BLOG – Waste to Energy: how it compares to recycling

Waste to Energy (WtE) has seen a surge in popularity in the UK and internationally in recent years as a way of bridging the gap between recycling and landfill. Once materials that can be recycled have been removed from the waste stream, WtE provides a further way to process the remaining waste instead of directing it straight to landfill. While Devon Contract Waste supports any initiative that reduces the amount of waste reaching landfill, we believe it’s important to look at the total impact of WtE and how it compares to recycling.

Where WtE comes in

Under the EU Waste Framework Directive the UK must apply the waste hierarchy:

  • Reduce – cut down on the amount of waste we produce
  • Re-use – use items more than once whenever possible
  • Recycle – process waste items into re-useable materials
  • Recover – waste contains energy that can be unlocked and used
  • Dispose – final remaining waste is usually sent to landfill

Devon Contract Waste operates at the Recycle stage – sorting and processing waste materials into separate streams that can be re-used. WtE is part of the Recovery stage of the hierarchy. WtE plants use waste as fuel, instead of fossil fuels, to heat water that produces steam, which drives turbines to generate electricity.

WtE is the final stage of our own Zero to Landfill process. Once all recyclables have been sorted for onward processing, around 42% of our collected waste is sent for incineration to generate energy. WtE plays an important role in waste management but we believe strongly that it should be our last resort in the management of waste and we should always aim to recycle more to reduce the amount of waste that will be burned.

High cost / low volume

WtE plants are complex facilities that are expensive to build compared to a recycling centre – or materials recovery facility (MRF). Exeter’s WtE plant was built to process 65,000 tonnes of waste per year at a cost of £45 million. A typical materials recovery facility (MRF) with a processing capacity of 250,000 tonnes per year would cost around £11 million and would generally recover around 58% of materials for recycling, before the remainder was processed for WtE. In terms of the capability of each process to divert waste from landfill, recycling materials is more economical, and more efficient.

Energy efficiency

The energy produced by WtE plants most commonly generates electricity for homes but cogeneration plants can also provide heat for nearby businesses. Each tonne of waste processed generates around 500kWh of electricity which is enough to power 15 average households for a day. However, depending on the materials being processed, it could be more energy efficient to recycle. For example, recycling one tonne of aluminium (instead of making it from raw materials) saves 14,000kWh – enough electricity to power those same 15 households for four weeks.

Impact on recycling rates

Ideally, before waste reaches a WtE plant, all recyclables should have been removed. Not only for the efficiency we outlined above, but because less carbon-rich recyclable material in the waste mix (eg cardboard, plastic, metals and wood) means less CO2 output when the waste is burned. Some argue that the presence of WtE plants may discourage recycling, particularly among domestic households. Increased levels of these carbon-rich materials in the WtE fuel will mean more CO2 emissions. The link between WtE facilities and recycling rates hasn’t been proven but it remains an important consideration in planning a waste programme.

Polluting outputs

WtE produces less CO2 compared to the equivalent production of new materials. It also avoids the release of methane – another greenhouse gas – that would otherwise seep from landfill sites. But the incineration of waste releases a great number of toxic gases and substances which must be tightly controlled. Acidic gases such as nitrogen oxide must be neutralised, and toxic mercury must be removed. WtE is also not 100% efficient at processing its fuel, producing a final ash deposit which is usually sent to landfill.

Sustainability in the UK

Only certain types of waste are suitable for WtE processing which means that the availability of this fuel is an important consideration in a WtE programme. With many WtE plants already operating in the UK, capacity is outstripping the available fuel. UK WtE plants are importing waste from other countries in order to remain sustainable. While this is clearly preferable to simply sending the waste to landfill in the country of origin, the carbon miles travelled by thousands of tonnes of waste rather defeats the object. Sweden, for instance, is importing around 800,000 tonnes of waste per year, generating enormous quantities of CO2. We don’t feel that the UK should be contributing to this when we have an opportunity to invest in better recycling.

What does the future hold?

