Following our recent Warehousing & Distribution of the Future Webinar, we have collated the questions and answers from the end of the session all in one place, providing information about key aspects of the sector moving forwards into 2021 and beyond.
Q. How easy would it be to conduct a composition analysis if my business operates over a number of sites, some of them being smaller transfer hubs?
Waste composition analysis is a clear part of our strategy. In any network, you will have similarities across facilities. At Veolia, we walk through a process that seeks to establish similar or “peer” activities or sites, so the processes and material mix, or waste composition, at one site can often be reflected in another. Where you've got similar sizes of facilities and activities, you can look at analysing one, getting a clear picture and checking it elsewhere. The other thing to bear in mind is to consider backhaul for some of those materials if they can be segregated and consolidated for backhaul. If you pick them out in your compositional analysis that starts to open up the evaluation process, potentially bringing that channel into play for you.
When you consider a circular economy, it's essentially mining your waste to recover valuable elements, capturing them with a view to them becoming an input raw material for the manufacture of a new green product. So, understanding what you have - what's generated and where it's generated - is a wonderful first step in terms of the journey towards a zero-waste solution.
Q. What does the future of electric vehicles look like in the logistics sector, and is there enough technology to support this?
Range is an issue, but in logistics, we can look at the routes that can be completed in the vehicle's range first, and then look at the bigger picture of the routes further ahead. Vehicles that are coming up to market have 150, or even 200-mile ranges now - charging infrastructure rather than range will be the issue. In terms of domestic journeys, the average car journey in the UK is less than eight miles, so choosing an electric vehicle is becoming an increasingly viable option. The total cost of ownership is another thing that needs to be looked at, not only the cost of the vehicle expensive, but over the lifespan of the vehicle, it tends to be a similar cost to an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicle.
There is amazing innovation happening in the sector, for example, we have managed to electrify things like refuse collection vehicles. If we can do that, then the innovation is there. The charging infrastructure is a problem, and it's going to become more and more of a problem as everybody is going to try and use the same available electrical capacity, so that's another reason to look at it now and get a sense of urgency. If you have the flexibility as to where exactly you put your depot, or you design your route to stop at a specific charging point, there are some opportunities there. One example is what we're doing in Sheffield, where we're using the energy from waste facility, which is generating electricity to charge the electric fleet. The refuse collection trucks are charged directly from the power generated by the waste that they carry. There's a massive availability of power at this location. There are lots of opportunities, and if anyone can do it it is the logistics experts because it is really a question of routing.
Q. How can my business get involved in supporting wood waste recycling?
Where wood lies in your process is always going to be a challenge, whether it's pallets or off-cuts or something else that's coming through your process, but the quality of wood is a driving factor here. Segregation and containment of the wood, once you've identified where it is arising in your business, is going to be crucial. There are some reuse options that score very highly, for example, animal bedding, and of course, if you have a low grade or poorer materials there is now a thriving biomass market where you can take those wooden materials that can be chipped and used as a fuel in energy generation processes, which is a great carbon reduction option. So with wood, as with all valuable resources that we’re trying to preserve, we're looking to retain the quality to allow options to redeploy into circular or alternative uses. Not unnecessarily mixing valuable or interesting fractions gives you options. There are solutions for these and wood has got a thriving market. If you have any challenges, forward them to us.