Cementing a partnership for RDF

As part of its zero waste to landfill strategy, Cwikskip has installed equipment to shred materials that can't be recycled into refuse-derived fuel. Katie Coyne reports

A marquee, an exchange of gifts, speeches and mounds of what look like confetti? Could this be the beginning of a beautiful partnership? It seems so. Cwikskip has shored up its future with a £2M investment in a state-of-the-art, shredding and pre-shredding line and buildings. The firm already recycles the wood, plastics, paper and cardboard.

But the deal will allow it to turn its previously landfilled residual waste into a commodity: a refuse-derived fuel (that looks a bit like confetti) that will be sold to a local cement factory where it will be burned instead of coal.

The new shredding line will help Cwikskip achieve zero waste to landfill and the firm celebrated the opening at an official launch last month with all the companies involved, presided over by the local mayor Gwen Hotten.

Cwikskip and Cemex’s partnership looks like a match made in heaven. The cement factory is just over a mile from Cwikskip and the deal also means that Cemex no longer has to bring in refuse derived fuel from further afield.

All the waste being processed is from businesses in the local area – also helping to reduce emissions. This is what Kenneth Baker OBE and chair of Cwikskip described, at the line’s official launch in mid-June, as a “win-win for Warwickshire”.

He added: “There’s not many companies like this that have the nerve to invest over 50% of their sales on a manufacturing facility.”

The jewel in the crown is the £130,000 wind shifter or heavy fraction separator, the Jupiter-1800 pre-shredder. The line was produced by Austrian firm Lindner Recyclingtech, which is distributed in the UK by Mach Tech.

Operations director, David Ingham, argues that this piece of equipment is one of the most efficient ways of removing heavy materials such as metals and stones, preventing them from going into the secondary shredder – in this case the Komet 2800 – and causing wear and damage.

While Lindner pre-shredders and shredders have been installed in the UK before, this is the first time the wind shifter has been installed. It is also the first time a whole line has been installed. Ingham adds that this also improves the quality of the end product.

This is an important point as Cemex’s technical director, Neville Roberts, said in his speech that the cement company had dropped previous suppliers over quality issues. With the growing popularity of refuse derived fuel will come increased competition so quality is likely to become even more important.

Cwikskip has no contractual supply of waste, but a steady stream of materials from its skip side of the business and ad-hoc loads from local firms in the area, keep it busy. It is looking to sure-up supply contracts and once these are confirmed this would put it in a good position to increase the line’s output by operating 24/7 – although there are no ‘concrete’ plans to do so as yet.

It is contracted to supply 20,000 tonnes of refuse derived fuel per year and at that capacity would pay back the investment costs within three years.

The line itself cost around £1.4M with the remainder being spent on building to house the line, floor strengthening and integrating existing equipment. WRAP helped the project secure £100K of European funding but it began working in the West Midlands in 2007 when its research identified it as an area that had fewer opportunities to recycle.

Unless this was addressed it would have posed a real risk to businesses and growth in the area. As part of its response it hired Mandy Woodcock as a sales and development manager to work with Cwikskip and she identified the potential and helped set up the partnership between the two companies.

While there can be difficulty in securing finance for innovative waste projects, because this technology has been tried and tested in Europe, it was not an issue. “This is a proven technology which gave us a great deal of comfort when we were looking to lend,” says Ed Ingram, HSBC’s deputy area commercial director. HSBC provided the asset financing for the project. “It’s new to the UK, but it isn’t untested.”

David Burrows, regulatory services manager for Rugby Borough Council, admits projects like these won’t help local authorities directly, for example, by helping them with their landfill diversion targets. However, “it’s looking at the bigger picture,” he says. “The council isn’t working in isolation.”

With the recent waste review and resulting materials recycling facility code of practice and responsibility deal, there is a strong emphasis on waste management firms and local authorities helping to improve small-to-medium enterprise recycling rates. Projects like these do precisely that.

Catching up with Cwikskip’s managing director Mark Tailby a few weeks after the launch, he is still very happy. There have been a few teething problems, but he is still absolutely sure that the investment was the right thing to do. “We haven’t had to go to landfill for three or four weeks.”

Katie Coyne is a freelance journalist

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie