Don't let recycling gains fall by the roadside

Roadside and gully waste is a material stream often overlooked by local authorities. But, says George Anderson, there are plenty of recovery opportunities available

The UK sends more than 1M tonnes of roadside and gully waste to landfill each year. Until now, managing this waste has proved challenging for local authorities and their contractors with the material varying in content and consistency, depending on location, weather, time of year, vehicle design, and cleansing method.

Despite the fact that the majority of this waste is sand and could be put to beneficial reuse if recovered and treated, it has historically ended up in landfill. Recent changes in the landfill directive, however, have seen liquid wastes banned from landfill and a requirement for waste to be pre-treated before it can be landfilled.

Those responsible for the disposal of this waste stream have resorted to paying high rates to have the waste and water taken away and treated, with some material even being illegally dumped. But there is growing recognition of the need to identify treatment solutions that can reduce costs, minimise and divert waste from landfill, and help achieve recycling targets.

Extracting what's inside
With landfill tax already at £48 per tonne and set to increase to over £70 per tonne by 2013, sending this material to landfill is costly. As well as the landfill tax, gate fees and costs for transporting this waste to landfill sites also need to be taken into consideration. Roadside and gully waste typically contains between 60-75% gravel and sand-sized particles which, when reclaimed, can be put to beneficial use as a
recycled aggregate or inert fill.

This option clearly presents commercial benefits, as we will explore later. However, when circumstances dictate that disposal to landfill is the only viable option, by reducing the organic content of the processed material to less than 3% total organic carbon, it is possible to re-categorise the majority of the material as inert/inactive waste. The result? The levy for landfill tax reduces from £48 to £2.50 per tonne, offering tax savings of up to £30 per tonne.

This waste stream contains a range of recoverable fractions including coarse and fine grades of recyclable sand, gravel, organic matter, filter cake, and water. With the right treatment solution in place, it is possible to achieve a 95% recycling rate of feed material. For the public sector, the recycling benefits are clear. But, for others, there is also an opportunity to generate revenue through the sale of recovered sand and other materials.

Recycling roadside and gully waste can also aid councils in their efforts to hit recycling targets. Defra has stated that where a local authority is responsible for waste collection and street cleansing under Section 89 (2) (a) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, road waste is able to be included as part of an authority's recycling targets.

The past 12 months have certainly seen a shift in mindsets towards roadside and gully waste. It is clear that councils and their contractors are waking up to the benefits of diverting such waste from landfill and the commercial opportunities available through the recycling and sale of recovered sand and other materials.

George Anderson is director of Siltbuster

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