Gateway opens up to recycling opportunities

A green aura is being generated around London Thames Gateway as a surge of environmental companies open up for business in the region. Aman Dalvi explains why

Something interesting is happening in Lon-don Thames Gateway. In the past year, companies specialising in alternative energy and energy efficiency, waste technology, resource management and material recovery from the built environment are increasingly seeking to locate in the region.

London Thames Gateway is due to grow considerably in the next few years with up to 160,000 new homes planned, all producing their own garden and food waste, as well as scrap TVs, cars and furniture. The current average household recycling rate for London is only 20.7%, so a solution needs to be found for the remaining waste.

So, how will all the new homes impact on other recycling industries? The recently approved plans for Barking Riverside, one of the biggest strategic housing projects in the Thames Gateway, includes a state-of-the-art on-site recycling plant so that all materials excavated on the site can be reused in the new development.

Olympics breezes in
The Olympic Park in Stratford has been earmarked as a potential site for a wind turbine, and the Olympic Delivery Authority has already promised that the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be the greenest yet. The authority has also promised that 90% of demolition material on site is to be reused or recycled, and that at least 20% of materials used in permanent venues, associated works and the Olympic Village be recycled.

Organic materials account for 33% of all municipal waste and as collection systems improve, so too does the demand on processing capacity. Veolia's composting facility in Rainham, Essex, processes 70,000tpa of green garden waste, generating a range of products for bioremediation, soil regeneration and landscaping projects. These have already been used in the development of the original Millennium Dome site in Greenwich and Canary Wharf in Tower Hamlets.

Assisted by Gateway to London, Closed Loop Recycling has chosen the region to house the first facility in the UK to produce both food grade recycled polyethylene terephthalate and recycled high-density polyethylene. The plant, which is the first to be constructed on the new sustainable industrial park in Dagenham Dock, is due to officially open this month.

Gateway to London works with public- and private-sector partners including several local authorities in and around London. By working with these councils and carrying out free property searches for businesses as well as access to a network of contacts, it is helping make London Thames Gateway an epicentre for environmental technologies.

London Thames Gateway is also home to Day Group, whose Charlton site includes a processing plant where waste glass is processed into higher value aggregate products for use in the construction industry. The site has become a centre of excellence in glass reprocessing. The plant's riverside location provides an ideal transport base to move both primary materials and finished products on and off site.

If we look at recycling construction debris in the region, firms are taking advantage of the staggering 7M tonnes of construction and demolition waste created in London every year - levels unseen since the Victorian building boom. At the same time, London's construction sector consumes 29Mtpa of aggregates, and rising landfill costs and the UK Aggregates Levy mean that London needs to address the shortfall in recycling this material and producing secondary aggregate material.

Reprocessing gains
Day Group's Charlton facility is home to a construction debris reprocess plant for producing concrete. This is able to process 200,000 tonnes of construction and demolition waste per year - that's almost 1,500 tonnes a day. And this level of reprocessing is needed as London Thames Gateway is home to a significant number of brownfield construction sites, all needing extensive environmental remediation work before they can be redeveloped.

Environmental businesses are opening their eyes to fact that east London is home to some of the most advanced research facilities in the UK. The high availability of students from local universities studying courses in environmental technologies means there will be a large number of graduates and staff with the right expertise.

The high level of labour availability enables the region to boast the lowest overall employment costs of anywhere in London and one of the lowest in southern England.

The growing cluster is not only bringing jobs and skills to the area, but the companies' proximity to one another is also reducing the impact on the surrounding environment and transport infrastructure.

This is an issue that will become increasingly important following the introduction of the central London Low Emission Zone. The London Thames Gateway region has the demand and supply chain wrapped up. It's a major resource recovery opportunity, it houses a growing recycling industry, and has world leading research on waste reduction and reprocessing on its doorstep.

Aman Dalvi is chief executive of Gateway to London

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