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Swansea University gains double recognition for its outstanding green spaces

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Swansea University has once again been named among the country’s best green spaces.

The hard work of the University’s grounds team means the prestigious Green Flag will continue to fly at both its Singleton Park and Bay campuses.

The Green Flag is the international mark of a quality park or green space and recognises excellent visitor facilities, high environmental standards, and a commitment to delivering great quality green space.

This year the University has also achieved Green Heritage Site Accreditation for the first time. This special award, endorsed by Cadw, recognises sites that are both historically significant and meet Green Flag criteria. 

Grounds manager Paul Edwards said: “After what has been a challenging time for everyone, I am delighted we’ve not only retained the Green Flag but also gained the Heritage Award status.

“Singleton’s historic features are an important and celebrated part of the campus that students, visitors and the public alike have enjoyed for many years.

“The grounds team’s in-depth knowledge of these original features ensures that they will continue to preserve and enhance such assets for future generations.”

The University’s historic Singleton site is set in lush parkland and boasts well-established grounds providing a wide variety of habitats, with grassland, mature woodland, planted areas and ponds which help to support an extensive variety of wildlife.

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The Bay Campus, adjacent to Crymlyn Burrows Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), offers beachside habitats and plenty of room to explore its variety of species.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Boyle said: “We are extremely proud that our fantastic University campus has once again been recognised with Green Flag status. We understand the importance of our grounds for people and wildlife alike, and know that they play a key role in supporting the wellbeing of our staff, students and local community. We are committed to managing them with respect and care, with sustainability at the heart of all developments.

“After the challenges of the past year, Swansea University is pleased to once again be able to welcome people back onto our campuses to enjoy these special green spaces.”

The University is among 248 parks and green spaces – from country parks and formal gardens, to allotments, woodlands, and churchyards –   to be recognised by environmental charity Keep Wales Tidy, with support from Welsh Government.

Independent green space experts volunteered their time in early autumn to judge applicant sites against eight strict criteria, including biodiversity, cleanliness, environmental management, and community involvement.

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Congratulating all the winners, Minister for Climate Change Julie James described green spaces as vital for mental and physical wellbeing.  

She said: “These landscapes play a vital role in delivering rich ecosystems and vibrant and resilient communities.”

Lucy Prisk, of Keep Wales Tidy said: “The pandemic showed us just how important high-quality parks and green spaces are to our communities. With more visitors than ever enjoying our green spaces, I’d like to congratulate the hard work of staff and volunteers who have maintained excellent standards at these sites.”

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Business

New Swansea processing facility will ‘recycle the unrecyclable’

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Resource recovery expert Fiberight has set up a new facility and Centre of Excellence in Swansea that will use innovative resource recovery techniques to increase the capture of materials from waste for the production of market-ready recycled materials.

Based at the Westfield industrial estate in Waunarlwydd, the plant will recover and recycle valuable resources from household waste using Fiberight’s core water-based process, HYDRACYCLE™.

This economically sustainable process captures more than 70% of recyclable materials in the household waste stream, including packaging such as bottles, bags, wrappers, tubs and trays, plus food waste, paper/card, metals and aggregates (glass and grit). Recovered materials will be recycled and used in higher value products for the circular economy.

The plant’s current capacity is 12,000 tonnes a year to enable Fiberight to conduct R&D and validation work. The initial input feedstock comprises plastic-rich materials rejected from waste sorting facilities (MRFs) across England and Wales. This reject stream contains significant amounts of recyclable materials that can be recovered and recycled along circular economy principles – capturing these lost resources.

Nick Thompson, co-founder and Managing Director of Fiberight Ltd explains that Wales was chosen as it is the ‘leading UK nation in terms of recycling rates and resource recovery’.

He says: “Having developed the concept for a ‘resource refinery’ or ‘manufacturing facility that uses waste as a feedstock’ more than ten years ago, we have developed a unique process that is now tried and tested.”

Nick emphasises how their concept brings processing infrastructure to the UK, rather than relying on exporting to other countries to ‘finish the job’, adding: “This creates a massive opportunity in the UK to take the hundreds of millions of pounds of value lost by burning, burying or exporting waste and turn it into high value resources, which can be fed back into our manufacturing industry. As both national government and local authorities seek better processes and strategies to deal with waste, we are here to demonstrate we can deliver it.”

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In early 2022, the capacity will increase to 40,000 tonnes a year as a pre-commercial facility and employ local people. Long term, the aim is to create a 120,000-tonne commercial plant by 2026 with 40 jobs.

Processing waste via HYDRACYCLE™ significantly reduces carbon emissions by minimising the volume of waste requiring end of life disposal. The process saves 780kg CO2 emissions per tonne of waste input by recovering and recycling waste that would typically be buried or burnt.

A typical HYDRACYCLE™ plant will deliver the equivalent carbon saving of removing more than 20,000 petrol cars from the road each year when compared to business-as-usual landfill and/or incineration.

To facilitate the plant’s development, existing equipment and items from Fiberight’s US demonstration facility has been repurposed for the Swansea site. Fiberight has also been supported by various R&D-funded projects, including Innovate UK and the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU).

