Zero Waste Strategy Adopted for Derry and Strabane.

We are delighted to report that on the 14th December 2017 at a meeting of Derry City and Strabane District Council (DCSDC) a policy for ” A Circular Economy/Zero Waste Strategy for Derry City and Strabane District Council” was unanimously adopted.

This strategy is the conclusion of a feasibility study carried out by the consultancy company Eunomia over the past year.   Their work was jointly commissioned by Zero Waste North West and DCSDC. It was funded jointly by a grant from Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) awarded to ZWNW and DCSDC.

Dominick Hogg and Camilla Durrant of Eunomia consultancy with Jim Keys (ZWNW) presenting the final report on the Zero Waste strategy at a meeting of the Environmental and Regeneration Committee of DCSDC on the 6 Dec 2017.

The complete report can be downloaded here. It is a comprehensive and detailed exploration of the issues involved in transitioning Derry and Strabane to a zero waste circular economy.  The rest of page summarises the report underscoring the opportunities  that the report reveals for the local economy.

The report does three things:

  • Reviews council’s current practice regarding waste management.
  • Draws on international best practice of similar sized municipalities transitioning to a zero waste circular economy (ZWCE).
  • Importantly it quantifies the costs involved in doing so using four scenarios – this underscores the business case.

 The good news is that in each of the four scenarios costed there are significant savings to council.  Adopting scenario 2 is projected to realise the maximum saving to council of £80 million on current practice over 25 years.  However, while scenario 4 represents less of a direct saving to council (£71 million over 25 years), it represents the most effective transition, maximising circular economy and environmental benefits for the region through local job creation (190+ jobs) in tandem with the minimisation of negative environmental impacts.

Cognisant of global economic trends and legislative imperatives this represents a ‘future proofing’ vision for the local economy.   It offers council an “opportunity to take a leading role within the UK and the island of Ireland by transforming the area into a Zero Waste Circular Economy.”  To do this will require council to lead, in partnership with others, “a culture shift in both attitude and behaviour”, transforming the regions approach to dealing with ‘waste’.  That will involve council actively considering the adoption of a phased strategic change to [its] collection methods in tandem with public education which redefines ‘waste’ as vital resources” for the local circular economy.  “It’s not waste until it’s wasted”.

You will note that of the four scenarios considered (see Fig 3, Page 37), three involve a change from the current fortnightly collected, co-mingled system (Blue Bin), to a weekly collection of recyclables, sorted (by type) by the householder.  The transition to a kerbside sort system may at first seem excessive given that scenario 1 keeps the blue bin system and with other adjustments would save council money (£46.5m over 25 years) and meet our recycling targets.  However, If we are serious about creating a circular economy and maximising savings (£70-80m), kerbside sort is the key.  It maximises council’s leverage on businesses by creating circumstances that foster a circular economy.

Under the current blue bin system more than 90% of dry recyclables collected by council are exported (see 3.2, Page 7).   Meanwhile, the recent report by the COLLABORATIVE CIRCULAR ECONOMY NETWORK (CCEN) (referred to in 6.3) reveals that Northern Ireland reprocessors can’t get enough high quality recyclate to support their businesses. They are forced to import it at a cost disadvantage.  The lack of kerbside sort collection systems is identified as the key barrier to recyclate of sufficient quality being available locally. The problem with the co-mingled system is contamination between the waste streams (cardboard, paper, plastic, glass) before they reach the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). They are worth less and only fit for export to lower grade markets.  This loses value in the recyclate collected, while exporting it represents a loss of materials to the local economy. The current economic value of the businesses considered in the CCEN report is estimated to be at least £110mn, with a further c£50mn of unrealised economic potential should local sources of quality recyclate come on stream.  N.B. Since this study was published China has announced that it will stop accepting shipments of waste plastic and paper.

Beyond the businesses considered by the CCEN report, Eunomia points to the potential for attracting new business to take advantage of the local supply of quality recyclate generated.  It highlights that our port offers a strategic advantage, giving us the potential to attract bulking-up facilities for newly emerging WEE waste streams currently not in sufficient quantity in any one region and to be on the leading edge of the growing trend to re-shore production of materials that are currently being imported (see Page 27) e.g. a local recycled paper mill.

Importantly DCSDC could take advantage of the high quality recyclate available as a result of the transition by offering their waste collection services to businesses thus benefiting financially while creating even more direct jobs than the 190+ indicated above.

With Council leading a comprehensive education plan to underpin the new strategy, international evidence shows that householders quickly see the benefits and embrace the transition.  Our pilot project carried out in Thornhill College demonstrates the same.

Importantly this report arrives while DCSDC, in collaboration with other councils, is exploring the outline business case for developing an in-house waste management infrastructure and delivery arrangements for bulking up the recyclate collected here with the other council regions.   It is vital, in the interests of joined up thinking, that the design of such a facility is in keeping with policies 15 and 17 outlined within the strategy on prioritising high quality recyclite suitable for local reprocessors as per the CCEN study.

In conclusion, now that Council have adopted the strategy the next steps towards a realisation of the strategy as we see it are:

  1. DCSDC apply to become a Zero Waste Europe Municipality to benefit from resources and expertise through Zero Waste Europe  [See quote below from the report]
  2. As per the Strategy (Section 8) “A Route map should be developed which outlines detailed actions, the planned timings of these, who is accountable and stage-gates to monitor progress”. We would suggest that a joint committee be set up with council and other local actors to develop that.
  3. DCSDC invest in a detailed business plan for scenario 4 as it is aligned with the community plan and maximises monetary and environmental savings to council and the region.
  4. Funding sources be identified to support the transition and applications to those sources submitted.

“At present, there is only a single Zero Waste Europe Municipality within the UK (Bute) … Within the Irish Republic there is one municipality working towards Zero Waste, Cashel, although it is not yet recognised by Zero Waste Europe as a Zero Waste Municipality). As such Derry and Strabane has the opportunity to take a leading role within the UK and the island of Ireland by transforming the area into a Zero Waste Circular Economy.”
[from “A Circular Economy/Zero Waste Strategy for Derry City and Strabane District Council”]

The young women from the Thornill video attended the council meeting and afterwards gave us their reactions.