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Dishing The Dirt on Green Waste Recycling

May 25, 2021 | Waste Management

What is green waste and where does it come from?

Green waste, also known as vegetal waste, is biodegradable matter such as grass trimmings, leaves and plants. It can come from households (organic garden waste) or industry (scraping from the surface of construction sites). The benefits of recycling green waste into compost are well known, but the volumes of feed material are significant.

According to SEPA, in 2018 around 75% of green waste was recycled into compost, perfect for gardening and farming. At Brewster Bros, we understand the important role that green waste plays in the circular economy and have developed a green waste recycling service as well as a quality compost product to help the construction industry close the loop. 

Recycling Green Waste

There are a couple of different approaches to turn green waste into compost. At Brewster Bros, we employ the outdoor aerated windrow technique. The green waste must first be inspected for contaminants then shredded into a manageable size that will allow for optimal microbial activity and moisture retention later on in the process. It is then placed into large heaps called windrows to allow air to flow through the piles and aid aerobic decomposition. In order to facilitate the decomposition, the windrows need to be mechanically turned throughout the process. This process can take anywhere between 8 and 16 weeks before the compost is given a final screening to ensure it is a high quality compost product ready to use. 

The Problem

You might be thinking – all green waste breaks down so what’s the issue sending it to landfill? Although most green waste breaks down, not all of it does and this process takes a lot of time. In landfill, leaves take around a year to decompose whereas branches and tree stumps take anywhere between 50 and 100 years. Sending green waste that is perfectly recyclable takes up what little space is left in landfills. With most landfills in the UK already nearing capacity, this prematurely ends the useful life of the organic materials. 

Methane Emissions UK

When green waste is sent to landfills, it releases harmful greenhouse gasses as it decomposes. Landfills are responsible for almost 37% of the total methane emission in the UK (Gov UK). This greenhouse gas is harmful to humans and the environment. Methane speeds up global warming and reduces the amount of oxygen there is in the atmosphere (Gov UK).

Another issue with how this resource is currently managed is contamination. This is due to a lack of understanding of what constitutes green waste or oversight when screening the waste being sent for recycling. Loads of green waste can be contaminated with everything from pots and planters to bags of rubbish. Regardless of what is hiding in loads of green waste, any contamination can lead to it being sent to landfill as it is perceived as too difficult and time consuming to screen before processing. 

The Solution

Reuse, Recycle, Repeat

If you find yourself with garden waste you could compost it yourself or re-use it for turfing. If this isn’t an option then carefully screen it according to your local collection service and let it be processed and live another life as a useful product.

In a similar way, green waste generated by new build construction sites could be repurposed on site, but if this isn’t a possibility then find a local business like Brewster Bros that will recycle your green waste for you. Before you deposit your waste with a recycling company, make sure you screen it according to their guidelines to avoid any contamination. 

Know The Facts

Avoid contamination and maximise what’s sent to be recycled by checking the guidance on local collections for household green waste and for businesses including construction, look into the service available in your area. 

Our recycling facility is based in Pumpherston just outside Livingston. We offer a green waste recycling service to Edinburgh, West Lothian and Scotland’s central belt. To get advice or book our waste recycling services call 01506 431 321 or email [email protected].

With a little research into how and what to recycle and creative thinking on how to reuse green waste, we can close the loop ensuring that we maximise green waste’s useful lifespan and make sure no green waste finds its way into landfill.