Sita has officially closed its Packington landfill site outside Birmingham, once hailed as the busiest in Europe.
The company said that, at its height, the landfill received 2,000 lorries of waste a day. It is estimated that around 35 million tonnes of waste is now buried there.
The closure is a landmark in the decline of UK landfill, as waste companies choose other treatment options to avoid rising landfill tax costs.
Although no more waste will be accepted, Sita is continuing with its composting, wood shredding and energy production schemes. Around 50,000 tonnes of compost is produced at the site a year and around 70,000 tonnes of waste wood is turned into biofuel.
A company statement said: “Over the next few years, the site will be restored with meadows, woodland areas, lakes and public footpaths, giving local people a brilliant viewpoint over the airport, Birmingham and the HS2 rail line, which will pass close by.”
Geraint Rees, Sita landfill general manager, said: “Packington is somewhat renowned throughout the waste industry. It was once the busiest site in Europe, but it also had the reputation for leading the way in landfill technology.
“It was the first site in the country to produce electricity from landfill gas – it has been producing enough renewable energy to power an area the equivalent of nearby Coleshill for the past 25 years, and is likely to continue doing so for another 20 years.
“It has also led the way in introducing high-tech solutions to make sure the pollutants caused by decaying waste are effectively contained, collected and treated so they don’t cause harm to local people or wildlife.
“This has included a new leachate treatment plant, which opened on-site last year.”
The occasion was celebrated by an open day held for past and present employees.
The landfill tax rate hit £80 a tonne in 2014, following a series of annual £8 rises through the landfill tax escalator. The escalator has now ended and future rises are expected to be smaller, in line with inflation.
A report released in August last year by HM Revenue & Customs found there were 710 registered landfills in operation in March 2014, down from 722 a year earlier and 726 in 2012.
Last year market researcher BDS said that FCC was the largest UK landfill company, as Viridor overtook Biffa into second place and with Veolia and Sita making up the top five.
An unusual heritage
Sita: “In addition to the landfill operation, the site has been used by a number of groups, from the bee keepers of Warwickshire, who had hives on the site and produced ‘Tip’ony Honey, to the fire brigade who used to practise four-wheel driving on the old quarry pits.
“Sections of the site, and the roads leading to them, are named after staff and customers, past and present.
“One of the larger features of the site, Tom’s Lake, was named after Tommy Richardson, who once owned the biggest skip company in Birmingham and whose ashes were scattered on the landfill when he died.”