There is no straightforward answer to striking the right balance between recycling and WtE. As long as we continue to produce waste that cannot be recycled, WtE provides an energy efficient alternative to landfill disposal, despite its downsides. What remains critical is ensuring that our national recycling effort is maximised to reprocess as many materials as we can, in turn ensuring WtE is as efficient as possible, and landfill sites are consigned to the history books.

Devon Contract Waste helps holiday park bridge the gap to Zero to Landfill

Paul Williamson stands by the entrance sign at Harford Bridge Holiday Park

Exeter-based Devon Contract Waste has secured a new contract worth circa £3,000 per year with Harford Bridge Park Ltd of Tavistock. The innovative waste management company now provides a full Zero to Landfill waste management service for the award-winning camping and touring park set in Dartmoor National Park.

As a holder of the gold standard David Bellamy Conservation Award for 18 years, Harford Bridge Park has a long-running commitment to responsible waste management. Now, with the services of Devon Contract Waste, the family-run business could see up to 98% of its waste diverted from landfill while enjoying incredible cost savings of around 40%. Devon Contract Waste collects mixed waste from Harford Bridge Park to be baled at its newly launched Distribution Hub in Exeter, which can handle 300,000 tonnes of waste each year.

A particular challenge for Devon Contract Waste presented by Harford Bridge Park is the influence of park guests over the sorting of site waste as they dispose of their daily and weekly rubbish. Mixed waste contaminated with food and glass cannot be sorted as efficiently, meaning that a reduced amount of waste can be diverted from landfill. So, while holidaymakers have had their minds on entertaining their families, the businesses have collaborated to test and improve signage around the holiday park to simplify waste sorting for guests. A reduction from four waste sorting streams to three, and new signage to identify mixed recycling waste, food waste and glass waste has resulted in less contaminated waste unsuitable for recycling, less waste going to landfill, and less distractions for park visitors during their holiday.

Simon Almond, managing director at Devon Contract Waste commented: “As keen proponents of sustainable tourism, the values of the Harford Bridge Park management team fully align with our own as the only West Country provider of Zero to Landfill services and we’re delighted to provide the owners with a straightforward and cost effective way to manage their commercial waste. All the waste is baled at our Distribution Hub in Exeter before being passed on for onward processing, recycling and manufacturing under our innovative model which ensures that nothing that can possibly be recycled is sent to landfill.”

Simon continued: “We pride ourselves on delivering services that meet the individual needs of our customers and we look forward to working with Harford Bridge Park for many years to come.”

Paul Williamson, director operations at Harford Bridge Park commented: “Since we took on Harford Bridge in 1985 we have reinvested our profits into improving the sustainability of the park to ensure that visitors can continue to enjoy Dartmoor National Park with minimal environmental impact on our beautiful surroundings. The environmental and cost saving benefits of Zero to Landfill were the persuasive factors for us and Devon Contract Waste have provided great support to transition the park to their service at our busy time of year. From working with us to improve our signage for guests, to providing smart plastic bins that help us to maintain our visual standards, the team has been responsive to our requirements and we are happy customers.”

Paul added: “Harford Bridge looks forward to a long, productive relationship with Devon Contract Waste.”

Devon Contract Waste is a leading provider of commercial waste management services in Devon and bordering areas of Cornwall and Somerset. The company collects mixed waste from its clients in a single vehicle, reducing the number of journeys made and minimising its CO2 emissions. Each time a bin is emptied, around 3.04kg of CO2 is emitted, so collecting waste in a single bin rather than separating it into different containers also reduces CO2 emissions.

Devon Contract Waste celebrates launch of new Distribution Hub

Devon Contract Waste managing director, Simon Almond, stands in front of the new distribution hub

Devon Contract Waste is celebrating the launch of its new £1.2 million Distribution Hub on Matford Business Park. The construction of the 1.2 acre facility has been supported by the South West Growth Fund with a grant of £80,000, and ensures the company continues to drive its market leading position as the only provider of Zero to Landfill services in the South West.

