Milton Keynes MRF fires up bigger and better

Having suffered from a fire two years ago, a MRF in Milton Keynes has been transformed, upping quality and capacity along the way. Maxine Perella visited the site to find out more.

A single stream materials reprocessing facility (MRF) which is processing 100,000tpa of co-mingled materials for 11 councils has risen like a phoenix from the ashes at Community Waste’s site in Milton Keynes.

The MRF, which is owned by Milton Keynes Council, was built in 1993 at a cost of £5.7M before being put out of action in 2005 after a fire broke out on the premises. Since then the facility has been upgraded, with new technology brought in from German firm Stadler, and capacity increased.

Operator Community Waste says the overhaul has enabled the MRF to become one of the most cutting-edge in the UK, able to achieve excellent quality levels across all grades of material. In particular, contamination rates for recovered paper are 0.01% which allows the company to ship it out to China.

“I believe we are the only MRF in the UK which has been accredited by the CCIC (Chinese port agency) to export paper to China, because of our low contamination levels,” says Richard Cutts, director of Community Waste.

Exports however only account for a small percentage of the company’s business – the bulk of material goes to UK reprocessors. As well as paper, steel and aluminium, the MRF can handle five different types of plastics – natural PET, coloured PET, natural HDPE, coloured HDPE, and LDPE film.

Glass is currently collected and processed as a separate stream, but the company revealed that it is looking at making the MRF glass-inclusive which would enable the councils it serves to look at adding organic waste to their collections.

“This facility is our showcase,” says Cutts. “The MRF is operating at a 94% recycling rate which is testament to the efficiency of the plant and also to how our local authority clients are approaching the quality issue.”

Quality touch

Output quality levels, he adds, are achieved by keeping a picking cabin in place and running the plant at a lower speed. Cutts also says the company can offer lower gate fees for material, charging £10 per tonne “as a rule of thumb”.

The site is working towards a zero landfill policy – of the 7% residual waste which isn’t recycled, the majority goes to energy-from-waste facilities.

Besides Milton Keynes, Community Waste operates two other MRFs – one fully functional in Enstone, Oxfordshire, and another undergoing redevelopment in Doncaster. The company is now looking to build upon this.

“We believe the next two years is a critical time for MRF development – we hope to be operating another three to four MRFs in that timeframe,’ says Cutts.

While Community Waste can build and design MRFs that take source-segregated material as well as co-mingled, the company is keen to push the benefits of a single stream solution.

“Single stream is the way forward from a cost-perspective,” argues Cutts. “Given we can meet various quality and consistency thresholds, it is the logical way forward.”

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