Meet and greet the new waste managers

Published date: 20 June 2014 |
Published by: Rhian Waller 
Read more articles by Rhian Waller  Email reporter


ONE man’s muck is another’s treasure.

And there is certainly plenty of muck at Greenfield Recycling Centre.

Mountains of mulched garden waste lie steaming in the open air.

If you live in Flintshire and you’ve filled your brown bin with grass cuttings lately, there’s a good chance your greenery is slowly decaying here.

Oddly, it smells strong, but not bad.

There’s an organic flavour to the air.

Staff at the centre have long since got used to it as they go about busily directing residents to the appropriate skip.

Despite the tonnes of mounded compost, the site itself is orderly and accessible.

Colour-coded signs make it clear what should be dropped into each skip and for smaller items, like clothes, batteries, paint and lightbulbs, staff are on hand to direct you.

A lot of their time is given over to making sure that everything that can be recycled is recycled, whether it is metal, cardboard, plastic, glass, or more unusual items.

Roger Davies, site supervisor, and Gabby Povey, waste strategy and recycling team leader, both want to get residents thinking about where to put their leftovers.

One of the site’s newest innovations is a meet and greet system which has started running at the site this month.

Gabby said: "We have someone controlling the traffic flow onto the site. That way we can check to make sure that only residential waste is being left here rather than commercial waste, where disposal should be paid for by the company, rather than left to the taxpayer.

“We can also make sure that people don’t just gravitate to the general waste skip.”
The “general waste” label is a problem.

Many residents who do not recycle at home, despite having the option of a county-financed pick-up, will trek up to the centre to dump all of their rubbish.

Roger finds this difficult to understand.

He said: “It doesn’t make much sense, as if you recycle all of the household rubbish that you can, you won’t need to come up here. Your black bin will easily last two weeks.

“You’ll get people coming up here with everything thrown into the same bag, and they’ll try to dump it into the general waste skip.

“Really, general waste shouldn’t be “general” at all. It’s only for the things that can’t be recycled, like certain kinds of plastics or polystyrene.

“Most stuff can be put in the right place.”

Recycling has obvious benefits: It saves money, saves landfill space, and it puts far less pressure on the environment.

The meet and greet procedure has already improved efficiency at the site; they have gone from throwing away eight skips of general waste to three in the space of a few weeks.

Roger said: “We’re trying to encourage people to split their waste at home. That way, they can leave most of it on the pavement, which saves them the fuel and effort of coming up here.

“Then, when they’re here, they’re in and out faster.”

Often, chucking waste into landfill is a matter of laziness. A quick ogle at the skip reveals that most visitors have simply shed bubble wrap and other items that can’t be recycled in Flintshire yet, but staff at the site have spotted people trying to sneak clothes and perishables into the skip.

Gabby said: “More than 25 materials can be recycled here. Everything from scrap metal to paper can be brought in.

“It’s not always easy. There are different types of plastic, but only five can be recycled here, but we’ve made it so that people can tell them apart.

“We have a ‘hard plastic’ section at the end of the site.

“If people aren’t sure, all they have to do is ask.”

Flintshire faces some hefty recycling targets over the next few years.

By 2016, the aim is to recycle 58 per cent of household goods. That will rise to 70 per cent from 2020 to 2025, with some intermediate targets along the way.

Roger said: “As a county, we used to be in the premier league of recyclers.

“But I think we can do better. You get those who aren’t sure and we can help them.

Then you get the odd few who just refuse to recycle. That seems odd, because it’s taught in schools nowadays. I can’t imagine kids coming home with these ideas and having their parents go, ‘no, don’t do that’.”

Four staff members in high-visibility jackets work the site at any one time.

One will be on meet and greet duty, two will split what gets brought in and one will patrol the site to offer a helping hand.

Although they are businesslike, they do have time for a bit of light relief.

Soft toys are occasionally rescued from the waste and become temporary and unofficial site mascots. A little yellow lizard guards the general waste skip, presumably to stop people hurling glass bottles in when they should rightly be deposited in a skip a few yards away.

Roger said: “Most people are great, but you do get some abuse sometimes.

“You also have to ban people if they try to dump without a permit. We’ll allow in single axle trailers with stuff that’s been cleared out of the shed, but vans with branding on them or double axle trailers will have to turn around and leave.”

Having said that, some people leave with more than they came with.

A pile of fresh compost sits near the entrance, ready for gardening enthusiasts to shovel into a waiting sack.

It makes sense, the staff point out. It’s cheaper than buying earth at a garden centre and you know exactly where it comes from.

So far the signage, the meet and greet and the staff’s general enthusiasm seems to be paying off.

Gabby said: “The improvements are working. We have a weigh-in system so we can check what we send out, and the recycling rates are improving.

“We’ve also got a relationship with charities and Refurbs Flintshire, so if people dump useable CDs, games, furniture and clothes, they can go on to have a second life.

“We’re hoping that if it works out here then we can spread the model to other sites across the county.”

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