Wembley's waste goes underground

A hi-tech waste system has been built into the new Wembley City complex, which will generate big carbon savings when it pumps into action. Maxine Perella reports

If you've not yet been to the new Wembley stadium and surrounding complex in Northwest London, it's definitely worth a trip. And not only for a prestigious sporting event or rock concert. Beneath the ground lies one of the most advanced waste collection systems in the UK.

The underground vacuum waste system, developed by Envac, is the first of its kind and scale to be installed in the UK. Implemented by developer Quintain at the Wembley City complex - comprising 4,200 homes built across 85 acres around the it is designed to stimulate high levels of recycling while reducing refuse truck movements considerably in and out of the area.

Leading the way
The system was recently unveiled by Quintain's deputy chief executive Nick Shattock, who outlined the reasoning behind its installation. "Our aim is to make Wembley City a highly advanced new district for London by embedding technologies that won't be found on other schemes for around five years. Envac is the first such system we're launching and the aim is to make waste management clean, quick and efficient - and significantly reduce its impact on the environment."

The system works by using underground pipes and air pressure to transport waste to a central reception area which is located adjacent to the Wembley arena. Above ground, residents sort their waste into three colour-coded containers - dry recyclables, organics and non-recyclables - once the waste is dropped into the relevant chute, it is automatically transported through an enclosed vacuum system at 50mph to the reception station.

Once the waste arrives at the station, the air is sucked out of it and it is compacted before being diverted into the correct container. Once the containers are full, they are collected by refuse trucks (Veolia has been contracted by the London borough of Brent to collect the waste) and taken for reprocessing - the organics goes to West London Composting, the recyclables to a MRF in Greenwich, while the residual stream goes to an energy recovery facility.

Julian Gaylor, managing director of Envac, says that each container can accommodate 700 properties' worth of rubbish, and estimates that only two truck movements per day will be needed in and out of the reception station to collect the waste. "Once the truck driver backs into the facility and the container is loaded onto the vehicle, he's done a 700-property waste collection job while sat in his cab for a couple of minutes," he explains.

Carbon cuts promised
Envac claims the set-up will generate 400 fewer tonnes of CO2 a year from the Wembley complex compared to conventional refuse collection methods, and reduce lorry miles by up to 90%. For local authorities, it offers them the opportunity to improve and enhance their local environments, reduce emissions and increase efficiencies by collecting waste more often for less cost.

Jonas Tˆrnblom, Envac's director of corporate marketing, believes the Envac system is "such a natural and obvious way of handling waste" and will make residents proud of their neighbourhood.

"Someone has to take the first step to show that things can be done differently. A residential area should be a dynamic, clean and attractive environment where people enjoy living. It should be a space for recreation that isn't tainted by rubbish awaiting collection."

Shattock adds that the system, and the Wembley City project as a whole, is "a rare privilege and opportunity to design and build what amounts to a new town ... it shows what you can achieve when local and regional government join up their thinking."

Maxine Perella is editor of LAWR

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