Landfill – zero

A day trip to Leeds might involve mooching round the ornate Victorian shopping arcades, a visit to Leeds City Art Gallery, or to one of the theatres. It might involve some serious retail therapy.

What it wouldn’t normally involve is Cross Green, an unlovely sprawling industrial estate to the south east of the city centre.  Acres of modern rectangular industrial buildings surround large wholesale markets, and any housing squeezes up into the north of the patch.

But Cross Green is home to one of Leeds’ most exciting new buildings.  Here, on its southern face is a striking living wall, one of the largest in Europe, providing biodiversity in an otherwise wholly man-made environment.

Leeds RERF’s Living Wall.

The building itself relies heavily on glass and elegant timber framing.  It’s something of an anachronism in a zone of modern concrete boxes.

This is Leeds Recycling and Energy Recovery Facility.  

A scale model of Leeds RERF.

These days we’re all encouraged to recycle – glass, paper, tins, plastic, garden waste  – even, in some local authorities, food waste.  By rights, little should need to find its way into those black bags steadily filling every landfill site in the country.  But it does.

The advanced technology in this building aims to prevent that: and thanks to our friends Graham and Trish, we spent an afternoon finding out how.

We started out in one of the meeting rooms, looking through glass to watch a monstrous grab working with up to 6 tonnes per grab of shredded miscellaneous waste.  This was waste at the end of its journey, but still useful.

 

Come with us.  Put on the work boots they give you, the hi-viz jacket, the safety helmet and the goggles.  Come with us and we walk from point to point in this immense building.

Malcolm’s all togged up for the visit.

Here are the monitors which – er- monitor every part of the plant.  Look carefully and you’ll see flames on one of the screens.

Monitors at work.

This is an incinerator which burns the unrecoverable waste we had been looking at earlier, to produce heat.  The heat turns water into steam.  The steam powers a turbine.  The turbine generates about  13 MW of electricity – enough to supply the needs of 22,000 homes.  Emissions are carefully controlled, cleaned and captured, and the ash generated by this unimaginably hot bonfire is used as aggregate in road building.

Before that though, materials which could have been recycled earlier are extracted.  Paper and card are blown from the refuse.  Metals are fished out by magnets.  We couldn’t take pictures as we walked round the plant, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

There’s not really a market for the degraded paper which finds its way here.  But next time you take an egg from an egg box, or find yourself staring at a sick-bowl in hospital, or need to buy some paper-based animal bedding, you might be using something that started out in the RERF in Leeds.

I could blind you with facts and figures, but I think it’s enough to know that Leeds is helping to meet its ambitious zero-waste plans with projects such as this.  We, wherever we live, have an obligation to develop our own personal zero-waste strategies. Maybe you have a group you could join, like our own Plastic Free Ripon?  More of that in another post.

The entrance to Leeds RERF.

Click on any image to see it full size.

Supplementary Snapshot Saturday: First snow

The weekly photo challenge posed by WordPress is taking a week off.  I don’t have to.  I thought I’d add to the piles of photos clogging up the internet showing snow.  Snow in the garden, out by the lake, up a mountain, shutting down the motorways, whitening city streets ….

We woke up this morning to bitter cold.  Minus One Celsius.  This will make my American and Canadian readers laugh.  Look at this post from my blogging friend Kerry.  Where she wakes up it’s  -32, and steam is rising from the frozen lake.  She’d better not read this.  Where she is, nobody ventures out, not even – especially not even – the cats.

This is snowy weather British style.  Just a couple of inches.  Just enough to snarl up the transport system and fill the airwaves with ‘Is your journey really necessary?’ type warnings.  It’ll probably be gone tomorrow.

 

 

Click on any image to view full size.

PS.  Happy New Year!

 

 

 

Snapshot Saturday: a field, a drystone wall, a corner

As you walk the fells, moors and dales of northern England, this is what you’ll see.

Masham Moor from Slipstone Crags.

Miles and miles of drystone wall.  In the Yorkshire Dales alone, there are some 8000 km. of wall, compared with only 990 km. of hedgerow, and 250 km. of fencing.  These walls keep flocks of sheep contained upon a single fell.  They provide a boundary between moorland heather and bracken, and more productive farmland.  They divide one farmer’s plot into more manageable fields.

Off they march down the fellside, turning a corner and skirting the valley bottom, before cornering again to march back up.  Or they’ll make snug little criss-cross squares in an ancient family farm.  Well maintained or slightly ramshackle, they make Yorkshire and the Pennine counties instantly recognisable.  Here’s a selection:

 

Coverdale.

