Inspired by LA21s showing of the film “Trashed”, steering group member Beate Shaw asked the Council to let us see what happens to the content of our blue waste bins. A date was speedily forthcoming and the fastest 6 people to apply were given a date (Nov 14th) for a guided tour at Grundons, Woking’s waste treatment facility, based near Leatherhead.
We were transported by Beate or Mark Tabner, Contracts and Project Support Manager for WBCs Neighbourhood Services. After a brief introduction by Grundons site manager, we were dressed up in Hi Vis jackets and safety helmets before being shown a plan of how the site works and then a section by section walk round the entire plant.
We saw co-mingled recyclables (blue bin contents) being deposited at the site. The material was then put through a series of manual and mechanical processes in order to separate the different fractions till at the end of the process there were separate bales of metal, paper, plastics etc. We were impressed by the cleanliness of the place and the good working conditions of the highly trained staff who worked at incredible speed with excellent dexterity to pick small pieces of can/ plastic/ card /foil from the main stream of dry paper.
End destinations of the fractions are subject to change, but currently mixed cans go to AMG (Midlands), paper and card goes to a paper mill in Holland, plastics to J & A Young, Leicester and mixed glass to Day Aggregates.
Black bin waste is not delivered to Grundons but it is used as a transfer site for Surrey County Council to transport this to various sites (including landfill and Energy for Waste).This was the most upsetting part of the trip- the business waste we saw was full of recyclables but of such poor quality that it was of no use to them. And as there are virtually no landfill space left in Surrey, some waste has to be burnt, and this has to be sent to Holland as we have insufficient capacity to produce EfW locally! The other main problem is that plastics producers have no interest in reducing the amount of plastics around our purchases as “economic growth” is always their aim…….
The trip was very informative and we learned some important lessons- that wet paper could not be recycled, that 4000 tonnes of food waste and 3000 tonnes of recyclables are thrown into the black bin, costing us about £100 a tonne instead of the £30 it costs for blue bin waste!! About 43,000 tonnes are recycled by Woking residents, 60% of the total, which puts us in the top twenty countrywide. Think before you throw to make our total better still!!