What really happens to waste collected in Hounslow? Cllr. Lambert fills us in

BRAG recently asked Brentford councillor Guy Lambert about plastics recycling and what happens to the waste collected in Hounslow. We told him that we had heard that items not suitable for recycling go to landfill, incineration or overseas. BRAG members who recently visited the  Southall Lane Recycling Plant had been assured that all non-recyclables were sent to incineration.

Here is Cllr. Lambert’s reply:

“The only waste that goes to landfill from the London Borough of Hounslow is that with particular toxicity – like asbestos – much less than 1% of our waste. Everything else is either recycled or sent by train to the Severnside Energy Recovery Centre near Bristol.

“The cinders from the fires there are then recycled as aggregate for construction, and the deposits from the chimneys that filter out pollution are scraped off and turned into breeze blocks. Nothing is wasted.

“Experience so far has shown that the street bins with recycling compartments produce nothing that is pure enough to be recycled. The same is true for flats above shops, for which we suspended attempts to generate recycling a couple of years ago.

“It would be nice to find a better answer, but these two waste streams together represent about 2-3% of our waste, and it makes no sense to prioritise them when our overall recycling rate (~31% at last count) has so much room for improvement.

“Over the coming months I intend to focus our main efforts on blocks of flats, where our current recycling rate is lamentable but which represent about 30% of our waste.

“Our partners in West London Waste – the joint waste authority for six west London boroughs – are commencing procurement for a ‘dirty MRF’. “This is a facility that will take mixed recycling and be capable of extracting recyclable material at an acceptably uncontaminated level. This would then be suitable for street bin (and flats above shops) recycling.”

‘Smart bins’

BRAG also asked Cllr. Lambert about so-called smart bins, which send an electronic message to the control centre when it’s full so it can be emptied.

Cllr Lambert replied: ‘Smart bins’ are being trialled in Greenwich. They not only tell the mother ship when they are full, but they have built-in compactors so they get full less often anyway. Currently Hounslow Highways doesn’t think they are economically viable (they are very expensive), but I will try and keep up to date with the Greenwich experiment. If it’s deemed successful, we’ll make sure Hounslow Highways gives it proper consideration.”

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