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Southwark's waste management facility 'fully operational by January'

Southwark Council and Veolia have confirmed the capital’s first inner-city integrated waste management facility will be fully operational by January.

The £60m state-of-the-art facility has already begun processing dry recyclables at its 85,000 tonnes-per-year capacity MRF.

The 14-acre site, off Old Kent Road, also incorporates Veolia’s first UK mechanical biological treatment (MBT) facility to recover recyclates from residual waste and produce solid recovered fuel (SRF) for energy recovery.

There is also a recycling and reuse centre for residents to deposit bulky waste, a waste transfer station, facilities for sending food and garden waste to compost, and an education and visitor centre.

Southwark said the facility will serve 45,000 homes, handling all of the borough’s 120,000 tonnes a year of waste. Councillor Barrie Hargrove, cabinet member for transport, environment and recycling, said the facility would help increase Southwark’s recycling rate from the current 25% to 40% within the next few years. The council aims to reach 50% recycling by 2021.

Simon Bussell, managing director for Veolia Environmental Services in Southwark, said the facility would help to reduce the waste sent by the borough to landfill by 85% from 2008 to 2013. He said: “This facility will give a huge impetuous to Southwark’s recycling rate.”

Veolia hopes the 87,000 tonnes a year capacity MBT facility will recover 10% of residual waste for recycling with the remainder turned into a SRF and treated off-site for use in energy generation.

The centre has been built by subcontractor VolkerFitzpatrick as part of the council’s £665m 25-year PFI contract signed with Veolia in 2008. The previous government provided a £34.5m PFI grant for the project.

Construction work began in June 2010 following demolition and decontamination of the former gasworks site. 

Currently the MRF is operating eight hours a day while tests are carried out on the bespoke technology. When it becomes fully operational in January, 250 people will work on-site, which includes 80 new jobs.

The facility is the first of its kind in inner London and will allow Southwark to process all of its own waste for the first time rather than transferring it out of the borough. Bussell said this reflected the importance of the “proximity principle” of “managing waste where it is created”.

Councillor Hargrove added: “It is good that local people can see what’s happening to their waste. Waste should be processed as near as possible to where it’s created.”

The proximity of the site to residential areas meant tough planning restrictions were imposed. The facility incorporates sound-proofing and automatic doors and shutters to prevent noise disturbance.

Hargrove said there were initial concerns from local residents about plans for the site, but most were now satisfied and people across the borough will benefit from the facility.

The centre’s visitor and education centre - including a ‘mini-MRF’ built by the Science Museum - is also an important part of the facility, according to Bussell. He said it wants to engage with local people and schoolchildren.

He added: “I hope that we will be considered a good neighbour by local residents and that the facility will be recognised for the important role it can play, both for the environment and for job creation, in the community it serves.”  

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