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SUEZ site-seeing | Part 17 | East Devon Refuse and Recycling Collection

1st October 2018 Posted by

Posted by Dr Adam Read.

Recycling receptacles post collection

Recycling receptacles post collection

I felt it was time to get back on the road to see some more sites, this time I returned to the south west, but rather than going as far as Cornwall, my destination was Devon, and in particular Exeter. In the early 1990s I called this home as I was based at the University, taking my first small steps towards a career in the resource and waste management industry.

No surprises on the weather front, as I found Devon to be a traditionally mild and wet part of the country during my previous visits. The journey down was bleak and wet, brightened only by the distant view of our energy from waste (EfW) facility at Severnside (near Bristol). But, after a stop for fuel and a coffee, I made it to our depot in Salterton in East Devon, where I met the local team and our client from East Devon District Council.

First stop | East Devon Refuse and Recycling Collection

The contract for waste and recycling collection was renewed in July 2016, further strengthening the practical and open partnership we had built over the previous seven years. Following a number of trials around three weekly residual waste collections, the new kerbside collection service was rolled out to 68,000 households over a short, three month period of time in 2017.

The new scheme is an evolution of the previous services, which enables greater recycling at lower overall costs, so just what does the service look like?

Loading up the Romaquip vehicle with segregated recyclables

Loading up the Romaquip vehicle with segregated recyclables

  • Residual waste is collected every 3 weeks in a 180 litre wheelie bin
  • Dry mixed recycling (plastic bottles, cans, paper, glass, household batteries, small WEEE) is collected weekly in 55 litre green box and re-usable sack
  • Food is collected weekly in a 23 litre caddy bin
  • There is also on demand (and chargeable) services for clinical and bulky waste.

The Romaquip vehicles have 21 compartments compared to only six on a traditional recycling collection vehicle, which enables a hybrid recycling system to operate with a degree of kerbside sorting and some additional segregation at the ‘mini MRF’. The materials recycling facility (MRF) was officially opened in late April 2018, but had been operational for several months before this.

The uplift in recycling performance has put East Devon firmly on the recycling map, showcasing how a restriction on residual waste capacity can successfully encourage behavioural change, and resulting in the partnership being heralded as a pioneer in recycling delivery at LARAC last year.

The Romaquip vehicles when they arrive at the materials recycling facility (MRF) tip in the following order:

  • Food waste tipped into separate bay
  • Card tipped next into card bay
  • Then paper
  • Then plastics and cans mixed are tipped ready for sorting
  • Then mixed glass

This specific order is due to space constraints and the need to maintain material quality.

The MRF operates two lines, one for card and paper (to clean them up and remove any stray cans etc.) and the other for the mixed plastics and metals that need segregation, which matches the initial sort at the kerbside. The MRF processes 28,000 tonnes a year for East Devon District Council, and the material coming in is of good quality with over 90% of materials going to end markets.

The biggest concern at the MRF is glass contamination in the cardboard compartment, as some can be hidden at the bottom of the box, and it’s too late once it has been tipped in. We are investigating different options to improve this. The other problem materials are plastic films and food contamination of the plastics containers (but that’s a recurring problem at all our sites!).

New chargeable garden waste service advert

New chargeable garden waste service advert

East Devon District Council see the service as a true partnership, and there is a 50-50 split on income generated from the cardboard, plastics and metals extracted at the site, whilst the other materials are part of a county-wide recycling contract. The site has been capturing data about input and output quality, efficiency of the sort etc., plus of course data on recyclables collected at the kerbside. This is helping us to look at future improvements to the service and to share our experiences with other authorities who are exploring 3 weekly residual waste collections. The spirit of co-operation is going even further and we anticipate co-locating both workforces and management teams later this year to improve efficiency in dealing with any operational functions.

The latest service innovation is a chargeable green waste collection, which went live in May 2018 and already has 8,500 customers registered to the scheme! We are also in the process of removing or reducing the bring banks we service, due to falling tonnages associated with the improved kerbside scheme, and plan for even more harmonisation with other Devon authorities – but that may be a few years away!

After spending time at the site, watching the vehicles tipping and the MRF in operation, I also got a chance to follow a crew around during their collection cycle. Their attention to the materials streams was high, pulling out contaminants and keeping streams as separate as possible on the Romaquip vehicles. They also have stickers to place on contaminated bins to help educate and engage residents, but they said that after the first few weeks of operation they really didn’t need to use them much!

The crew were passionate about recycling, helping residents to do their bit, and committed to delivering on the partnership we have with East Devon District Council. Even in the pouring rain they worked with a smile on their face, and were great ambassadors for both SUEZ and East Devon District Council. Well done to the crews and local residents, the eyes of the UK are watching you eager to learn about how to deliver 60% recycling and make 3 weekly residual collections painless for officers, elected members and crews alike.

But after a very busy and inspiring morning it was off to Exeter, to check out the other major contract we have in Devon, namely the HWRC sites and their management.

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