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Turning the rubbish of today into tomorrow’s commodities



Date Published: {J}

Did you ever stop to think as you wash your bean or tomato tin or your Coke bottle before sending it to the recycling bin that the item will come back into your life again, in some other form?

All the items we throw into our recycling bins; cardboard, plastic, tin, aluminium, glass, tyres, wood and newspapers are reusable – up to a point – and recycling makes sense from a manufacturer’s point of view because it’s cheaper than starting from raw materials.

So one man’s waste is another man’s treasure and Galway company Barna Waste is proof of this. It was set in 1993 by Sean Curran and now employs 280 people in Connacht, 80 of them in its headquarters in Carrowbrowne on the Headford Road.

Here, waste that is collected from 35,000 households around Galway as well as Roscommon, Mayo and Sligo is processed and, where possible, recycled.

The nine and a half acre site is filled with household rubbish of every imaginable description, but there is a system. There has to be because the volume of waste coming in – 70,000 tonnes last year – requires it to be processed quickly, otherwise it’ll become unmanageable. The end product also has to be of a certain quality, explains Facility Manager Campbell Finnie, because if it isn’t there won’t be a market for it.

Most material for recycling is sold abroad, says Campbell. There is sale for glass, metal, tyres and timber in Ireland, but beyond that, it’s the UK and then Europe, especially Germany and Holland, and then the Far East.

Waste is a specialist business and Barna Waste sells most of its materials through internationally based brokers.

“That’s because brokers are able to sell more tonnage than we can,” explains Campbell. “For instance, we could have 100 tonnes of cardboard but they could have 1,000, so they get a better price, even with their commission.”

Under EU regulations, Barna Waste’s brokers must be registered with Transfrontier Shipment (TFS), with the Irish office being based in Dublin. Recycling is heavily regulated under this system – the start and final destination of all shipments have to be traceable.

Barna Waste is one of the largest recycling facilities outside Dublin and, although it’s not a pretty spot on a grey, windy Monday, with plenty of dust – and flies from a new compost facility – it is impressive.

The waste from blue bins is transported to a huge warehouse, where the contents are dumped onto the floor and a machine bursts open the bags that are tied.

Everything then goes on a conveyer belt and is fed into machines known as ballistic separators, where material is separated by shape and size. In addition, a magnet on the machine attracts cans and metal, helping to sift these through the system, explains Operations Manager Damien Monaghan.

That machine does 60-70 per cent of the work and the rest is done by ‘manual picking’, which involves a row of people on either side of three conveyor belts in an upstairs area, sending recyclables into chutes as appropriate.

Not everything that makes it to this stage is recyclable, so there are two types of manual picking – positive and negative, explains Campbell.

The positive is when people pick up something of value – like plastic –and throw it into a chute from where it goes to the ground floor, ready to be baled.

The negative is far less pleasant and occurs when householders put items such as dirty nappies or glass into their recycling bins. The men must remove the offending items and reroute them to landfill. In the space of a minute, six dirty nappies and even an incontinence pad pass along the conveyer belt, bound for ‘negative picking’

Different kinds of plastic are sent through different chutes to areas downstairs, all clearly segregated. Papers and cardboard, meanwhile, go onto the end of the line and two workers stationed there do a final check to make sure no plastic gets through.

The sorting process is very precise – it has to be, because the next step involves sending the sorted items to another machine, where they are made into bales about five feet tall.

Even in the world of recycling everything has a pecking order. Alongside one building there are bales of low grade plastic – everything from flower pots to road cones – that’s harder to sell than quality plastic, but there is a market for it.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup



Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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