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Kerbside sorting works wonders in Sweden

Lund was not happy with the ‘box’ collection they were currently offering households, not only was it unsuitable from health and safety point of view, with refuse collectors lifting heavy boxes, but there was increasing difficulty in acquiring space for recycling stations.

The bin design came first, created by Swedish company PWS Waste Systems and comprised two 370 litre bins divided into four separate compartments, with three wheels, which enabled easy movement of the bins. Each bin would house four fractions of waste in its own segregated compartment.

With the bin design in place Lund approached several RCV manufacturers to construct a body – it was only NTM that said that they could produce a beast that was capable of collecting four separate waste fractions and one which would empty in only one bin lift.

The first generation Quatro was built and the first kerbside recycling system was ready for trialling on 150 homes in Lund.  The system is only as successful as the household’s dedication and correct placement of each fraction in the bins so after the first year of the trial Lund conducted a survey amongst its community using the Quatro system – 97% of participants said yes they wanted the system, 2% said it was dependent on cost and only 1% said no they did not want the system at all. 

Lund conducted another study on the purity of recycling. It indicated a remarkable 90% of all waste recyclable with the 10% of residual waste sent for incineration ( at a cost of 680 Krona per tonne which is approximately £68).  None of the waste went to landfill.  Even food waste, which was reduced by 35% using Quatro, is processed and turned into biogas to run the refuse vehicles.

What of the costs? The set up costs are higher with Quatro a vehicle and 200 bin trial would set you back around £300K in the UK in comparison to £130K for a single kerbside waste system.  But Lund had one Quatro doing the job of two traditional kerbsiders, so fewer vehicles were required.  It can also be operated on a one man – one machine basis. 

The potential to earn on waste is greater too with high quality recyclables and MRF sites were reduced from 35 to 24.

The community in Lund pay each year for their waste collection and the levy after Quatro rose from £150 to £280 GBP.  But 99% were happy to pay it: they were happy that they no longer had to take their own recycling to recycling stations, saving time and money on fuel and their waste was collected at the right time. They also they liked their involvement of taking ownership and responsibility for their own waste and finally they felt a sense of achievement and pride in helping the environment.

Lund Renhållningsverk now operate eight Quatro Select vehicles and one truck covers up to 2,400 houses which is equivalent to 4,800 bins. The operators work in shifts and each man can empty up to 180 bins in one shift.  Lund’s 90% sorted potential is three times higher than anywhere else in Sweden.  The now-unwanted bins were sold to Poland.

The next leg of our trip took us to the municipality of Åstorp where SITA serve 9,000 households and operate six vehicles.  SITA work on a collection-only basis and give the waste back to the community to sell on back to the producers.  They too operate a one man, one machine set up – the workers have a target of 160–180 bins per six-hour shift and there are two shifts per day.

Bin operator Laars was really passionate about his lorry and was genuinely enthused by its ease of operation and its effective collection capabilities.  He said there were no problems with the food waste collection, which is only every two weeks. SITA provides paper bags for the food waste before it goes into its Quatro compartment.  The truck is also weighed using an onboard system, with each ejection to quantify the volume of each recyclable material.

Quatro’s in-cab computer system tells him how many bins he has emptied but also has the facility to log any household who have ‘mixed’ their waste.  These households get a letter to explain why their bin was not emptied and contains advice on future collections.

On to Nårab, a small community company responsible for waste management within the owner-municipalities of Klippan, Perstorp and Örkelljunga. Nårab are responsible for the waste collection of approximately 10,000 houses, 700 holiday homes, around 500 apartments and 700 individual companies.

In 1978, Narab was the first company in Sweden to start waste collection at the door.  The company collected newspapers, glass, cans, textiles, sacks and plastic bags. In 2000 over 20% of the inhabitants of the three regions used the system and thought separation was the best way.  This was when the company embarked on a trial of 1,000 residents and offered three trial systems: Alma – two bins plus bags; Beda – Quatro select system; and Cara – food and residual waste but no recycling.

After six-months of the trial 65% were positive about separate collection at the door, 20% had no preference, the remainder did not want collection (these were mainly the holiday homes). 

Both the Alma and Cara systems would mean a 40% fee increase to the residents while the Beda (Quatro) was 80%.  The results were the same with 65% residents wanting the separate waste collection and agreeing to the 80% increase in costs, 20% had no preference – so that equated to 85% residents prepared for the increase and the Beda (Quatro) system.

After 10-years of operating the Quatro system, 90% of the residents in the three areas use it and the cost to each house hold (£274) has not risen.  Every year Narab analyses the quality of fractions collected based on figures of 100 kilos of waste per year per person (it was 600 kilos per person prior to the Quatro system).  Paper is 99.9% clean, glass is 99% clean and food 98% clean.  The paper belongs to the producers so Narab is unable to sell on – if they could collection costs could reduce by £20 a year.

The food waste goes to slurry to create biogas which runs the vehicles.  Legislation is changing and they will eventually be able to sell it on. Narab also reported that MRF sites in the area had been reduced to four sites from an original 15.

Narab operates six Quatro vehicles and the key to its success is seen to be ‘educating the people’.  Scandinavians have embraced the whole recycling ethos and have looked at the bigger picture.  Yes, the set up cost of the Quatro System is greater, and it is more costly to the residents but this is balanced by fewer trips to the recycling centres, which saves time and fuel.  There is also no landfill as residual waste is incinerated.

