financial returns are long-lived.

Another significant trend is the genuine progress made in this sector beyond the traditional marketing platitudes in yearly sustainability reports. More project teams than in previous years are now charged with specific projects to reduce emissions and energy. And there are more sustainability professionals employed by these companies than ever before.

The World Business Council Sustainability Development's Vision 2050 report foresees major changes in the industrial sector. As well as a four to 10-fold improvement in the eco-efficiency of resources and materials, it is expected that closed loop processes will make landfills obsolete and cooperation across sectors will be standard practice. In addition, it is expected that companies will have effectively managed the transition toward renewable energy and found appropriate replacements for fossil fuel based raw materials.

These changes will create challenges and opportunities for all those companies operating within the sector. This includes suppliers such as AkzoNobel who have the opportunity to help industrial companies respond effectively to these trends.

At AkzoNobel we supply a huge variety of specialty chemicals and coatings for the industrial sector, and we're always looking to find new, more innovative and more sustainable ways for customers to use them.

Our protective coatings are playing a major role in the fast growing wind energy industry. In fact we have protected over 40,000 wind turbines worldwide and were responsible for coating all 175 wind turbines that make up the London Array offshore wind farm.

We are also playing a role in expanding the use of renewable raw materials. Two recent deals illustrate how we are doing this at AkzoNobel. Solvay, the Belgian chemicals group, will help us to make our epoxy resins more renewable while we are working with Solazyme, an American producer of renewable oils, to improve the environmental footprint of our paints, coatings and other products. Deals like this can only work if we are open to collaboration and are part of networks that allow us to tap into the emerging developments in science and technology around the world.

Another example of the role that suppliers such as AkzoNobel can play in meeting the sustainability challenges of the industrial sector can be seen in the Chemical Island concept. Modern pulp mills normally generate excess utilities - such as steam and water from the biomass/pulping process - that can be used to fuel other manufacturing. To make use of this excess energy, we have developed a concept whereby we install our sodium chlorate and chlorine dioxide plants inside or adjacent to a pulp mill. This way we help customers manage their supply and handling of chemicals, while making use of the excess energy generated during paper and pulp production.

In summary, sustainability trends are driving major changes in the industrial sector. Suppliers to this sector, such as AkzoNobel, can play a key role in helping these companies meet these challenges. But they will only do so by delivering big and bold innovations that will facilitate significant change.

At AkzoNobel we have a long history of providing innovative products that make the world a better place. But we know that the world is changing and that our business has to change with it. So we have adopted a strategy of radical efficiency which involves us working with our customers and suppliers to open up infinite possibilities in a finite world. We call this approach Planet Possible - our commitment to doing more with less.

Andre Veneman is corporate director sustainability and HSE at AkzoNobel

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