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Bristol says goodbye to landfill

April 13, 2011

This morning I went on a fascinating visit to a major new development in Avonmouth.   The finishing touches are being put to a new waste reclamation facility that will make sending rubbish to landfill a thing of the past for Bristol & the West of England.

West Country business New Earth Solutions gave a preview tour of the site to me, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander MP, Bristol’s waste supremo Cllr Gary Hopkins and local councillor Simon Raynor.  Two enormous sheds of aircraft hangar proportions have been constructed.  They will process about 121,000 tonnes of household waste from the former Avon area that is currently being sent to landfill.  Bristol itself is already a national leader in recycling in cities, with about 50% of our waste being saved from the dump and put back to productive use.  Already this week I’ve put food waste and cardboard into my brown box, garden clippings in a green sack and paper, tins and glass into my black box.  I’ve taken an old tv (the one I bought with my first pay 22 years ago!) to the Days Road recycling centre and several bags of plastic bottles to the Kingsdown bottle bank.  Recycling certainly requires a lot of effort by citizens!

The two sheds in Avonmouth will deal with the waste that has been dumped into general bins.  Shed 1 is is currently receiving its first consignment of waste -even in today’s cooler weather the stench was enough to make me wretch.  The plant goes live in about a month.  Then, once the rubbish has been unloaded from trucks it will then be fed through a series of mechanical processes.  A giant metal sieve sorts the rubbish by size.  A conveyor passing under a magnetic field will pull out most of the ferrous waste.  Another plant will somehow blow free the non ferrous waste such as aluminium.  These processes are essentially second chance recycling for waste that was not sorted by householders.

The residue is then taken to the second giant shed and spread over the floor and allowed to degrade for about 35 days.  It is then sieved again to remove any non biodegradable materials such as plastic bottle tops.  The organic waste is pasteurised with steam and can then be used for a variety of land processes such as site reclamation, embankments and landscaping.  Unlike pre segregated food and garden waste it cannot yet be used as fertiliser.

It is thought that a combination of our existing recycling schemes and this new facilitator will divert about 95% of household waste away from landfill. This is good for the environment and doubly good for the city’s finances as it saves landfill tax and also provides local jobs and a new industry.

This was a fascinating visit and I am proud that Bristol is becoming a national exemplar in waste management.  I am proud to represent the country’s leading green city, home to many clean energy companies and a growing network of community groups and social enterprises dedicated to sustainable living.  Now if only we could sort out our public transport…

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Philip Morris permalink
    April 19, 2011 6:12 pm

    It is all very well this talk about re-cycling but here in the Barton Hill flats we have had MRC (mini re-cycling centres) for almost 8 years, but residents just dump black bags full of rubbish in the bins (that are clearly marked with pictures of what items to place in which bin).
    We now have cardboard re-cycling and the residents can not be bothered to break down box’s, But then neither can the caretakers whom see the boxes in the big general bins.
    But it is not only Barton Hill – travel to Clifton Down station car park and you will see contamination of materials, glass in plastic and so on.
    Incinerators are the answer, as it is now in operation in Nottingham, mini incinerators coupled to ‘district heating’ and electricity supply.

    • April 19, 2011 10:07 pm

      thanks Philip. I agree compliance with recycling is a problem. The Council needs to make it easy for people but even then there will always be people who just can’t be bothered. The new plant I visited was to deal with this situation – “second chance recycling” as I’e called it above.

      Bristol does not need an incinerator. The new Avonmouth facility will deal with most of the residual waste as I’ve described. Anything left over will eventually be subjected to a process called pyrolisis – essentially slow cooking! This will also produce energy.

  2. Philip Morris permalink
    April 19, 2011 6:15 pm

    Just thought I would leave you this little snipit that I have just taken from Nottingham City Council web site.
    How much domestic waste is produced in Nottinghamshire?
    The residents of Nottinghamshire generate approximately 400,000 tonnes of household waste each year.

    Of this around 160,000 tonnes is disposed of in landfill sites and around 60,000 tonnes is incinerated, with the energy used to heat Nottingham city centre buildings and provide electricity for the National Grid. The remaining100,000 tonnes is recycled and composted.

    All the best.

  3. March 31, 2015 6:36 am

    Just wondering, four years down the line, what are the actual figures on this target? How close to zero waste to landfill is actually being achieved?

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