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Tuesday, 1 May 2012

A Visit to Kent to See Where Some of Ealing's Waste is Sorted

This morning I was invited by Ealing Council to go to a MRF (Materials Recovery Facility) in Kent. This is where some of Ealing's waste is being sorted. After all of the bad press Ealing Council has had it made sense to try to get a positive spin on the tonnes of waste that Ealing Council gets recycled.

One of the points raised was that recyclable items such as plastics and paper were being landfilled. Due to issues with the new contractor in the short term some roads are having their green boxes and plastics all dumped together - which obviously has meant many residents have wasted lots of their time they have spent sorting it out themselves.

The value of pre-sorted waste (by residents) is that the contractor can sell this pre-sorted recyclables to other companies for a higher value (and profit). If as it is, as it is, for many residents, mixed up by Enterprise then it goes to the Kent MRF where I sent today, and the outputted plastics, metals, paper etc are worth less than the pre-sorted methods. This short term arrangement does not cost the Council any money but it has lost them its reputation in high-ish levels of recycling.

I have visited a MRF plan a number of years ago. This one was larger and sorted more items. At the end of it you get bales of plastics, paper, card with glass and metals separated. These are then sold to be re-used by other manufacturers.

The plant looks a mess but it is as the plan manager described "organised chaos". Lots of dust, noise and vehicles moving around. Have a look at a couple of the photos and videos I took giving you an idea of what the place is like:
  • Van arriving to dump its load of waste.
  • A super little terrier vehicle sorting some waste dropped from the van.
  • On this conveyor belt the paper is blown away leaving glass to be dumped in a separate container.
  • Lots of wires separated.
  • Here is some of the huge numbers of baled paper and plastics.
Certainly being here reminded me of when I worked in a factory in my teens to earn some spending cash (pay my rent to my dad!) One of the vehicles, the small nippy one, was excellent at taking the waste from the floor after the container had been emptied, to the first conveyor belt. I think I would have paid some cash to have a go for ten minutes. Looked like fun. Since I don't drive I think that I would have crashed it - never been good at racing car games!

Overall I was impressed with the operation here. There appears to be little contamination in the bales that are at the end of the chain of events. Clearly you can get more bang for the buck by separating it out on the kerbside as the sell on value is higher but a MRF plant like this can really help to sort mixed waste collected.

I think that the area that Ealing Council needs to work on is how it encourages residents who do not recycle to do so.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting observations, but this method hasn't convinced me to go back to the meticulous recycling I used to before the latest fiasco. I only recycle the 'big' items such as large plastic, cardboard, etc. I no longer recycle small items such as cardboard food wrappings, plastic yoghurt containers, etc. I feel that it wouldn't get sorted properly. So in the general waste it goes.
    No-one I have spoken to thinks this is a good idea. Decisions made on recycling by the council have set Ealing back years.
    Oh, and for the record, my garden waste is going in with the rest now. Sod the garden tax (pun intended).