Contractor is still dumping fallen leaves in landfill
BRISTOL is still sending rubbish bags of leaves to landfill – because they are "too dirty" to be recycled.
The Environment Agency has told the city's waste contractor May Gurney that tons of leaves swept up from streets and parks cannot be recycled because they have been contaminated by car exhaust fumes.
This comes despite Bristol City Council telling The Post a year ago that May Gurney should stop sending leaves to landfill.
A reader contacted The Post to complain that she had recently witnessed May Gurney workers collecting leaves from a pavement in Kingsdown and gathering them into bags to be sent to landfill.
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In December 2011, The Post reported that leaves were being collected by crews of binmen in the large, clear plastic bags, which are non bio-degradable and take hundreds of years to decompose.
Following the revelation, which came after the council had committed to a policy of producing "zero waste" within three years, May Gurney pledged to implement a "full leafing programme" to compost as many leaves as possible.
At the time, the council said that it understood that the leaves would be sent for composting in the future.
Despite the practice continuing, May Gurney said it had not gone back on its promise and that the Environment Agency ruling was to blame for leaves not being recycled.
Dave McGill, Bristol's contract director for May Gurney, said: "Since we won the contract a year ago, recycling figures in the city have hit an all-time high of 50 per cent and it is pleasing to see more and more people recycling their food, garden and other waste that would previously have been sent to landfill.
"We have not gone back on our word; May Gurney is serious about supporting the council to meet its tough recycling figures and although clearing leaves from the streets and parks only accounts for about half of one per cent of the total of waste that we actually collect and we are keen that, where possible, as much as possible is sent for recycling.
"Unfortunately the Environmental Agency stopped contractors from taking our leaves for composting, due to the risk of chemical contamination from car exhausts and other gases.
"May Gurney, however, has not just sat back, we have been proactive and sent a number of samples of leaves taken from around the city to a lab to be analysed for contamination.
"We have not had the results back yet but we hope that, as long as these meet government guidelines, we will be able to recycle this type of waste later this year."
City council spokesman Pete Wood said: "We can confirm that the reasons stated for not composting the leaves are as stated and we support the efforts of May Gurney to explore the extent of chemical contamination and hope that we will be in a position to resume recycling this waste in due course."
Environment Agency spokesman Paul Gainey said: "Leaves can be composted except when they're mixed up with polluted street and gutter sweepings. Recent trials showed that compost produced from street sweepings was too contaminated to be safely spread on agricultural land. Some councils are looking at working with us and the Association for Organics Recycling to see if leaves can be collected off the streets and safely composted."