Visit to the Material Recovery Facility operated by Grundon at Leatherhead
On 21st February 2014, a group of 9 visitors from Transition Ashtead were introduced to and shown around the waste recycling centre at Leatherhead by Paul Faulkner of Grundon Waste Management Ltd (the owner and operator of the plant). In the shift away from landfill to recycling and recovery, this Materials Recovery Facilities is a great local plus point. Originally supported and encouraged by Mole Valley, it now provides services to quite a few other local District Councils. It has a capacity of 80.000 tonnes per year and is currently operating at about 60% of that. It appears that there is quite a seasonal variation in our use of green bins.
We were shown how the plant mechanically separates glass and metals, and the process of sorting plastics and paper by a good size team of pickers (real people not robots). Surprisingly, about half the overall output of the plant, by weight, is still paper, which like the other output streams is put separately through a High Density Baler, making some interesting sized large bricks to load onto the trucks that take them away to the recycling manufacturers (unfortunately not all in this country). Any unseparated residues tend to be shipped off to Grundon’s energy-from-waste plant at Colnbrook. It is clear, the better we sort things into our green bins within the criteria suggested by MVDC, the more successful is the recovery process in the plant – we were told that they do not like wet cardboard or paper (it lowers the recovery rate, gums up the works and lowers the value of the product) and other current no-noes are things with significant food residues in them or that are made of different material laminated together like tetra- paks.
Overall it makes economic sense to maximise the proportion of our waste stream that goes as green bin recoverable waste (within the framework of what the plant can handle) as it costs about 1/5th as much to put material through this plant as to send it to a landfill site (and as separate note, Surrey will soon run out of landfill space).
Later this year, we are planning to organise further visits to the plant so others can see these facilities which are well worth seeing. We will let people know when we have some dates for these.