Still going after all these years

Written by: Geraldine Faulkner | Published:

Cardiff Council’s Lamby Way Depot is a poster boy for ultra-efficient MRFs and co-mingled waste collection. Geraldine Faulkner visits the site, which is supplied by machinery giant Bollegraaf Recycling Solutions

Figures published last month revealed Wales is recycling double the amount of waste it did a decade ago and is exceeding the current statutory recycling target of 58%. This success can be attributed to many factors; the Welsh government’s energetic leadership, the 22 Welsh local authorities signing up to the recycling ethos and, of course, householders in Wales engaging enthusiastically with the clean environment agenda.

It was also 10 years ago that Cardiff Council significantly extended its materials recycling facility at its Lamby Way Depot on the outskirts of the Welsh capital.

“When the redeveloped MRF came on line, it may have been one of the biggest and most forward-thinking facilities at the time,” recalls Ben Maizey, contracts manager – recycling with Cardiff Council, one of the few authorities that manages its waste and recycling in-house. “It was an example of how bigger MRFs were being built and offered key learning points. With the push to achieve recycling targets, everyone in Wales looked to us to see how it would go.”

Despite doubts being expressed by the Welsh government over the years about the efficiency of MRFs – the government made it clear that it prefers kerbside sorting to co-mingled waste collection – some councils and private sector companies disagree, arguing that modern machinery can sort the waste out faster and effectively to reach end markets.

Cardiff Council believes each authority has to seek out its own best solution for recycling collections, but the right infrastructure is critical to any business case.

“MRFs allow residents to place all their recyclates in one receptacle; our trucks pass quickly through the streets collecting, so reducing traffic congestion which is always a problem in cities,” argues Maizey. “We continue to work towards our recycling targets as planned and now we’re up to 58% in 2015/16. It shows that Cardiff and Wales are moving in the right direction and the MRF technologies are helping us achieve our targets.”

Bollegraaf Recycling Solutions installed the original processing system in Cardiff’s MRF in 2000, along with the extension in 2006. Ten years down the line it is still working 16 hours per day. According to Trevor Smart, country manager UK & Ireland for Bollegraaf Recycling Solutions, the system continues to deliver for the client.

Smart points to one trend that has taken place over the past decade: “Originally the technology focused mainly on paper processing while bottles were not a fixture, but now the emphasis is on more cost-effective plastics recovery.”

Operating up to three shifts – 6am to 2pm, 2pm to 10pm, and 10pm to 6am – the Cardiff MRF deals with two different waste streams: the bagged co-mingled recycling from the capital (35,000 tonnes p.a.), and materials collected in wheelie bins from a nearby neighbouring authority (18,000 tonnes p.a.) which doesn’t have a MRF.

“It is good to support other authorities and maximise recycling coming out of households,” comments Cardiff Council’s contracts manager. “We realise there’s still some recyclates being lost into the general waste stream and we are working hard to educate residents on recycling more. This means we’re prepared to accept the increased tonnage and maximise the value of the materials.”

Maizey explains how he has seen his job change over the years.

“I have been with Cardiff Council for eight years,” he explains. “I started on a graduate scheme and worked on projects for the council for two years, which included setting up materials contracts for the MRF, then I left and did some project work before coming back to the waste team. I was fortunate that I was recruited to the contracts manager position. Originally, it involved just selling materials generated by the MRF; now I look after the operation of the waste management depot too,” adds Maizey.

Looking after the operations means getting involved with the maintenance, and this has led to a close co-operation between the MRF and Bollegraaf.

“The balers, conveyors and screens, including two HBC 60 (for aluminium cans) and two HBC 80 balers (for PET bottles),

have been supplied by Bollegraaf,” says Smart. “Over the years, there have been various upgrades on items such as shafts, but the prime junctions are still the original bits of kit.”

The MRF team manages the day-to-day wear and tear of the machinery.

“If it was a privately run MRF, the plant could be run until it breaks down and then repaired,” observes Maizey. “But I have to maintain the machinery here, otherwise it runs the risk of being closed for more than a day. Preventative maintenance is important in that not only does it prevent downtime, it enables the team to see what needs to be worked on.”

Smart supports this view.

“Maintenance is the most important element after a MRF has been built,” states Bollegraaf’s UK and Ireland manager. “There is always something to be tweaked. Can we do something differently? Personally, I love the problem-solving aspect of the job and it is what makes me get up in the morning.”

The relationship between Cardiff Council’s team at the MRF and Bollegraaf is so well established, the machinery giant has used a photo of the Wales-based MRF as its showcase.

“The Cardiff MRF is on the front of our corporate brochure,” says Smart with a smile. “That shows the kind of relationship we have; especially when you think of all the massive MRFs that Bollegraaf has built in the US.”

As for the success of the system’s durability, the UK and Ireland manager comments: “It’s not about reinventing the wheel, it’s a case of using the right one.”

Fact file: Bollegraaf HBC baler series

  • Sorted and baled recyclables handled by HBC baler series include HDPE, e.g. milk bottles and cans (HBC 110), aluminium cans (HBC 60), PET bottles such as cola (HBC 80), corrugated cardboard (HBC 110) and newspaper (HBC 80)
  • HBC balers include horizontal, single-ram extrusion baler, vertical baler, single-ram extrusion baler with pre-press lid option and two-ram
  • Safety: Machines are fully automatic and supplied with safety locks on access doors
  • Baler PLC programme includes the following internal self-protecting algorithms: The ram will not go forward if the needles are not in the ‘up’ position, nor will they go down if the ram is not forward. The needles will not go down if the fingers are not in the correct position
  • BOSS system concept: To ensure the transponders are always functioning, they are led past an automatic test equipment and released for operation by a green lamp and an acoustic signal at the entrance of the production hall

Wales on track with recycling targets

According to the Welsh government, the final results for 2015/16 show the average combined reuse, recycling and composting rate across Wales’ 22 local authorities was 60%, an increase of four percentage points on last year’s final figure and 30 percentage points more than nine years ago. It is also said to be two percentage points higher then the current statutory recycling target of 58%.

Figures released in October showed the amount of biodegradable municipal waste that local authorities are sending to landfill has reduced by 80% in a decade. Authorities are reported to have sent 170,567 tonnes of biodegradable waste to landfill in 2015-16, 58% less than the legal allowance of 410,000 tonnes. All 22 local authorities are said to have achieved their individual allocated allowance.

Cabinet secretary for the environment and rural affairs, Lesley Griffiths, said: “Wales leads the way in the UK when it comes to recycling, with these latest figures confirming we are exceeding the ambitious 58% target. This is encouraging as it also suggests we are well on track to meet our 70% target by 2025.”

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