Greater Manchester closes composting loop

Written by: RWW | Published:

With the largest waste management contract in Europe, the Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority has opted for in-vessel composting to ‘Revive’ the food and garden waste in Greater Manchester. Rebecca Sutcliffe, communications and communities officer with Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority, explains why the GMWDA opted to go down the IVC route.

In April 2009 the Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority (GMWDA) signed a 25-year private finance initiative (PFI) recycling and waste management contract with Viridor Laing (Greater Manchester) Ltd (VLGM). The contract provides a sustainable solution for the annual 1.1 million tonnes of Greater Manchester’s household waste and is the first on this scale in the UK and the largest waste contract in Europe. The contract generated a massive construction programme, and the creation of a network of 43 state-of-the-art recycling, composting and waste management facilities. 

The contract is made possible through the partnership with VLGM and together with the nine Greater Manchester waste collection authorities (WCAs) Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside and Trafford, this partnership is termed ‘Recycle for Greater Manchester’. 

The collection of waste in Greater Manchester has been standardised through partnership working and developed into four waste streams. 

The intention is to deliver long term financial and environmental benefits
in Greater Manchester. 

The four waste categories  

Paper and cardboard is bulked and sent for processing

Co-mingled dry recyclables (glass containers, plastic bottles, cans, aerosols, foil and foil trays) go through the materials recovery facility (MRF) to be separated, and the materials are then sent for recycling into new products 

Residual waste that will be treated via mechanical biological treatment (MBT) using anaerobic digestion (AD) to generate electricity and also to produce refuse derived fuel (RDF) for rail transport to a purpose built combined heat and power (CHP) facility that will supply power and steam to major North West chemicals producer, Ineos, to provide energy and steam for its plant at Runcorn.

Now for the bio waste

The bio waste (garden and food waste) goes into the in-vessel composting facilities (IVC) and is turned into PAS 100 compliant compost. The partnership has been recycling food and garden waste since 2010. From leftover meat and vegetables to grass cuttings and twigs to tea bags, the whole lot is turned into compost in just six weeks.

The food and garden waste is collected from households right across Greater Manchester and a total of 162,570 tonnes of bio waste was recycled in 2012/13. 

This process forms part of Recycle the Greater Manchester’s committed approach to sustainable waste management. The end-recycled product is a high quality multi-purpose peat-free compost called Revive that can be used in the garden. 

Closing the loop on recycling is not only environmentally credible, but also demonstrates to residents in Greater Manchester how their recycling efforts form a tangible useful product. 

We have donated the Revive compost to several allotments in Greater Manchester to demonstrate the quality of the product and it’s available for individuals, gardening clubs, allotments, and businesses to buy from 10 locations around Greater Manchester.  

John Kirwin, fundraiser of Cleavley Allotment Association in Salford, says: “We all make our own compost at the allotment and at home, but it’s a long process and we can’t produce the quantities we need. 

“We are very impressed with the quality of Revive compost and it will assist us enormously in improving the quality of the soil in a shorter space of time.”

How does in-vessel composting work? 

The in-vessel composting (IVC) is a system for recycling all Greater Manchester’s organic waste by harnessing the natural composting process, to turn the mixed organic garden and food waste into a compost product. The IVC process accelerates the natural decomposition process which occurs during composting and takes around six weeks. It’s like a home compost bin, but on a massive scale. 

The IVC process takes place in a fully enclosed building where all odours are controlled. Some of the compost is used in horticulture and agriculture as a soil improver. To make the compost suitable to be used at home it is blended with forestry bi-products such as sawdust and husks. 

The compost is produced to an approved PAS 100 British Standard and follows the Compost Quality Protocol, which provides reassurance for its use as a multi-purpose peat free compost.

The five key stages of IVC

Pre-preparation: On arrival, the waste is inspected and the materials that cannot be composted are removed

Shredding: The material to be composted is then shredded in a bio-chopper to prepare it for processing

Composting: The shredded waste is placed in large vessels known as silos, where temperature and oxygen levels are carefully monitored to provide a perfect environment for micro-organisms to thrive

Maturation: The composted material is left to mature for a period of between two and three weeks to make it suitable for use

Screening and storage: Following maturation, the product is checked to ensure it is of a high quality

Blended: The compost is blended with forestry bi-products like sawdust to make it suitable for home use. 

Four IVC facilities in Greater Manchester

Rochdale: Chichester Street

Stockport: Bredbury Parkway

Trafford: Nash Road

Bolton: Over Hulton (This will be fully operational by the end of 2013) 

So why do we use IVC?

Twenty per cent of the waste produced in Greater Manchester’s households is organic garden waste and up to 30% is organic kitchen waste. In-vessel composting means that we can turn all this waste into a valuable resource and divert this material from landfill.

Benefits include 

Reduces waste

Reduces carbon emissions

Minimises the use of commercial peat-based compost; the extraction of which is detrimental to the environment

Produces an affordable soil conditioner, from an otherwise waste material

Reduces the volume of waste to landfill, saving millions of pounds in potential landfill tax. 

The Revive compost was launched
in August 2013 and is sold at 10 points across Greater Manchester and to date
3694 bags have been sold. The cost of a 20 litre bag is £1.50 and £2.84 for a 40 litre bag, while there are plans to introduce a 60 litre bag next year. The plan is to expand into the compost market and ensure there is a high number of outlets for people to buy the product from. or email

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