Examination of witnesses (Questions 480
TUESDAY 14 NOVEMBER 2000
LEA and MR
480. Definition: you smash them to pieces.
(Mr Lea) No, we do not smash them to pieces, whereas
a hammer mill pulverisation process does. It then spreads those
metals within the waste stream. Certainly wet pulverisation, as
it was originally entitled, enables the steady break-down of materials,
particularly the organic fraction: the baffles within the drum
allow the bags to be opened and attrition takes place waste-on-waste,
but not necessarily this demolition of hazardous particles.
481. How good is the soil which is produced
and what is it used for?
(Mr Lea) We are currently recovering something in
the region of 100,000 tonnes of this material a year.
482. Could you put that in perspective. What
percentage of waste is being dealt with in that manner? 5 per
cent of Manchester's total waste stream?
(Mr Lea) We try to put most of the household waste
processes through those pulverisation drums, which represents
something in the region of 60 per cent at this moment in time.
However, we are looking towards more materials going through the
drum. From that 60 per cent we are extracting something in the
region of 18 to 20 per cent as an organic fraction, which effects
the recycling figures, as we calculate them, and turns out at
a 14 per cent recycling rate. This material is then used on derelict
land to improve the topsoil. It is a soil manufacturing process,
which is a soil making material. Because of its basic composition
of organic fraction and inert fractions, it enables a substantial
development of soils.
483. Could I ask whether the Environment Agency
regulate your process? And how do they do it, if they do?
(Mr Lea) Certainly, for the last two years, the Agency
have been looking at our process to see how it is developing.
We see it as a product. Materials arrive from these processes
and it is ideally suited for the purpose. There are various academics
who have said that it is an actual process which produces a soil
resource that is needed on an awful lot of derelict sites.
484. You have got to accept, with the best will
in the world, that some could cause odour, methane emissions,
probably leach into the water table.
(Mr Lea) These things are more of a quality control
485. Exactly. How do you quality control? It
is very difficult to get waste streams of identical standards
(Mr Lea) We analyse the material as we are processing
it and as it leaves our site. We consistently have levels well
below soil contamination levels: ICRCL levels and MAFF standards.
486. So how often does the Environment Agency
check what is coming out of your soil? Do they check it daily,
weekly, monthly, once a year?
(Mr Lea) They are constantly looking at the operation
of the waste management site and the site we are putting the material
487. How often is that? Do they check the quality
of this soil?
(Mr Lea) Quite frequently.
488. What is quite frequently?
(Mr Lea) They turn up on site. They check the details
and they take the information.
489. So it is a haphazard inspection?
(Mr Lea) There is a regular inspection of our sites
but there is a haphazard inspection to ensure we have compliance.
490. Is that inspection by people who live near
to the sites? I have seen the stuff going on at Risley and I could
not see any problems with it. I understand that you put quite
a lot on the site at Droylsdon. The local residents were not happy.
They could identify far too many remains of disposable nappies
and things like that in the material.
(Mr Lea) Certainly our process does not allow for
materials less than 25 millimetres.
491. That was not the question I asked you.
I asked: what was the perception of the people who lived round
(Mr Lea) We have had one or two people who have looked
at our material on the site and have had an adverse opinion of
it. We have constantly kept them fully aware of the processes
that this material is going through. We get them involved in a
community liaison and we try our best to go out and take exhibitions
into the community to show exactly what we are doing. Occasionally,
because there is a lack of amenity, on some of these sites, although
quite derelict, they are used for taking dogs for a walk and things
like that, so whilst you are spreading you are taking that amenity
away for a period of time.
492. May I ask you to clarify something you
said. You said that out of this drum 18 per cent organics, because
of the way it was recycled, was calculated at only 14 per cent.
Could you explain that.
(Mr Lea) We recover 18 per cent from the household
waste stream. We try our best not to put bulky waste through the
processes. The recovery material is within the household collected
waste stream. We have 600,000 tonnes roughly going through that
process at the moment. We are handling something in the region
of 1.4 million tonnes of which possibly 1.1 or 1.2 million tonnes
is the denominator in the calculation of recycling targets. You
are putting a larger figure below to establish the recycling rate.
493. Can I ask, in the production of this sort
of soil have you had any discussions with the water authorities
to see whether their waste could be used in the process?
(Mr Lea) We have certainly had a number of consultations
with a number of bodies, because they see a valuable resource
in the material and they feel that combinations of some of their
materials and ours could be of beneficial use. We are currently
trying to use our material for the beneficial use of the authorities
in the area.
494. As you said before, you invested considerably
in this programme, are you happy with the Draft EU Directive on
Biological Treatment of Biodegradable Waste products? If that
is adopted is that going to be money well spent or money wasted?
(Mr Lea) I have looked at the document in detail and
it seems to concentrate on the composting processes and on the
stabilisation of biodegradable waste. The unfortunate thing about
stabilisation of biodegradable waste is they put it back to landfill.
You have to use a resource once you have stabilised it and approved
it. Some of these processes should really highlight opportunity
495. While yours is, perhaps, not landfill it
is spreading it out over the land, is it not? In ten years' time
are these derelict areas going to finish up 15 feet higher than
they are now?
(Mr Lea) The great problem with these derelict sites
is that the topsoil is quite thin. Although trees could grow on
them for a short period of time they need a substantial depth
of soil to grow for long periods and have a sustainable future,
and for that you need topsoil. You either buy that topsoil and
use the virgin resources you have at the moment or try and use
waste as a resource.
496. The only trouble with that is that several
of the sites you are trying to put them on have been reclaimed
to a high standard. If you take Jet Amber Playing Fields, that
was done very well by Greater Manchester Local Authority, with
very good topsoil put on from motor way cut, and you are trying
to cover up what was a good reclamation scheme by putting this
material in. Does that not suggest you have not got enough places
to put it where it is needed?
(Mr Lea) Obviously the assessment of some of these
sites is done by the Forestry Commission, and they assess the
topsoils. After they assess them they say that a certain level
of soil is required on these sites and we provide that material.
However, I appreciate that we do need land to improve throughout
the area. There is something like 1,600 hectares of derelict land
and former landfill sites in the Mersey Valley area and also the
Red Rose Forest area that need improvement, really this material
could be used on those sites.
497. Are you confident that it is not really
just a cheap way of doing composting without all the safeguards
that other people have to put in for composting?
(Mr Lea) I would not say it is significantly cheaper,
but it is certainly a process for recovering materials direct
from the waste stream that is offered to us.
498. Composting would be much more expensive,
if you had to compost this material so that you got a reasonable
level of heat in it to kill off bacteria and things like that.
(Mr Lea) Compost is used to ameliorate soil and improve
it. We are talking about replacement soils that need an inert
content. It is an important factor in its own right.
499. There is a fairly substantial organic fraction
(Mr Lea) It is something like 60 per cent.