In addition to creating skilled jobs, Fiberight’s plant will see the output from the paper and card found in waste being used as animal bedding, biomass fuel, or converted into high end sugars for chemicals production processes; and the plastics will be separated and transformed into a range of materials and fuels. Any true residual waste would be used for energy generation.

Looking ahead, Fiberight aims to establish the facility as a Centre of Excellence that will demonstrate the core HYDRACYCLE™ process – plus several bolt-on technologies all in one location – recovering and recycling a variety of waste materials into high value products.

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The concept is to showcase what can be achieved by taking this new, innovative circular approach and how much value can be realised from mixed waste streams. Alongside commercial operations, R&D work will continue, including testing different feedstocks as well as responding to new opportunities.

Nick adds: “Our next generation recycling technology captures around 70%-plus of whatever waste a council isn’t recycling and transforms it into valuable recycled materials and products. We are excited to be part of an active sector in Wales which is open to new innovation and approaches.”

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Carmarthenshire

Scrub removal at Pembrey will improve dunes for biodiversity say environment body

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Scrub provides a splash of greenery in our sandy spaces, but too much scrub smothers the sand dunes and has a devastating effect on the specialist plants and invertebrates which live there according to Natural Resources Wales

This winter the Welsh environment body will be removing non-native, invasive plant species from areas of dune at Pembrey to help wildlife thrive.

The coast around Pembrey is home to 20% of all the plants in Wales and features a large sand dune system. Sand dunes are listed as the habitat type most at risk of biodiversity loss in Europe.

The Dynamic Dunescapes project, funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund and delivered in Wales by Natural Resources Wales (NRW), is working at Pembrey with Carmarthenshire County Council’s Outdoor Recreation Service to improve the condition of these dunes for wildlife.

Some non-native plant species, like the dense scrub plant sea buckthorn, are invasive and they are growing quickly in this dune system – spreading further across large areas of dune each year. Many of the dunes’ rare and specialist wildlife needs bare sand or low grassland habitat to survive and gets lost under or outcompeted by scrub. If scrub growth is not controlled, it will cause species like lizards, orchids and dune pansies to suffer and disappear from our sand dunes.

Scrub removal in specifically chosen locations will help to restore the habitat types that these species need, and this work will play a part in ensuring the dunes at Pembrey have a healthy, biodiverse future. Improving the ecological condition here will increase this coastal landscape’s resilience to other threats, such as extreme weather events and changing conditions brought on by climate change in the future.

The first phase of this work is to take place in Pembrey Country Park around Car Park 8 and the second will take place on the foredunes in front of the Welsh Government Woodland Estate which is managed by NRW. It is scheduled to begin in the last week of November and will last for two weeks. There will be a temporary closure of Factory Road outside the Country Park for one week – reopening on 5th December.

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Ruth Harding, Senior Environment Officer at Natural Resources Wales, said: “Sea Buckthorn control is important to improve the dune grassland habitats at Pembrey. Carmarthenshire County Council and Natural Resources Wales have carried out this type of habitat management over a number of years which has resulted in restoring the area to a dune grassland rich with different species of plants. You can best enjoy this during the summer months within the Pembrey Burrows and Saltings Local Nature Reserve. As part of Dynamic Dunescapes, we are now continuing this work, which will result in an overall increase in dune grassland habitat.”

Carmarthenshire County Council’s Cabinet Member responsible for leisure, Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths said: “Whilst scrub is a valuable habitat it does need management to maintain it in good condition for wildlife. Cutting back the scrub will ensure it does not spread into areas where is not wanted and or where it can destroy other habitat.”

Dynamic Dunescapes is not the only project working to restore Pembrey’s important sand dunes. The EU LIFE-funded Sands of LIFE project, managed by (NRW), has also been undertaking sand dune management to improve conditions for wildlife in recent years. The two projects work closely to build on and support each other’s work.

(Lead image: Natural Resources Wales)

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Environment

Funding secured to design collapsed Cimla culvert repair

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Neath Port Talbot Council has secured Welsh Government funding of £100,000 to design a replacement for the vital culvert at Castle Drive in Cimla, Neath, which collapsed due to torrential rainfall in October.

The funding will also be used for the diversion of essential utility services which were compromised by the collapse during the evening of 4 October, 2021.

The road had to be closed both to vehicles and pedestrians for safety reasons following the collapse.

The downstream section of the carriageway had been undermined by the washing away of a supporting embankment. Following more investigations, the upstream pedestrian footway was reopened allowing a vital link for pupils to access Crynallt Infant School.

The council’s Engineering Section will now use the funding to undertake the design of a new, larger culvert and it is anticipated physical work on the scheme will start this Spring subject to further funding for other elements of the project and the completion of the design work, a tendering process for contractors plus the diversion of utility services.

Cllr Mike Harvey, Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet Member for Streetscene and Engineering said: “We are grateful for the funding which means we can now start preparing to repair the damage caused on a night when emergency services across South West Wales were ‘inundated’ with calls for help due to widespread flooding.

“The very heavy and prolonged rainfall washed away an embankment which meant the road had to be shut for public safety and we will now endeavour to reinstate the damaged infrastructure in Castle Drive, restoring through traffic  as soon as we possibly can.

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“We would like to thank local residents for their patience following the disruption caused by the collapse. The restoration work will be a major engineering project but the results will be robust and long lasting.”

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