Royal opening seals success of Hampshire waste policy

A Royal official opening of the final facility in a network of ultra-modern facilities built over the last five years to serve Hampshire's integrated waste strategy, marked the latest stage in the success of the project. This is a unique partnership between Hampshire County Council, two Unitary Authorities of Southampton and Portsmouth, the 11 District Councils, and Onyx. LAWE Editor Alexander Catto reports on the all round progress achieved by this flagship project in municipal waste management

The Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) at Alton in Hampshire, operated by Onyx, was officially opened on 6 July by HRH The Duke of Gloucester, marking the success of the Hampshire Waste Strategy, hailed as the most progressive integrated waste management system in Britain and which provides sustainable waste management for all domestic waste in the county.

The Duke’s visit included a tour of this cutting-edge Materials Recovery Facility and an opportunity to meet the key players who have been responsible for achieving this milestone in Hampshire’s integrated waste strategy. He was able to see first hand how the facility is operated and was taken through the facility to see various stages of operation, including the sophisticated optical sorting system, and meet members of the 45-strong operations staff who run the facility on a daily basis.

At the ceremony, Cyrille du Peloux, Chief Executive of Onyx in the UK, said : “We are delighted that HRH The Duke of Gloucester so kindly agreed to open the Alton MRF in Hampshire, the most advanced of its kind in Europe.This is a true milestone in an infrastructure project that will maintain the county at the forefront of integrated waste management.”

This new £15 million MRF, described as the largest co-mingled, dry recyclable sorting plant in Europe, is situated on the A31 near Alton and is the second facility of its kind to be built in Hampshire by Onyx.

The MRF, which handles plastics, aluminium and ferrous metal cans, newspapers, magazines and pamphlets, plus mixed paper and cardboard, has been equipped with the latest technology. The sophisticated optical sorting system has the capability to separate materials automatically. There are 54 conveyors and 21 pieces of sorting equipment. In addition the facility operates with two successive trammels, which act as the front line filter separating plastic bottles and cans from paper and are one of the most efficient methods for separating paper from other dry recyclables. Also installed are magnetic and Eddy current separators.

This MRF has the capacity to process 85,000 tonnes of recyclable material collected from households across the county per year. This much needed additional rocessing capacity is crucial to allow the county’s recycling targets to grow to 40% and beyond.

Beacon Council Status

Hampshire was hailed as an example of good practice for its partnership approach to waste management in the 2002 government strategy report, “Waste Not Want Not”. In addition, in 2000-2001, the first year of the awards, Project Integra was attributed “Beacon Council Status”.

The Alton MRF is one of the latest to be built under Project Integra, the original title of a unique integrated system put into place for around 30-year period by Onyx and the County of Hampshire to manage the county’s household waste (population of 1.2 million).

Other facilities, within an investment programme of around £200 million across the county, include the Chineham energy recovery facility, the Portsmouth materials recovery and recycling facility and the Little Bushywarren composting centre. Two new energy recovery facilities will open for business soon near Southampton and Portsmouth.

The genesis of the Hampshire’s integrated waste management system goes back to the ate 80s, when the county was faced with a serious waste treatment crisis: landfills were on the verge of saturation, incineration plants built in the 70s had fallen out of compliance with the new EU regulations on emissions and waste volumes continued to rise.

In 1993, Hampshire County Council and 13 District Councils solicited the opinions of the county’s population to find out how Hampshire residents thought the waste problem should be solved. Their input led to the creation, in 1995, of an integrated system branded Project Integra. The system was adopted for around 30 years by Hampshire’s 11 District Councils, the Unitary Authorities of Portsmouth and Southampton, Hampshire County Council and the private sector company Hampshire Waste Services, an Onyx UK subsidiary.

The integrated system set specific targets, with a view to: minimising the production of waste in Hampshire; promoting materials recovery, composting and energy recovery (incineration combined with electric and/or thermal energy production); and, crucially, restricting the amount of waste sent to residual waste landfill.

