This week we visited SWM Waste & Recycling Ltd with Petroc.  We found the visit so informative and interesting that we asked Rex Bassett from SWM to write the following article for our website about waste management.

On 10th May we were delighted to host a visit from some students from Petroc’s Foundation Degree in Environmental Management course, accompanied by Paul and Nicola.

It is always nice to debate environmental issues with people who are genuinely passionate about them, and the ensuing discussion covered lots of topics, from sea borne plastics finding their way into the food chain, to what you can and can’t put into your recycling box, to why, even though regulations exist to prevent it, some manufacturers and retailers insist on over-packaging products, and using non-recyclable or very difficult to recycle materials.

We then visited our Waste Transfer Station at Pathfields, South Molton for a tour of the site, and a look at our newly installed Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), a very large machine designed to separate and grade recyclable items ranging from such sources as construction and demolition sites, and general waste from businesses, by a combination of mechanical processes as well as a physical picking station.

At SWM & Waste Recycling, our mission is to work with businesses and the local community to help them recycle as much of their waste as possible, and then find a non-landfill solution for the wastes that cannot be recycled.

Every waste producing business is responsible for applying what is known as ‘the waste hierarchy’ principles as required by the EU Waste Framework Directive. These put simply are; prevention, reuse, recycling, other recovery and finally disposal.

Landfill as a waste management solution is very harmful to the environment due to greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide, that are emitted from the decomposing organic elements of the waste, as well as being an extremely smelly, unpleasant scar on our landscape.

Fortunately, our waste disposal authorities are now tasked with seeking alternatives to landfill. Modern energy from waste technologies mean that a cleaner solution is available, and due to sophisticated emissions cleansing, a far cry from the noxious incinerators of days gone by, with a number of different variants such as gasification and pyrolysis.

As a private waste management company, we are free to choose which method of disposal to use for non-recyclable waste. We work to the principal of sending nothing to landfill as a matter of choice, because we know it’s better for the environment, and comes with the added benefit that it makes SWM &Waste Recycling pretty much unique in the area, as almost every other major waste management company is unfortunately still using landfill as their disposal option.

A cultural shift in attitude is still needed. Here in North Devon, as in many other areas, despite the provision of an extremely comprehensive household recycling collection service, including food waste, most plastics, tins, card paper, textiles, the list goes on, only around 45% of our domestic household waste is being recycled.

Ultimately , whether as  a business or a private individual, we have a collective  responsibility to take a long term view on the way we treat our environment, whether that is managing our waste or looking for sustainable ways to heat and power our homes and businesses, the way we shop and the way we travel. If we all play our part we can make a difference.