Despite recent reductions in CO2 emissions over the course of the global pandemic, the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere continues to rise. According to National Geographic, during May, it increased to 418 parts per million — the highest ever recorded in human history. This record was broken even while there were drastic drops in CO2 emissions at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, global daily emissions were 17% lower than in 2019.
Why is the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere still so high? The significant drop in CO2 emissions over recent months has had little effect simply because of how long greenhouse gases linger in the atmosphere and how much they still continue to accumulate. Since humans are mostly dependent on carbon as a fuel source, staying home and stopping travel during the pandemic were only small steps towards combating the climate crisis.
Commercial Waste Services: Innovative solutions for climate change
In order to have a significant impact, we would need to reduce emissions over a longer period of time to see a decline in carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. According to Constantine Samaras, energy and climate expert at Carnegie Mellon University, “We have to recognise that technological, behavioural, and structural change is the best and only way to reduce emissions.”
In September 2019, we declared a climate emergency. As a result, Westminster City Council committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2030 and for the whole city to follow suit by 2040 — ten years ahead of Government targets. So what is Commercial Waste Services doing to reduce emissions and improve air quality in Westminster?
Currently, we are working to expand our electrically-powered collection fleet. Our vehicles were originally diesel trucks and reaching their end-of-life. We are in the process of upcycling them and fitting them with electrical engines to reduce emissions. The remainder of our existing fleet is fitted with the innovative Eminox exhaust filters, which even exceed Euro 6 emissions standards.
Since charging electric trucks puts a big strain on the local electricity grid, we power them directly using the energy from our waste facility. This facility uses the non-recyclable waste we collect as a fuel source for generating the electricity, which then powers the electric refuse collection vehicles (eRCV).
At present, we have four 26-tonne eRCVs being tested in varying environments, including the steep hills of Sheffield and the busy, urban area of Westminster. Our fleet is now growing to include two self-developed 18-tonne vehicles to navigate the narrower streets, as well as two small vehicles for street cleansing operations.
Our goal is to make the entire 200-vehicle fleet fully electric by 2022. In addition, our target is to transform the West End and neighbouring districts to use only fully electric vehicles for waste and recycling collections and street cleansing operations before 2030.
Our innovative efforts to provide sustainable and viable solutions to improve waste management, air quality and help the environment even won us ‘Most Sustainable Fleet Management Department’ at the 2020 LAPV Future Fleet Awards.
How you can help improve air quality in Westminster
Since the City Council is a Waste Collection Authority (WCA), this makes Commercial Waste Services the legal default collection service in Westminster. We collect waste on every street as part of our obligations in maintaining public health and hygiene.
This means collections from private commercial waste providers place an unnecessary burden on the environment since they duplicate journeys that already exist as part of the City Council’s collection system. This ultimately increases traffic congestion, pollution levels and affects the health of those living, visiting or working in Westminster.
In fact, air pollution causes almost as many deaths as smoking each year in the UK. According to the World Health Organization, air pollution is related to a number of diseases including lung cancer, heart disease and respiratory infections.
Private collectors often use small, inefficient and outdated diesel-fuelled vehicles, making a number of roundtrips to collect waste and producing high emissions levels as a result. By choosing Commercial Waste Services to collect your commercial waste, you can reduce these excessive duplicated journeys by up to 80%.
Support during difficult times
Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been able to ensure collections take place in a sustainable and environmentally-friendly way. Westminster City Council has taken measures to help keep visitors, residents and workers safe on our streets. This includes providing new and additional space for cyclists and pedestrians in the heart of the capital. As such, this has temporarily widened pavements, pedestrian areas and cycle lanes in some of the city’s most iconic locations.
To ensure we continue to provide an excellent collection service, we are using special electric micro-sized vehicles to collect waste from businesses and residents to navigate some of the streets closed to traffic. The waste and recycling are then taken to larger trucks, which will travel to our waste management facilities where the waste is treated or recycled.
Take a moment to download our air quality leaflet
Home to the cleanest collection fleet in London, at Commercial Waste Services, we are constantly striving to create sustainable solutions and make innovative changes to air quality and traffic congestion in Westminster. Download our leaflet to find out how we have adapted our vehicles and services to ensure we are constantly improving and working towards the goal of making Westminster a carbon-neutral city by 2040.