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New Covent Garden Market is the first in the UK to install a MRF

A London market is the first UK market to install a materials recycling facility and introduce a pay as you throw scheme for tenants in a bid to achieve zero waste to landfill.

The UK’s largest fresh produce market, New Covent Garden Market situated in Vauxhall, has completely revised its waste system. It has installed a low-tech MRF to reclaim recyclable materials such as cardboard, a variety of plastics and different grades of wood. Using simple conveyor belts and hand pickers to separate the waste, since November when the MRF was put in place, the market’s recycling rate has shot up from zero to 46%.

A pay as you throw scheme has also been permanently launched after trials showed it worked well in the market. General waste containers fitted with microchips specific to each tenant have been handed out. When the bin is collected it is weighed and a ticket is printed out and stuck on to the side of the bin detailing the weight and waste type for the tenant to see. The market is charging tenants £44 per tonne to collect and dispose of organic waste and £98 per tonne for general waste.

Covent Garden Market Authority assistant operations manager Colin Corderoy said: “Our pay as you throw scheme acts as an incentive for our tenants to segregate the recyclables from the general waste. However, the old system had been in place for 34 years, so it was a massive culture shock for the traders. But we undertook lots of briefings and met individually with the tenants in order to inform them about the new system.”

Before the new system was installed, the majority of 14,000 tonnes of waste produce went to landfill and tenants paid a standard rate according to the let area of their unit.

Corderoy believes the new system is a lot fairer now because everyone pays for their waste pro rata instead of the small generators of waste effectively subsidising the high waste producers. Furthermore, fly-tipping is less of a problem now due to the many CCTV cameras within the market.

Instead of sending around 1,000 tonnes of waste to landfill each month, on average it is now sending just 250-300 tonnes– a 70% reduction. It is hoped that this waste may soon be disposed of in a gasification or mechanical biological treatment plant, in order to reach the zero waste goal.

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