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is ‘corner’

O Level Geography for walkers

This time 54 years ago – more or less – I was sitting my O Level in Geography. Among other things, we studied the economic geography of England, interpreting Ordnance Survey maps, and a little elementary geology.

The Pennine Way near Gargrave.

Our walk the other day would have made an excellent field trip.  We were over in West Yorkshire, and our route from Gargrave took in sections of the Pennine Way, and quite a stretch of the Leeds and Liverpool canal.

A section of an OS map showing the area round Gargrave (from the BBC website).

Map-reading wasn’t our problem, because John and Pat were competently leading us onwards.  The hills weren’t a problem, because the slopes were relatively gentle.  They were the drumlins which are a feature of the area.

We’re walking over drumlins. The Pennines are over there in the distance.

O Level question: What are drumlins?  Drumlins are elongated hills of glacial deposits. They can be 1 km long and 500 metres wide, often occurring in groups. They would have been part of the debris that was carried along and then accumulated under an ancient glacier. The long axis of the drumlin indicates the direction in which the glacier was moving. The drumlin would have been deposited when the glacier became overloaded with sediment.

Here are drumlins. Drumlins as farmland.

We walked through fields of cows, fields of sheep, and through woodland, emerging at lunchtime on the banks of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

O Level question: What is the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, and why was it built?  The Leeds and Liverpool Canal is a canal in Northern England, linking the cities of Leeds and Liverpool. Over a distance of 127 miles, it crosses the Pennines, and includes 91 locks on the main line.  It was built from 1770, and allowed  textiles to be sent from the woollen towns of Yorkshire for export from Liverpool.  Liverpool also required coal to fuel its manufacturing and shipping industries.

Our first view of the Leeds and Liverpool canal at East Marton.

What an industrial thoroughfare it was then.  Busy, dirty barges and narrow boats piled with goods moved between Yorkshire and Lancashire, where now there are only bucolic scenes and holidaymakers enjoying tranquil holidays slowly wending their way along the canal.

We watched as boats rose or descended through one, two, three, four, five, six locks to reach a different level of the canal.  We marvelled at a section of our route along the canal towpath.  We, and the canal itself, were travelling along a viaduct, and far below us were fields and a river.  I couldn’t organise photographic proof. Soon after, we were back in Gargrave.

So there we have it.  If only I’d done that walk when I was 16.  I would hardly have had to do any geography revision at all.

The canal towpath. No longer a scene of industry and commerce.

Snapshot Saturday: Keeping the sheep in order

Near Appletreewick (pronounced ‘Aptrick’ locally)

Yorkshire has over 8000 km. of drystone walls.

Constructing these walls is an ancient art which seems in no danger of dying out: younger generations continue to learn the skills needed. Large stones are carefully jigsawed together into 5′ to 7′ high walls.  Here are some instructions:

‘Gather and sort the stone by size in a type that complements and harmonises with the landscape such as limestone, grit stone or sandstone. Make foundations level and about a yard wide. Large stones go at the bottom butting against each other. All other stones must make contact with others and have the weight back into the wall and the face facing.  With each layer of stone fill in void spaces with smaller stones to ‘bind’ the wall. The wall should taper like a flat topped ‘ A’,  this slope is called the batter. ‘Throughs’ are the large heavy stones laid across the wall at intervals for extra strength. Topping stones as the name suggests are the icing on the cake also called coping, cap or comb stonesCheeks or Heads are the end stones. A Cripple hole is a rectangular opening at the base of a wall built to permit the passage of sheep. Also known as a hogg hole, lonky or lunky hole, sheep run, sheep smoose, smout hole, thawl or thirl hole. Smoot hole is to allow Rabbits and Hare to move through or even small streams.’

(From Yorkshire: God’s Own County)

 

I love these ancient technical terms.  I love the order these walls impose upon the landscape, as they perform their traditional task of dividing fields, and keeping sheep in their place.

Drystone walls marching across the landscape near Grassington.

This week’s WordPress photo challenge is ‘Order’.

Snapshot Saturday: a truly turbulent yet transient sunset

We had quite an arresting sunset the other night.  As with all sunsets, it was evanescent: here at one moment and gone the next.  I’ll show it to you at the end of the post, together with the rainbow that briefly accompanied it in a rainless sky.

That sunset though reminded me of another sunset, even more dramatic, which we experienced in France in February 2014.  Evanescent it might have been.  But it’s etched in my memory forever.

Sunset seen from the church at Laroque d’Olmes.
The moment is almost over.

Now then.  Here’s our English sunset, from just a couple of weeks ago.   Which do you prefer?

A response to this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge: Evanescent.