Devon Contract Waste’s previous facility on Marsh Barton Trading Estate was destroyed by a devastating fire in March this year. The new Distribution Hub is equipped with the latest baling technology to triple the company’s waste handling capacity to 300,000 tonnes of waste per year, enabling the pioneering business to extend its services to more companies across Devon, Somerset and Cornwall.

Speaking about the launch of the Distribution Hub, Devon Contract Waste managing director, Simon Almond, commented: “When the devastating fire struck our Envirohub in March we were already building our new facility on Matford Business Park and were able to immediately repurpose the unfinished site and divert our vehicle fleet in order to maintain our usual high standards of service delivery. We very quickly reviewed what is best for our customers and for our business, and have designed the Distribution Hub to expand our waste handling capacity with the latest MacPresse baler and further improve the efficiency of our processes. We are now in a strong position to focus on the redevelopment of our Envirohub site and are looking ahead positively to the future.”

The Distribution Hub, originally intended to serve as a data destruction facility prior to the fire, has been repurposed to house a simple and efficient sorting line. Mixed waste will be baled and transported on empty returning HGVs to be processed by supply partner, Oakleaf, at its cutting edge London facility.

The construction of the Distribution Hub has been boosted by funding from the South West Growth Fund (SWGF), an £8.7 million grant programme supported by the UK Government’s Regional Growth Fund.  The SWGF was secured and is managed by a partnership of the University of Plymouth, SWMAS Limited, South West Water and the Western Morning News.  The fund aims to support transformational projects in businesses throughout South West England, unlock £22 million of private investment and lead to the creation and safeguarding of 985 jobs.

Devon Contract Waste supports life-saving service across Devon

A uniformed trustee of Devon Freewheelers shakes hands with Devon Contract Waste MD Simon Almond in front of a Freewheeler motorcycle and DCW car

Exeter-based waste management company Devon Contract Waste has donated £3500 to Devon Freewheelers, a life-saving charity providing voluntary out of hours transport for blood and medical supplies across Devon.

The donation could provide enough fuel to cover 49,000 miles of life-saving journeys around Devon or 14 sets of replacement tyres to maintain the road safety of the motorcycle fleet; both essential contributions to the charity’s running costs, which reach £150,000 per year.

Simon Almond, Managing Director at Devon Contract Waste, commented: “We are proud to support a number of local charities and help the Devon community.  Devon Freewheelers provides an indispensable service to our local NHS that simply could not operate without donations and I’m delighted that our donation will help them to travel many crucial miles.”

Russell Roe, Trustee and Treasurer at Devon Freewheelers commented: “Our dedicated team of volunteers carried out more than 1400 life saving journeys in 2016 and have already ridden nearly 300 trips this year. Without the support of the community, the out of hours movement of urgent blood samples and whole blood, breast milk, medication and other supplies would be slowed down significantly. The generous donation from Devon Contract Waste is a tremendous gift which will contribute to the running of our fleet and ensure that our volunteers can continue to deliver our service across Devon.”

Devon Contract Waste is a leading provider of commercial waste management services in Devon and bordering areas of Cornwall and Somerset. The company collects mixed waste from its clients in a single vehicle, reducing the number of journeys made and minimising its CO2 emissions. Each time a bin is emptied, around 3.04kg of CO2 is emitted, so collecting waste in a single bin rather than separating it into different containers also reduces CO2 emissions.

A message from Simon Almond, Managing Director, Devon Contract Waste Ltd

Following a fire at Devon Contract Waste’s Envirohub recycling plant overnight, Simon Almond, Managing Director, Devon Contract Waste Ltd commented:

“It is with a sad heart that I have to announce our Envirohub recycling plant on Marsh Barton Road, Exeter has suffered a major fire overnight.

“I can confirm no one has been injured in the incident and that the fire has been contained by Devon & Somerset Fire Service.

“Thankfully, due to the prompt actions of the fire officers and the bravery of a number of Devon Contract Waste’s staff, we were able to save the entire fleet of vehicles. This means that service for all our clients will be undertaken as normal and collections will be made as usual. Alternative arrangements to deal with all waste have already been put in place.

