Young gymnasts recycle 100%, other leisure centres deploy magic fogging machine

Team Scrutiny‘s Jackie Haynes reports from July’s Communities and Equalities Scrutiny Committee meeting which included a discussion of the recycling in leisure centres report. It shows that the gymnastics centre has reached a 100% recycling rate by getting rid of their general waste bin. Other Manchester leisure centres now recycle, on average, slightly more than half of their waste, but hope to use a fogging machine to help creep to 60%. 

This discussion of recycling in leisure centres felt way behind the curve. But hey, Parp-Parp! The Magic Fogging Machine lumbers into view. The following is edited and paraphrased because my own words fail me…

An image of recycling rates across Manchester leisure centres
Gymnastics Centre recycles at 100%, Hough End’s rate declines, while many other centres do slightly better than last year.

Good morning councillors. I’m Nikki Boothroyd. I work for Manchester Active and I’m the facility contracts lead who oversees the facility arrangements on behalf of the Council. It was requested that this report was put together for scrutiny.

A bit of background before I take any questions: at Manchester Active we work with our two facility operators, Everyone Active at Wythenshaw Forum and GLL, who operate all the sites. 21 sites across the city are on a sustainability action plan, which encompasses a waste recycling structure.

The report gives you information on the recycling structure and shows that recycling rates are going up. From February we’ve increased recycling rates up until May this year by 11%. In the sustainability plan there is a focus on recycling. We are looking at how we can prevent, more than recycle, how we are procuring, how we produce and how we can reuse or repair materials. We’re hoping that the waste produced from leisure centres will decrease by putting other sustainability plans into place.

An example is in our leisure centres, where we want to get away from single use plastics from drinks in vending machines and provide more drink stations instead. That’s a long-term ambition. We delivered an event earlier this year at which single use plastics were reduced. We put in more water stations for the championships at the National Squash Centre.

We work with our partners who are delivering events to produce sustainable programmes. We reuse wherever possible and where we have not got recyclable waste, it’s burnable waste which is incineration to produce energy. B&M, our waste provider for leisure centres, uses incinerators in Runcorn which produce energy by using turbines, which goes back to the grid to be used again.
Any questions?

Cllr Wills (Withington): Thank you very much for the for the report on this. You mentioned single use plastics and the drive to get people to use reusable plastics more. And certainly, whenever I go to the gym, I always take one of these with me (holds up re-useable water bottle) and I see a lot of other people do as well. Has there been any actual research done into what proportion of people are using reusable water bottles like this? And are people bringing in single use plastic drinks bottles?

Another question: obviously since gyms started to reopen, following the relaxing of restrictions, certainly in the one I use, you’ve had the requirement for people to clean the equipment that they’ve used or to clean it before they use it. Sometimes you have cloths provided and sometimes it’s paper towels. Obviously, the problem with the paper towels is that that’s leading to an increase in waste and it’s not very environmentally friendly. So, again, you’re trying to make sure that there’s a sustainable means for people to keep the equipment clean and to help keep the infection risk down, at the same time as not compromising the environment.

Cllr Ali (Burnage): Thanks for the report. On point 2.3, can you confirm how SLM and GLL are monitoring the recycling rates? And have you seen the staff training that is currently being undertaken?

Nikki Boothroyd: On the first point, there is no research on the single use of plastics, but we can do so as we start to work with the vending company. We do know that people have been using water bottles more as they returned after the lockdown, now that they can bring in their own things, like towels, into the gym.

In terms of the cleaning materials, at the moment, paper towels need to be recycled, while we’re still living with COVID and we need to wipe equipment down. Wythenshaw Forum use fogging machines, which means wiping down isn’t needed, but that can only be done between sessions. Fogging machines can be sprayed onto equipment, instead of having to wipe it down.

GLL and SLM provided monthly monitoring reports from B&M. In our contract monitoring, we have a review with each of the operators and produce a quarterly report of statistics for every centre. Social value is monitored in terms which include environment and energy. In staff training, we do an audit of both GLL and SLM’s staff training logs. All staff did the council’s mandatory climate change training which the operator staff did as well and will review and report on that.

Cllr Rawson (Chorlton Park): The figures for the regional gym centre are very impressive, achieving 100% recycling. So, is whatever they’re doing right being shared with the rest of the estate, so that they can learn from their good practice? I realise it’s a different kind of centre to the ordinary gyms. But still, congratulations to them for achieving 100% and we need to know exactly how they’ve achieved that. On a very local level, I’m disappointed to see that Hough End Leisure Centre recycling rates have gone down, even though you say that it’s one of the highest actual recycling centres. Any decrease is unwelcome, so please do all you can to encourage that recycling rate to go up. Thank you.

Nikki Boothroyd: The gymnastic centre is what it says on the tin, it’s a gymnastic centre so it isn’t a leisure centre. Young people doing gymnastics actually only produce recyclable waste. The gymnastic club has only paper waste and they have got rid of their general waste collection. How we can put that into practice everywhere else, I’m not quite sure, but it’s something we should strive towards.

Hough End is the most highly used leisure centre of the city and has more waste being produced. We’re encouraging people to fetch their own water bottles. One of the suggestions we’ve put in the action plan is to sell water bottles on site, along with the swimwear and goggles. We’ll ask our operators to start selling water bottles and encourage people to use the water fountains that we’ve got on site.

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