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Turning the rubbish of today into tomorrow’s commodities

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Date Published: 19-May-2011

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 Bay FM News Archives

Galway has country’s largest population of young people

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Date Published: 07-May-2013

Galway has a population of young people which is more than twice the national average.

According to information gathered by the Central Statistics Office, Galway’s population of 20 to 24 year olds is more than twice the national average.

The number of 25-34 year olds in Galway is also more than the norm nationally, with the two main colleges thought to be the main reason.

However immigration in Galway is much higher than in other areas at 19.4 percent, compared to the national average of 12 percent.

 

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Galway Bay FM News Archives

Call for direct donations to city charity shops

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Date Published: 07-May-2013

A city councillor is encouraging people to donate goods directly to charity shops.

It follows allegations of thefts from clothes banks in Galway and across the country in recent months.

However, cameras are in place at some clothes banks and surveillance is carried out by local authorities.

Speaking on Galway Talks, Councillor Neil McNeilis said the problem of theft from clothes banks is widespread.

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Galway Bay FM News Archives

Galway ‘Park and Ride’ could become permanent

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Date Published: 07-May-2013

A park ‘n’ ride scheme from Carnmore into Galway city could become a permanent service if there is public demand.

That’s according to the Chief Executive of Galway Chamber of Commerce, Michael Coyle.

The pilot scheme will begin at 7.20 next Monday morning, May 13th.

Motorists will be able to park cars at the airport carpark in Carnmore and avail of a bus transfer to Forster Street in the city.

Buses will depart every 20 minutes at peak times and every 30 minutes at offpeak times throughout the day, at a cost of 2 euro per journey.

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