NWP – A LOCAL CIRCULAR ECONOMY IN ACTION
NWP – A LOCAL CIRCULAR ECONOMY IN ACTION
More and more of Northern Ireland’s ratepayers are heeding pleas to better utilise kitchen food caddies and brown bins with councils across the region seeing significant benefits in terms of increased recycling percentages, reduced waste disposal costs and reductions in residual waste going to landfill.
Natural World Products (NWP) has been at the forefront of that movement, pioneering a more progressive, collaborative and productive way of working with its public sector partners to fully engage within local communities and to help promote more effective recycling of organic content like food and garden waste. “We’re interested in changing how private companies within our sector have traditionally worked with local authority partners,” says CEO Colm Warren. “We believe that once committed to long-term contracts, as we are with the vast majority of our customer base, the onus is on us to go beyond contractual commitments and to fully understand the challenges they face when it comes to increasing recycling percentages while operating within a budgetary framework that is more constrained every year. To that end, we’re continually seeking to improve what we can offer and a large part of that is being flexible in our service delivery and proactive in terms of how we are willing to adapt to councils’ evolving challenges.” NWP employs 50 people at four
locations around Northern Ireland and delivers 45% of all reported recycling from Local Authority Collected Municipal Waste streams every year. The company recycled 200,000 tonnes of biowaste in 2018, contributing tens of thousands of tonnes of carbon savings in the process. This figure has grown significantly in the six years since Warren arrived and the company is heavily engaged in researching the latest technological advancements in order to further improve the economic and environmental benefits it can offer public and private sector customers alike. “It’s not a surprise to people that, as leaders in this industry, we’re focused on creating a sustainable local environment and we’ve an important educational and developmental role to play in that. At the moment, we’re engaged in over 20 separate community initiatives where we’re working with local charities, schools and community groups to help promote more effective household recycling and to demonstrate the tangible benefits of behavioural change within those local communities – for example, by providing compost made from food and garden waste
NWP – A LOCAL CIRCULAR ECONOMY IN ACTION More and more of Northern Ireland’s ratepayers are heeding pleas to better utilise kitchen food caddies and brown bins with councils across the region seeing significant benefits in terms of increased recycling percentages, reduced waste disposal costs and reductions in residual waste going to landfill.
NWP’s Colm Warren & Celine Magill with Graeme Beatt Course Manager @ Royal Portrush
NWP Compost from Mid-Ulster’s Biowaste being used at New Row PS Castledawson
COUNCIL IN FOCUS
to school gardens, community allotments, vegetable patches, local parks and so on. “However, in talking to elected members and the wider public, beyond those already committed to environmentally responsible practices, we’ve found it powerful to emphasise the economic impact of effective household recycling in our efforts to harness their support and interest. For instance, within the past two years we’ve helped local councils achieve hundreds of thousands of pounds of savings within annual revenue budgets by assisting the drive to encourage food and other organic content out of the black and into the brown bin. There remains scope to capitalise further on the work done to date but emphasising the pounds and pence message and not simply focusing on ‘green’ credentials is vital.”
SOIL HEALTH NWP is also focused on the drive to improve soil health and sustainability north and south of the border. “Soil health and replenishment needs to be right at the top of government’s agenda,” says Celine Magill, NWP’s Head of Output and Quality. “Due to the intensive nature of farming here historically, our soils have suffered high levels of degradation and structural damage. It is vital that we work to restore and increase organic matter back to our soils if we are to sustain crop yields and a sustainable growing environment into the future. “At NWP we want to highlight the importance of this often over-looked aspect of what we do. Not only are we helping keep waste out of landfill, the organic compost we produce from that recycling activity has a major role to play in the future sustainability of our economically crucial growing industries.” Derek Erwin from Erwin Potatoes on the Ards peninsula, who grow for Wilson Country and Tescos is a case in point. “We’re into our second season of applying NWP’s organic compost as a soil conditioner and within that short period we’re already seeing better finishes on our potatoes’ skins. This is such a crucial factor to ensure premium returns in this sector, where the risk of poor finishes resulting in order rejections or downgrades is so significant. Integrating organic compost and all its benefits into our soils will help ensure consistency year on year for our entire crop.”
Another case in point is the walled gardens at Hillsborough Castle where NWP’s New Leaf compost is being extensively used to improve the soil in two quadrants for the cultivation of a wide variety of traditional fruits and vegetables – from raspberries and rhubarb to potatoes. Apple and pear orchards will landscape the remaining two quadrants sown by wildflower and meadowland, offering a place of reflection and sanctuary. Set to open to the public in April, the walled gardens at Hillsborough Castle, the official residence of the Royal Family in Northern Ireland and the residence of the Secretary of State, will provide an important education resource for visitors and community groups. Tailored learning projects in the walled garden and wider estate will encourage children and adults to engage with the history of the Castle and care for the natural world. These sessions will have a seasonal variation including programmes which support creative activity and a curriculum-linked exploration of the natural environment Adam Ferguson, Hillsborough Castle’s Walled Garden Keeper, said: “The new Walled Garden is the culmination of a massive amount of research, planning and labour by the team. Our ambitious planting scheme will showcase a range of traditional crops which would have supplied the house, combined with modern equivalents. “From April 2019, it will be the first part of the gardens and estate that you will see from the Lower Courtyard entrance. We want to create a ‘wow’ moment that will captivate visitors when they arrive.”
BIG IMPROVEMENTS Ernie Rolleston of Glenbrook Agri Ltd has worked as an agronomist in the County Down area for over 15 years. “Over the past few years it has been apparent that customers have been applying more chemical fertilisers with their yield response limited. Through testing and analysis we found
this was due to a reduction in the soil’s biological activity and low organic matter content, which was curtailing its ability to hold on to nutrients.
“Now the majority of my customers apply organic compost supplied by NWP and everyone has reported noteworthy improvements ranging from increased crop yields, growth in earthworm populations, reduced compaction of soils and improved workability with resultant reductions in fuel costs and wear and tear on farm machinery.”
Celine Magill notes that “for our customers, organic compost is an essential part of soil health management. Its slow-release gives root systems a steadier uptake of nutrients to build strong stems that allow for maximum support of resulting crop. This helps farmers harvest maximum yields as if nutrient uptake is too rapid, stem systems do not support the resultant growth and they simply fall away, meaning a loss of yield come harvest time.”
She is excited about the future. “I love what we’re doing at NWP. We’re a brilliant local example of ‘the Circular Economy’ in action – local jobs, economic and environmental benefits facilitated by people’s choice of how they discard their household waste. We supply producers serving some of the world’s largest retailers, to independent growers providing organic vegetables to our most prestigious local restaurants, to our most famous golf courses attracting tourists from all over the world” (Graham Beatt, Course Manager at Royal Portrush is a big fan).
Celine’s point is clear, “from some of our largest to our smallest local growers, food does not need to travel half way around the planet to arrive on our dinner plates. Organic compost is more and more being seen as the way forward towards soil sustainability. Lock the carbon in the soil instead of sending it back into the atmosphere.”
- NWP Susatainable Ireland Article Mar19