The county currently has a recycling rate above 28%, against 18% for the rest of

Great Britain. Over 90% of Hampshire households have their recyclable waste

picked up directly through a door-to-door collection service.

In Portsmouth, Onyx has a seven-year collection contract, begun in October 2002. There is a weekly kerbside collection of black bagged domestic waste from 81,000 properties and a fortnightly kerbside collection of dry recyclables, from boxes and wheeled bins, including card, paper and tins.

Also in the city Onyx operates an MRF with an annual capacity of 72,000 tonnes.

In the north of the county, in Basingstoke, the Chineham ERF, with annual capacity of 90,000 tonnes, has been operational since January 2003. Some 7MW of electricity is generated for export to the National Grid on a continuous basis.

The Marchwood ERF, situated in Southampton, with an annual capacity of 165,00 tonnes, has been operational since October 2004, generating 14MW for export.

Architectural treatment

The internationally renowned architect, Jean Robert Mazaud, of S’PACE SA, a practice based in Paris and Tokyo, designed the Chineham, Marchwood and Portsmouth energy recovery facilities, and the Portsmouth MRF.

His striking solution for Marchwood, in particular, involves a domed pin-jointed structure currently being clad in panels, with the stacks emerging from the curved building, the foundations of which have been lowered to minimise the impact on the environment whilst providing an architectural landmark to enhance the Southampton shoreline in an outstanding example of contemporary industrial architecture.

Composting expansion

Another notable success story for Onyx Hampshire under the integrated waste management operation, is the county-wide composting of green garden material.

So successful has been the green waste composting programme that the composting site at Little Bushywarren

Copse (LBWC) near Basingstoke has been expanded to triple capacity to 60,000 tonnes per annum. Peter Mills, Onyx’s Composting Manager, explained: “In the eight years since the introduction of green waste composting, Onyx has processed over 500,000 tonnes of green material and recycled it into the fine grade, peat-free soil conditioner, Pro-Grow, all of which has been successfully marketed. It is processed at one of three centralised composting facilities, after being collected from either the kerbside or one of the county’s 26 Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs).”

Pro-Grow complies with the rigorous organic standards of the Soil Association’s certified product accreditation and is entirely natural containing no additives. It has been used in many high profile projects, such as the Eden Project in Cornwall, London’s Millennium Park and the Canary Wharf development. Locally, it was specified for the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens where it was used to form the 2.5 acre winter garden as well as contribute to a new pavilion landscaping project.

Onyx’s decision to expand Little Bushy Warren Copse is in direct response to the success of the scheme. This impressive site is one of three specialist composting facilities operated by Onyx in Hampshire as part of Project Integra Recycle for Hampshire campaign.

Pro-Grow soil conditioner is now sold throughout the UK with sales currently exceeding 35,000 tonnes per annum.

Visitors at facilities

Onyx is continuously striving to develop new initiatives to raise the profile of recycling and waste management issues. Part of this project is the extensive visitor programme. The sites currently available to visitors are the Energy Recovery Facility at Basingstoke, the Materials Recovery Facility at Alton and Little Bushy Warren Copse Composting Facility. The infrastructure will expand further by 2006 to host two new visitor centres at the Energy Recovery Facility at Marchwood and the Energy Recovery Facility at Portsmouth.

Onyx is one of the UK’s leading waste management companies operating in all of

the industry sectors. With a sizeable presence throughout Britain, Europe and the World, Onyx employs 71,000 people worldwide, servicing 34 countries comprising more than 50 million inhabitants.

In 2004, Onyx activities in the UK posted growth, with turnover of around

£500 million which generated 11% of the turnover of Onyx, the waste management division of Veolia Environnement, the world leader in environmental services with

251,000 employees operating in 75 countries worldwide. Its activities are focused on water, transport, energy and waste management.

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