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Turning the rubbish of today into tomorrow’s commodities



Date Published: {J}

Did you ever stop to think as you wash your bean or tomato tin or your Coke bottle before sending it to the recycling bin that the item will come back into your life again, in some other form?

All the items we throw into our recycling bins; cardboard, plastic, tin, aluminium, glass, tyres, wood and newspapers are reusable – up to a point – and recycling makes sense from a manufacturer’s point of view because it’s cheaper than starting from raw materials.

So one man’s waste is another man’s treasure and Galway company Barna Waste is proof of this. It was set in 1993 by Sean Curran and now employs 280 people in Connacht, 80 of them in its headquarters in Carrowbrowne on the Headford Road.

Here, waste that is collected from 35,000 households around Galway as well as Roscommon, Mayo and Sligo is processed and, where possible, recycled.

The nine and a half acre site is filled with household rubbish of every imaginable description, but there is a system. There has to be because the volume of waste coming in – 70,000 tonnes last year – requires it to be processed quickly, otherwise it’ll become unmanageable. The end product also has to be of a certain quality, explains Facility Manager Campbell Finnie, because if it isn’t there won’t be a market for it.

Most material for recycling is sold abroad, says Campbell. There is sale for glass, metal, tyres and timber in Ireland, but beyond that, it’s the UK and then Europe, especially Germany and Holland, and then the Far East.

Waste is a specialist business and Barna Waste sells most of its materials through internationally based brokers.

“That’s because brokers are able to sell more tonnage than we can,” explains Campbell. “For instance, we could have 100 tonnes of cardboard but they could have 1,000, so they get a better price, even with their commission.”

Under EU regulations, Barna Waste’s brokers must be registered with Transfrontier Shipment (TFS), with the Irish office being based in Dublin. Recycling is heavily regulated under this system – the start and final destination of all shipments have to be traceable.

Barna Waste is one of the largest recycling facilities outside Dublin and, although it’s not a pretty spot on a grey, windy Monday, with plenty of dust – and flies from a new compost facility – it is impressive.

The waste from blue bins is transported to a huge warehouse, where the contents are dumped onto the floor and a machine bursts open the bags that are tied.

Everything then goes on a conveyer belt and is fed into machines known as ballistic separators, where material is separated by shape and size. In addition, a magnet on the machine attracts cans and metal, helping to sift these through the system, explains Operations Manager Damien Monaghan.

That machine does 60-70 per cent of the work and the rest is done by ‘manual picking’, which involves a row of people on either side of three conveyor belts in an upstairs area, sending recyclables into chutes as appropriate.

Not everything that makes it to this stage is recyclable, so there are two types of manual picking – positive and negative, explains Campbell.

The positive is when people pick up something of value – like plastic –and throw it into a chute from where it goes to the ground floor, ready to be baled.

The negative is far less pleasant and occurs when householders put items such as dirty nappies or glass into their recycling bins. The men must remove the offending items and reroute them to landfill. In the space of a minute, six dirty nappies and even an incontinence pad pass along the conveyer belt, bound for ‘negative picking’

Different kinds of plastic are sent through different chutes to areas downstairs, all clearly segregated. Papers and cardboard, meanwhile, go onto the end of the line and two workers stationed there do a final check to make sure no plastic gets through.

The sorting process is very precise – it has to be, because the next step involves sending the sorted items to another machine, where they are made into bales about five feet tall.

Even in the world of recycling everything has a pecking order. Alongside one building there are bales of low grade plastic – everything from flower pots to road cones – that’s harder to sell than quality plastic, but there is a market for it.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Galway have lot to ponder in poor show



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013




GALWAY’S first serious examination of the 2013 season rather disturbingly ended with a rating well below the 40% pass mark at the idyllic, if rather Siberian, seaside setting of Enniscrone on Sunday last.

The defeat cost Galway a place in the FBD League Final against Leitrim and also put a fair dent on their confidence shield for the bigger tests that lie ahead in February.

There was no fluke element in this success by an understrength Sligo side and by the time Leitrim referee, Frank Flynn, sounded the final whistle, there wasn’t a perished soul in the crowd of about 500 who could question the justice of the outcome.

It is only pre-season and last Sunday’s blast of dry polar winds did remind everyone that this is far from summer football, but make no mistake about it, the match did lay down some very worrying markers for Galway following a couple of victories over below par third level college teams.

Galway did start the game quite positively, leading by four points at the end of a first quarter when they missed as much more, but when Sligo stepped up the tempo of the game in the 10 minutes before half-time, the maroon resistance crumbled with frightening rapidity.

Some of the statistics of the match make for grim perusal. Over the course of the hour, Galway only scored two points from play and they went through a 52 minute period of the match, without raising a white flag – admittedly a late rally did bring them close to a draw but that would have been very rough justice on Sligo.

Sligo were backable at 9/4 coming into this match, the odds being stretched with the ‘missing list’ on Kevin Walsh’s team sheet – Adrian Marren, Stephen Coen, Tony Taylor, Ross Donovan, David Kelly, David Maye, Johnny Davey and Eamon O’Hara, were all marked absent for a variety of reasons.

Walsh has his Sligo side well schooled in the high intensity, close quarters type of football, and the harder Galway tried to go through the short game channels, the more the home side bottled them up.

Galway badly needed to find some variety in their attacking strategy and maybe there is a lot to be said for the traditional Meath style of giving long, quick ball to a full forward line with a big target man on the edge of the square – given Paul Conroy’s prowess close to goal last season, maybe it is time to ‘settle’ on a few basics.

Defensively, Galway were reasonably solid with Gary Sice at centre back probably their best player – he was one of the few men in maroon to deliver decent long ball deep into the attacking zone – while Finian Hanley, Conor Costello and Gary O’Donnell also kept things tight.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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