Whilst much of the focus of the graph of doom theorists has been on adult social care and children’s services, local authorities haven’t forgotten that they also continue to have statutory responsibilities for collecting waste and that this waste needs to be disposed of in a cost effective and environmentally friendly way.
Huge efforts are being made to eradicate waste in the first instance by encouraging a reduction in unnecessary waste and the reuse, recycling and recovery of any materials of value that can be derived from the waste stream, prior to going to landfill. With this in mind authorities are looking to develop integrated strategies that deal with all stages of the waste hierarchy.
I recently had an opportunity to examine Barcelona City Council’s approach to waste management and found an impressive approach that also links closely to wider ambitions around renewable energy.
As a major tourist destination the cleanliness of the city and its air quality are of the highest importance to its political leaders, but sustainability is also at the core of their strategy.
Whilst its street cleansing and refuse collection is split into four contracts, within quadrants of the city, the council’s client services are fairly forceful in ensuring compliance with the city’s policy objectives.
Entering one of the depots, run by Ferrovial, you can’t help but notice the wind turbines above the gatehouse and the silos; the solar panels used to not only generate electricity but also heat water and the biomass plant at the centre of the complex. The gas, electric, hybrid, biodiesel fleet of almost 350 vehicles also underlines the ambition to move away from traditional fuel sources. A later stop at an underground depot (only recognisable as a children’s play park from above) identifies how a geothermal source is being tapped into to provide the facilities energy supply.
Visiting an energy from waste plant on Barcelona’s waterfront, carefully designed to blend into the local environment, you can see how every effort is made to separate various strands of waste for reuse and recycling, prior to recovering energy from the organic waste stream.
What is noticeable with Barcelona’s waste strategy is the amount of effort made at every stage to reduce waste and emissions, whilst also recovering every euro of value from the waste stream to offset cost.
With many UK councils considering their options around significant levels of investment in collecting and disposing of waste in the future, learning some lessons from one of the most forward thinking cities in the world is a must.