Bristol says goodbye to landfill

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…

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