Monday, October 17, 2005

The Scrap Man Cometh!

It's funny when things just happen by coincidence, and couldn't have been better organised by human intervention.

This weekend I tidied out my 1950s shed and had a general clearup of the garden. I turfed out 3 old central heating boilers and a load of other scrap metal into the skip, but was starting to have pangs of guilt because I knew that they would probably just be landfilled. I was just about to fish them out of the skip and take them in the back of the car down to the council operated recycling centre, when there was a knock at the door.

"I see you have some metal items in your skip - I was wondering if I could take them away for you?"

It was thus that I met Ernie, the local scrap enthusiast, a well spoken chap in his early thirties.

"Certainly", I said, "and I have a few more items around the back."

So Ernie and I got talking and I discovered that metal scrap has now reached 65 pounds per tonne for iron and steel, and it is being packed up and shipped to China by the boatload, where it is being recycled into new steel stock.

A few years ago, when they shut down the UK blast furnaces and steel mills, there was no longer a market for scrap steel and so it became very difficult to dispose of old cars. Frequently, you would see vehicles abandonned by the roadside, because no-one wanted to have to pay 50 quid to have the scrap yard take it from them.

Times, they are a changing, and with the insatiable market for scrap in China, and a few enterprising, globally aware scrap dealers, all that old junk is actually worth real cash.

This then begs the question of what about all the other stuff that needlessly ends up in landfill. Building work and home improvements generates a considerable amout of scrap timber, and every new kitchen installed produces a mountain of cardboard packaging.

There is probably enough scrap timber produced in Surrey to fuel all of its schools and hospitals, suitably chipped or pelletised, the wood could be burned in industrial heating boilers, and help to offset the use of oil and natural gas for heating these essential buildings.

That's why I am installing a new wood-fired stove with back boiler in my home, whilst my new shed/workshop will be effectively heated by the orange stove seen lurking in corner of the old-shed - above. It's an Austrian Windhager multifuel boiler that I picked up about 10 years ago. It's not suitable for the house because of its size and shape, but it is very efficient and can be stoked up so that it runs all night if needed.

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