“We hope to have telephone and email systems up and running later today from an alternative site.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all our staff and customers for their support and understanding at this challenging time.

“We would also like to thank the Devon & Somerset Fire Service for their tireless work throughout the night to bring the fire under control.

“We are working closely with local authorities and utility companies to minimise disruption to local business.”

Devon Contract Waste invests in new purpose-built facility

Devon Contract Waste data destruction centre under construction on Matford Business Park

Devon Contract Waste is expanding its sector-leading operation with the construction of a new data destruction centre, due to open summer 2017.

The company has invested £260,000 in the new, purpose-built, 7,000 sq ft data destruction facility on Exeter’s Matford Business Park, with 20% support from the South West Growth Fund, to expand its already impressive confidential waste handling capacity to 15,000 tonnes per year. The building will also provide storage for baled plastic produced at Devon Contract Waste’s state-of-the-art Envirohub to create more space for general waste processed under the company’s Zero to Landfill programme.

The new data destruction facility will extend existing provision for confidential data disposal which begins with the provision by Devon Contract Waste of secure storage units at a clients’ premises, which are then collected and transported to the destruction centre. Confidential waste undergoes a high security process carried out by Devon Contract Waste’s DBS-checked employees and accredited to UKAS ISO 9001:2008 to ensure that personal, financial, staff and customer details are protected.

Commenting on the new facility, Simon Almond, Managing Director at Devon Contract Waste said: “The opening of our new data destruction centre will create six new jobs and free up valuable space at our Envirohub which carries out general waste processing. We’ve been experiencing significant demand for our data destruction services and I look forward to further expanding and improving our service to clients.”

Devon Contract Waste is the first and only company in the South West to offer a Zero to Landfill waste solution, meaning that all materials that may be recycled, are.

The company is a leading provider of commercial waste management services in Devon and bordering areas of Cornwall and Somerset. It collects mixed waste from clients in a single vehicle, reducing the number of journeys made and minimising its CO2 emissions. Each time a bin is emptied, around 3.04kg of CO2 is emitted, so collecting waste in a single bin rather than separating it into different containers also reduces CO2 emissions.

Devon Contract Waste helps Pathfinder Homes find the path to Zero to Landfill

An innovative Exeter-based waste management company has secured a brand new contract worth circa £80,000 with Pathfinder Homes Ltd of Newton Abbot.

Devon Contract Waste is now providing a full waste management service for Pathfinder Homes, a pioneering manufacturer of luxurious residential park homes and holiday lodges since 1958.

The new contract has already seen Pathfinder Homes make an impressive start on its journey to becoming a Zero to Landfill business with the help of Devon Contract Waste, diverting 76% of its waste from landfill in the first two months. Devon Contract Waste collects mixed waste from Pathfinder Homes’ head office situated at Heathfield near Newton Abbot which is then sorted at its unique Envirohub in Exeter, which can handle 75,000 tonnes of waste each year. The Envirohub is home to state-of-the-art sorting equipment that efficiently sorts all mixed non-food, non-glass waste, meaning every piece of waste that can be recycled is sorted and processed.

Simon Almond, Managing Director at Devon Contract Waste commented: “We are delighted to welcome Pathfinder Homes to our expanding roster of Devon businesses that are choosing to work towards a greener South West with our innovative Zero to Landfill service. We collect general waste, construction, timber, plasterboard and hazardous waste from Pathfinder Homes to ensure all materials that may be recycled, are. All the waste is either processed at our Envirohub in Exeter, or passed on for onward processing, recycling and manufacturing. Thanks to our state-of-the-art equipment which sorts mixed waste into a variety of specific recycling categories, nothing that can possibly be recycled is sent to landfill.”

Simon continued: “We look forward to working with Pathfinder Homes for many years to come and are already very pleased with the progress we have achieved so far in helping the business become Zero to Landfill.”

