EcoParc Gateshead

ACP Concrete precast products have been incorporated into Graphite Resources new autoclave waste treatment and recycling plant at EcoParc, Derwenthaugh, Gateshead.

The £50 million plant is one of the world's largest steam autoclave processing sites and is due to open in early 2010. With the capacity to handle over 300,000 tonnes of municipal and commercial waste the plant owners intend to divert over 80% of "black bag" waste from landfill.

The autoclave process involves rotating vessels each containing 30 tonnes of unsorted waste being heat treated with steam at 160ºC. The heat breaks down any food and organic debris including cellulose. The process removes labels from cans and bottles, and de-lacquers aluminium whilst sterilizing the waste and softening plastics.

The resulting product is easily sorted with the metal, glass and plastics being recycled. The organic matter can then be composted into traditional soil conditioners, or used as a biofuel either directly or in biogas anaerobic digestion.

Whilst ACP's prestressed wall panels were an obvious choice for the waste reception areas, the safety walls between the autoclave process area and the offices were a more unusual application. Obviously fire protection of the offices was vital but the process building also operates at reduced atmospheric pressure.

The autoclave process contains the latest UV odour treatment, but in addition, negative internal air pressure ensures there is no odour leakage of untreated waste. Air tightness of the building was therefore vital.

The ACP R35 system enables large solid wall units to be produced with any door or service opening cast in at the factory. This makes the job of air sealing on site much easier and speeds construction. The smooth dense surface also makes any future cleaning down of surfaces much easier. The same is also true of the precast stair units supplied to the site.

The demountable nature of the ACP prestressed wall panels used in the waste reception hall area will enable future extension of the plant. These units can be dismantled and reconfigured into the new layout as required.

Set to innovate the way we manage waste, Michael Thompson, chief executive, stated: "People are now aware of the need to use waste, it is much too valuable a resource to put into landfill or incinerate. We are entering the carbon economy and this project provides the UK with a head start which councils and industry need to take advantage of.

Graphite's aim was to provide a facility that people would be happy to have as a neighbour - clean, modern, using the best materials and best technologies available now, and for the foreseeable future. That is the Derwenthaugh EcoParc."

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