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Challenges faced by England’s largest waste disposal authority

Councillor Nigel Murphy, Chair of GMWDA talks about the challenges faced by the Authority.

Back in April 2009, GMWDA signed a 25 year Recycling and Waste Management Contract with Viridor Laing (Greater Manchester) Limited (VLGM) which triggered a £631 million construction programme.

This programme has created a network of 42 recycling, composting and waste management facilities across Greater Manchester, which means we can, and are continuing to provide a sustainable solution for Greater Manchester’s municipal waste.

GMWDA hasn’t stood still and has continued to invest in facilities to improve efficiency. I was proud to be at the opening of the Authority’s new Solar Farm, which is set to generate around 2,200 MW/hr of electricity a year and helps to power one of our In-Vessel Composting facilities in Bolton.

We see waste as a valuable resource and work tirelessly towards our vision of ‘zero waste’. This means we will do everything we can to save resources by preventing waste at source and maximising recycling, composting and diversion from landfill. We aim to not landfill anything that we can use and any waste that cannot be recycled is turned into green energy.

Working for the biggest waste disposal authority brings many challenges. Since the signing of the Contract the financial landscape has changed dramatically, with the spend in most of our districts cut by around a third to meet the requirements of the Governments’ austerity measures. GMWDA has positively responded to that challenge by seeking to identify savings and proposals for generating value for money services including sale of spare capacity, facility optimisation and maximising landfill diversion.

Our aim has always been to make recycling as simple as possible for our residents. Back in 2003 about 85% of our waste went for landfill disposal, and only 7% was recycled. The signing of the Contract and working in partnership with our nine Waste Collection Authorities has led to the development of the four bin system which makes it easy for our residents to recycle most items on a daily basis. In addition the network of 20 Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) allows the collection of many more items that can be recycled.

Our recycling and composting rate in 2014/15 was 44% with 77% diversion from landfill, something we have worked hard to achieve. Our performance so far in 2016/17 has increased diversion to c.87%, a significant step forward. There are still many challenges ahead and we have ambitious targets to reach including achieving 60% recycling and 90% diversion from landfill by 2025. It’s up to us, as a Waste Disposal Authority, to encourage, inspire and educate residents to recycle all they can. We have 4 education centres across the region and a programme of targeted communication activities taking place in 2016/17. Our long-term communications strategy is now in place to help us focus on our key priorities to 2022.

In a bid to increase recycling rates many of our districts have chosen to restrict the amount of waste that households can dispose of in their general waste bin, by restricting residual capacity though smaller bins or by reducing the frequency of collections. Results have been positive with increases in recycling of up to 16% in some areas and a considerable reduction in costs.

Working in partnership has been key to GMWDA’s success and we would encourage any service provider to do the same. We work closely with our nine District Councils, our contractor, partner organisations and the residents of Greater Manchester. We are excited to be exploring a new strategic relationship with WRAP that will look to provide focused support at a local and regional level to increase efficiencies and recycling performance in Greater Manchester. Just as important is our work to influence and shape government policy.

As GMWDA strives to provide a sustainable waste management solution and improve its performance, we are calling for the Government to do more. England currently has a flat-lining recycling rate around 45%, with many local authorities struggling to achieve the 50% recycling target by 2020. With the vote to leave the European Union, now is the time for the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) to focus on the waste sector, represent us in our negotiations with the EU and deliver a clear, long term waste and recycling policy with effective regulation and enforcement.

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