Waste management professionals in Canada will be interested in an example of an integrated waste management system (IWM) in the United Kingdom that includes state-of-the-art thermal treatment. The IWM system is operated on behalf of Hampshire County by Onyx Environmental Group plc, a subsidiary of the French multinational Veolia Environnement. (In North America, the subsidiary operates as Onyx Waste Systems Inc.) Hampshire, with a population of 1.2 million, is southwest of London and is home to the coastal cities of Portsmouth and Southampton. Three large Hampshire districts went to tender in 1995, and Onyx won all three contracts, worth _2.3 billion over 25 years. (The author toured the system in July [See editorial, page 4.].)
Over the past decade Onyx has developed a system that integrates the numerous collection routes with nine transfer stations, two recycling plants, three composting facilities and three waste-to-energy (WTE) plants.
Aggressive diversion activities are a cornerstone of the contract and will help Hampshire comply with European directives banning the landfilling of waste. Hampshire currently has a recycling rate of 28 per cent with a target of 40 per cent. Recyclables are mostly collected in large rolling bins. The Portsmouth materials recovery facility (MRF) has a capacity of 72,000 tonnes. The Alton MRF can handle 85,000 tonnes of material. There are 26 household waste recycling centres plus a network of 1,600 small recycling sites for clothes, books and glass bottles and jars.
The three composting sites currently have a capacity for 100,000 tonnes per year, and have diverted from landfill 300,000 tonnes of green waste so far. The sites produce an organic soil conditioner sold as “Pro-Grow.”
The three WTE plants have a combined capacity of 420,000 tonnes per year, and generate 35 MW of energy from material that would otherwise go to landfill. The county and Onyx had to overcome considerable controversy to site and build these plants, building three instead of what was originally envisioned as one larger plant, because of public opposition to the larger plant. The plants are of advanced modern design and feature award-winning architecture. They blend tastefully into each of their unique urban environments and the interior hallways and sealed viewing stations allow visitors to view all the major processes without exposing them directly to the operations or waste.
Portsmouth customer service
The Portsmouth experience typifies changes that have overtaken the whole system. That city’s IWM system — which handles 60,000 tonnes of material from 86,000 properties — is regarded as a positive advancement over yesteryears’ public service delivery which was characterized by a low level of investment. The vehicle fleet was old and experienced frequent breakdowns. There were a high number of missed collections, recycling rates were low, and litter was evident after street collections. After consulting extensively with community advisory forums and holding stakeholder workshops, Portsmouth sought value for service, not just the lowest bid.
After Onyx was chosen and the contract commenced on October 1, 2002, improvements quickly became evident. There were fewer missed collections; just 23 misses per 100,000, which is within the top 5 per cent nationally. A 15 per cent increase in customer satisfaction was measured, along with appreciation for the newer (quieter) vehicles and cleaner streets following collection. Customer contracts are logged as “jobs” in special Mayrise contract management software. City-wide 240 litre wheeled bins are the foundation of the curbside recycling scheme (although 55 litre boxes are allowed). This has achieved 15 to 22 per cent recycling rates so far, and 45 to 65 per cent participation. for curbside of domestic waste is about 32 per tonne.
Beyond the diversion of recyclables and compostable material, it’s the reduction at thee
three new WTE plants that will minimize the need for landfill. Since the bottom ash is used in road aggregate, only the tiny amount of fly ash from the incinerator requires landfilling. The Chineham WTE plant processes 90,000 tonnes per year of material and seven MW of power, and the Portsmouth and Marchwood plants each handle 165,000 tpy and produce 14 MW. The designs of each are statements in themselves of how a modern WTE plant can blend with and even enhance its surroundings. Designed by Jean Robert Mazaud of S’PACE Architecture & Environment of France, the facilities look like something from Frank Lloyd Wright (in the case of Chineham and Portsmouth) or a world exposition, in the case of Marchwood’s geodesic dome. (See photos) These designs cost more to build but this is probably a good investment in public acceptance and the winning of future WTE contracts in other jurisdictions.
Net incineration costs anything between 40 & 60 per tonne, compared to about 35 per tonne for landfill (which includes 18 per tonne tax). Landfill tax is currently rising 3 per tonne every year.
There’s no reason that IWM systems with advanced thermal treatment couldn’t be built and operated in Canada, especially since the society of southern England is so similar to much of Canada. Municipal waste managers would serve their customers well by investigating the Hampshire system, its components and the contract with Onyx, for possible adaptation here.
Guy Crittenden is editor of this magazine.