By Alex Didcock

On 22nd of October, Tevi was joined by Suez for an online tour of Cornwall’s waste facilities and  a discussion around commercial waste policies and the future direction of waste processing within the county. Waste management has become a key topic of interest in recent years, with more people expressing concern about the final destination of goods and materials. As such, many proactive organisations are investing in waste reduction and are seeking greater understanding of waste disposal options available to them. Commercial waste reduction provides benefits not only in terms of reduced costs of disposal, but also improved resource efficiency, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and transition to more circular economies. Hosted in collaboration with Suez, this event aimed to provide attendees with a greater understanding of the waste recycling and disposal systems in Cornwall, as well as demonstrating commercial waste best practice and sharing upcoming changes and opportunities within the future waste policy landscape.

Natalie Chard, Senior Community Liaison Manager at Suez, began by outlining The Waste Hierarchy that Suez promotes and is committed to following. The first stage is prevention – to reduce waste production, the second stage is re-use – re-circulate products and materials to divert waste from disposal, the third stage is recycling – to make new products from waste, the fourth stage is recovery – to generate energy from our residual waste, and finally disposal – to send waste to landfill.

Natalie explained that there are two systems for recycling waste in Cornwall. The first being curb-side pickup, whereby residential waste is sorted into material type and picked up fortnightly to be transported to Materials Recycling Facility (MRF), of which there are two in Cornwall – Bodmin and Pool. The second type is Household Waste and Recycling Centres (HWRC), where residential waste and recycling is collected, sorted and then transported to be recycled or disposed of. There are 14 HWRCs in Cornwall that accept a wide range of materials including large items such as TVs, furniture, tyres and fridges. All recycled materials that are processed within the MRFs are then transported to sites within the UK for further processing – glass is sent to Yorkshire, paper to Kent, plastic to sites in Wales and the Midlands and aluminium and steel is also sent to sites in the Midlands. Click here to find out more.

After recycling, the residual waste must be disposed of. Historically in Cornwall this meant dumping in landfill, however landfill sites cause harmful impacts to people, wildlife and the environment including foul odour, noise, leachate and high methane gas emissions. As such, both of the landfill sites in Cornwall have been closed and all residential waste is now sent to an Energy Recovery Centre in St Dennis. Cornwall’s Energy Recovery Centre (CERC) was constructed in 2017 and now processes 240,000 tonnes of residual waste annually. The process of burning the waste produces enough energy to power both the facility and 21,000 homes by generating 22MW of electricity. Bottom ash is produced as a by-product of the process, with over 65,000 tonnes created annually. Adjacent to the CERC is a facility that processes the bottom ash to form aggregate construction material, which are widely used and even in constructing London’s Olympic park!

The steam produced from burning waste is transported to the turbines which can turn at 6,000 rpm, which is connected to a generator to create electricity. Afterwards the steam is rapidly cooled and recycled back into the system. The CERC has a continuous emissions monitoring system that ensures the centre’s emissions are clean and meet the Environment Agency’s standards. Suez publishes the emissions data on their website – click here to find out more.

We then heard from Nick Tandy, Principle Commercial Manager who presented Suez’s Commercial solutions to recycling and waste. Suez’s main objectives regarding commercial waste as being to provide the best solution for as many waste materials as possible, to facilitate recycling where possible, to recover energy when recycling is not possible and to always avoid landfill. He stated that Suez’s mission is to provide local solutions using local processing and disposal facilities, following the Proximity Principle, and to provide a transparent and fair service to all customers. Within the South West the local infrastructure platform supports the recycling of various commercial materials including general waste, card, paper, cans, plastic bottles and wood. Suez also provides a customer portal to monitor waste/material generation.

Nick concluded the event by outlining Suez’s future development plans. One major plan is the electrification of the vehicle fleet used to transport recycling and waste, which is currently being trialled and Suez aims to roll out to commercial collections in 12 months. Additionally, there are changes ahead within the policy landscape of waste management. A greater amount of waste will be diverted away from Energy Recovery Centres and towards Recycling Facilities, manufactures will be targeted to reduce waste production through Extended Producer Responsibility and a Deposit Return Scheme may be utilised to reduce waste and make consumers more aware of their waste production. Suez believes that waste minimisation will have significant carbon reduction impacts and that more action needs to be taken to reduce waste, re-circulate materials and educate consumers; to create a more circular economy around waste.

As always, a huge thanks you to our speakers for their time supporting this event, and to the audience for their enthusiasm engaging with the speakers through the event and with their questions.

Useful links:

Watch the full webinar here: