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Going underground

The specification of underground waste and recycling systems is on the increase and, although relatively new to this country, initial response to these units has been favourable.

Popular in mainland Europe for many years, underground bin systems have only recently begun to attract attention from UK specifiers.

Underground bins have been big news in Europe for a long time, Kevin Mellor, corporate growth manager for Egbert H Taylor, says.

These systems are popular on the continent because the population of Holland, for example, is generally more environmentally aware and so prepared to walk further to recycle their waste, he explains.

However, Mellor is confident that the underground movement is about to take off in the UK. The UK needs a change of mindset in relation to recycling to really make the most of these systems.

Mellors experience of underground schemes dates back to the first UK installation in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets in 1999. Nine underground systems were specified by the Poplar Housing and Regeneration Community Association as part of a major redevelopment of several of the areas housing estates. Uninviting, 50-year old, four and five-storey brick buildings were given a makeover, which included the installation of the concealed waste containers in underground chambers. The only visible components were the receiver units, which had been designed to blend in with street furniture components.

The success of these first installations has lead to many others, both in Tower Hamlets and the neighbouring borough of Lambeth. We have installed more than a hundred of these systems in this area, says Mellor. They certainly provide a recycling solution for multi-occupancy buildings.

The Taylor system comprises overground depositing units combined with 3, 4 or 5m3 below-ground waste containers. These large-capacity units can be used to collect general refuse and segregated recyclables, and are said to be cleaner, better looking and less likely to attract vandalism than their traditional counterparts. A truck-mounted hoist is needed to empty the units, but, according to Mellor, this is neither problematic nor restrictive. The hoists are simply located on a standard collection vehicle and, because of the capacity of this type of container, the times between collections can be increased.


Londoners are not the only people to have first hand experience of underground recycling systems. Dundee City Council has installed a similar system, manufactured by Sulo. Unlike the units installed in Tower Hamlets, Sulos Iceberg underground recycling system features an electro-hydraulic lift, which raises the bins to street level for collection by a standard vehicle, so obviating the need for a hoist or crane.

The Iceberg system was specified as part of an urban regeneration project by the councils planning and transportation department. We wanted to see how these systems worked and have been impressed so far, says Steven Brown, a senior engineer for the department.

The system has been installed in a public car park in the Stobswell area of Dundee. It replaces an existing mini-recycling site and comprises seven units that accept glass, aluminium, paper and textiles. All that can be seen at street level are the wedge-shaped, powder-coated steel receiver units. The units for glass and aluminium have circular apertures, while those for paper and textiles have swing lids. Below ground, the system uses standard 1,100-litre wheeled bins, rather than the large underground containers more commonly installed with the Iceberg system.

The receivers are mounted on steel walk-on platforms beneath which are frames holding the wheeled bins. To empty the bins, the frames, complete with their platforms and receiver units, are raised by motors activated from a small control box located nearby.

These systems certainly look good and overcome problems like vandalism, Brown says. We are definitely considering them for ot

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