Devon Contract Waste is the first and only company in the South West to offer a Zero to Landfill solution, meaning that all materials that may be recycled, are.

Adrian Harlock, Operations Manager at Pathfinder Homes Ltd commented: “Pathfinder Homes recently carried out a review of how the business disposes of waste materials and as part of the review we were keen to enter into a partnership. It is early days but the Devon Contract Waste team must be commended for the support provided during this transition. The daily visits, training and support has been invaluable.”

Adrian added: “Pathfinder Homes is proud to be working towards Zero to Landfill with Devon Contract Waste.”
Devon Contract Waste is a leading provider of commercial waste management services in Devon and bordering areas of Cornwall and Somerset. The company collects mixed waste from its clients in a single vehicle, reducing the number of journeys made and minimising its CO2 emissions. Each time a bin is emptied, around 3.04kg of CO2 is emitted, so collecting waste in a single bin rather than separating it into different containers also reduces CO2 emissions.

Major investment sees Devon Contract Waste increase baling capacity by 75,000 tonnes per year

Exeter-based waste management company Devon Contract Waste has invested £326,000 in a new industrial baler to cope with increased demand for its Zero to Landfill service across Devon and Somerset.

The new baler, built in Somerset by Middleton Engineering, is capable of baling 100,000 tonnes of waste per year if used to its maximum capacity. Devon Contract Waste plans to operate it on a five-day single-shift pattern, which will double baling capacity from 75,000 to 150,000 tonnes per year. If it were operated 24/7 alongside the company’s existing baler, total baling capacity at Devon Contract Waste would exceed 400,000 tonnes per year, which means that there is further room for growth, should demand continbaler-collageue to increase.

The baler has been specially designed by Middleton Engineering and is configured to the layout of Devon Contact Waste’s unique Envirohub on Marsh Barton industrial estate. The installation means that Devon Contract Waste now has the largest capacity for baling waste anywhere in the city.

“Investing in a second baler is a major milestone for us,” said Simon Almond, managing director of Devon Contract Waste. “Our Zero to Landfill solution is unique in the south west and demand is rapidly increasing for a service that doesn’t require customers to sort their own waste and ensures that nothing goes to landfill. By installing the new baler we are not only ensuring that we can effectively fulfill the demands of our waste collection services at the moment, we’re also giving ourselves plenty of extra capacity to expand further in the future as we continue to divert more and more waste from Devon’s landfill sites, many of which are already under severe pressure.”

The new baler joins the existing plant at Devon Contract Waste’s Envirohub, the only one of its kind in the south west, which is home to state-of-the-art sorting equipment that efficiently sorts all mixed non-food, non-glass waste. Every piece of waste that can be recycled is sorted and processed, meaning the waste does not have to be pre-sorted by the customer.

Up to 68% of waste materials are sorted, baled and sold for onward processing to create new materials and products in a wide variety of industries. The remaining materials that cannot be recycled – 30–35% – are sent to energy from waste plants, so nothing is landfilled.

Zero to Landfill: Not just for Devon!

In April this year, Devon Contract Waste acquired the commercial waste arm of established waste management business, Wellington Waste, in Somerset, gaining around 300 new trade waste customers. We’re now nearly six months into our expansion into Wellington and we’re pleased to report that feedback has been hugely positive.

Many businesses are enjoying the benefits of our Zero to Landfill service, especially as separating their recyclable waste is a thing of the past (with the exception of food and glass), and they’re proud to have started their Zero to Landfill journey.

Paul Broom of Brumers Bikes Z10 Westpark, a former client of Wellington Waste, commented: “The change over from Wellington Waste to DCW has been seamless and professional, very efficient service and a pleasure to do business with.”

Since Devon Contract Waste started, our client base has surpassed our name, as we now operate beyond our Devon heartland and currently run collections in parts of north and east Cornwall and west Somerset. We’re passionate about diverting as much waste from the South West from landfill as possible, so if you are looking to simplify your business waste collection or know someone else who is, ask them to get in touch.