Nottinghamshire banks on Mansfield MRF

Nottinghamshire County Council aims to recycle over half its domestic waste, helped by an MRF that has just gone live. Steve Rogerson went to the opening

Nottinghamshire Cou-nty Council is banking on its new state-of-the-art MRF facility in Mansfield to contribute significantly towards hitting its target of recycling and composting 52% of domestic waste by 2020.

Though it started operating last November, the MRF did not have its official opening until early March. The plant cost £14M to build and is part of the county council's waste PFI contract with Veolia Environmental Services. The plant will only be handling domestic waste, and has the capacity to sort 85,000tpa of recyclable waste.

"We are running at about 70% of capacity at the moment," says Veolia deputy chief executive Paul Levett. "But we expect the recycling in the county to increase, and we will be at full capacity pretty soon."

PFI credits to help build
The plant will recycle waste - such as paper, plastics and metal - collected from the county's seven district councils, which is basically all of Nottinghamshire apart from the city of Nottingham itself, which makes its own arrangements for recycling.

The council has received £38.3M in PFI credits from central government to build and run the project. This is part of an £850M 26-year contract with Veolia signed in June 2006. Currently the council recycles and composts 39% of household waste and sends 46%to landfill. The remaining 15% is incinerated as part of a district heating scheme.

The contract with Veolia, though, has set the target of increasing the amount recycled to 52% by 2020, and to have virtually no waste going direct to landfill from 2012.

"This process is more expensive than landfill," explains Levett, "which is why there is money from central government. The Government wants to help councils move from landfill, so it picks up part of the increased cost. In the short term this is more expensive than landfill, but in the long term it will be more cost effective."

OKLM Recycling Technology has supplied the equipment for the plant, which is being used to sort and prepare paper, card, plastic and metal cans collected in blue wheelie bins from 350,000 households across the county. This covers 750,000 residents. The waste is co-mingled - a deliberate decision to make it easier for households to recycle.

The plant has the ability to separate the paper into different grades as well as pulling out plastic bottles and card, and distinguishing between ferrous and non-ferrous metals.

The untreated waste initially goes through one of two 70-tonne rotating trommels with graduated sizes of holes. These sort the waste into three groups. A ferrous metal magnet removes steel cans and tins from the waste. An eddy current separator is then used to extract non-ferrous metals such as aluminium.

A Titech Polysort optical sorting unit is used to split off different types of plastic, such as soft drink bottles and yoghurt pots. This uses a near infra-red sensor to analyse the plastic composition of each item and then a blast of air blows the item into the correct container.

"We are recovering about 95% of what we get," says Veolia managing director Steve Mitchell. "The rest is because there is always some stuff that is not recyclable. If someone puts a cuddly toy in their wheelie bin, then we won't be able to recycle it."

Exclusive contract
He adds that what is recovered is sold to UK companies. Paper and card is being converted into lower grade paper and card, much of which will end up as newsprint. Steel cans will be re-smelted and the firm also has an exclusive contract with Essex firm Closed Loop Recycling, which will take all the plastic bottles.

This is the third MRF that Veolia has opened in the past six months. The Mansfield plant will employ between 40 and 50 people. Most of those already taken on live within 16km of the factory, and some were previously long-term unemployed. In Nottinghamshire, as part of the contract, Veolia also operates transfer stations together with the county's waste-to-energy plant at Rufford Colliery in Rainworth.

The Mansfield plant was officially opened by MP Jane Kennedy, minister for farming and the environment, and Joan Taylor, chair of Nottinghamshire County Council. "It is tremendous to see a facility like this," said Kennedy at the opening. "The only ones to benefit from landfill are the seagulls. The waste just sits there for years and years."

Steve Rogerson is a freelance journalist

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