For the operators, there are fewer vehicles in their fleet, a greater return on recycled fractions (would be even greater in the UK), the life span of the vehicles is longer and the downtime is minimum.

The NTM Quatro system is now available in the UK, Wrekin and Telford Council is currently displaying Quatro bins in the council offices inviting feedback from local residents. 

The biggest hurdle in the UK for the Quatro is going to be cultural. If we, like the Scandinavians, looked at the bigger picture and beyond the cost factor – we too could reduce land fill, reduce C02 emissions and do our bit to ‘save the planet’.  Operators of Quatro fleets would also benefit from increased revenue from material – which in time would give a greater return on their investment. Certainly ‘food for thought’.

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ORIGINAL COPY

I was invited by Paul Westley, managing director of NTM-GB to accompany him and technical manager, Eugene Wenger on a trip to Sweden via Denmark’s capital Copenhagen and its relatively new Öresund Bridge that connects the two countries, to see the NTM Quatro four compartment compaction waste system in operation and talk to the companies running fleets of these unique waste collection vehicles.  The Quatro has been operational in the Scandinavian regions for 10-years and NTM is now introducing the system to the UK.  It is believed that Sweden is considered to be at least 10-years ahead of the UK in terms of recycling, therefore the purpose of our visit was to establish just how effective the Quatro system is, gather some hard facts on its recycling capabilities and follow up on an analysis prepared by NTM Finland on five-years of use in the Nordic regions.

On arrival we were met by Anders Hägglund, NTM Finland’s leading sales man and Gert Olsson sales support engineer, we boarded our mini bus and began the first leg of our journey across the Öresund Bridge, which is the longest road and rail bridge in Europe, to the Swedish city of Lund.  There we met with Lunds Renhållningsverk (Lund Sanitation Works), which is a privately owned waste company, established for more than one hundred years, and is responsible for waste management in the municipality of Lund.

The meeting was hosted by Lunds environmental and marketing chief, Anna Wihelmson. Anna informed us that they had been operating the Quatro Select system since 2004.  Being leaders in their field of providing waste solutions, Lund were not happy with the ‘box’ collection they were currently offering households, not only was it unsuitable from health and safety point of view, with refuse collectors lifting heavy boxes, but there was increasing difficulty in acquiring space for recycling stations.

This is when the idea was conceived by Lund for their own kerbside recycling system, with the responsibility for the waste on the producer.  The bin design came first, created by Swedish company PWS Waste Systems (Otto is the UK brand), and comprised two 370Litre bins divided into four separate compartments, with three wheels, which enabled easy movement of the bins.  Each bin would house four fractions of waste in its own segregated compartment – bin one would store household waste, food waste coloured glass and plastics – bin two would contain paper, clear glass paper and metals. The individual sectors are different sizes which were determined by the products it was designed to house.  For instance compartment one and two were smaller for coloured glass and hard plastics as were compartments five and six for metals and clear glass.  Compartments three, four, seven and eight are the largest, designed for paper, packaging, food waste and residual waste.

With the bin design in place Lund approached several RCV manufacturers to construct a body – it was only NTM that said that they could produce such a beast, which was already in use with Narab, that was capable of collecting four separate waste fractions and one which would empty in only one bin lift (emptying one bin takes 21 seconds) - the

first generation Quatro was built!  So there it was - the first kerbside recycling system was ready for trialling on 150 homes in Lund.  After the first year of the trial Lund conducted a survey amongst its community using the Quatro system – 97% of participants said yes they wanted the system, 2% said it was dependent on cost and only 1% said no they did not want the system at all.  Which I think you would agree is quite conclusive that the new kerbside collection was a big hit!

The system is only as successful as the households dedication and correct placement of each fraction in the bins.  Lund conducted another study on the purity of recycling and if the Quatro really did eliminate cross contamination of the waste.  The results were incredibly impressive with a remarkable 90% of all waste recyclable with the 10% of residual waste sent for incineration ( at a cost of 680 Krona per tonne which is approximately £68.00 GBP)  – which means absolutely none of the waste goes to landfill.  Even food waste, which was reduced by 35% using Quatro, is processed and turned into bio-gas to run the refuse vehicles.

Astonishing results – but what were the cost implications of switching to this new system to both Lund and also the community?   The set up costs are higher with Quatro a vehicle and 200 bin trial would set you back around £300K in the UK in comparison to £130K for a single kerbside waste system – however it proved a huge success with Lund with one Quatro doing the job of two traditional kerbsiders, so less vehicles were required.  It can also be operated on a one man – one machine basis.  Also, the Quatro has a 10t payload, in comparison to 2t.  The potential to earn on waste is greater too – with high quality recyclables, although Lunds recyclables are sold back to the producers at a vastly reduced profit, if Lund was able to sell its recyclables on the open market they would reap five times more revenue.  Last but by no means least MRF sites were reduced from 35 to 24 – although the sites are not keen on the Quatro system as it means they no longer have control of the waste.  Lund sell it directly back to its producers.

The community in Lund pay a sum each year for their waste collection and the cost of introducing the new Quatro system did increase their levy from 1500 Krona per year (£150 GBP) to 2800 Krona per year including 25% tax (£280 GBP).  And 99% were happy to pay it – the residents were happy that they no longer had to take their own recycling to recycling stations – saving them valuable time and money on fuel, their waste was collected at the right time, they liked their involvement of taking ownership and responsibility for their own waste and finally they felt a sense of achievement and pride in helping the environment.

To date Lund Renhållningsverk operate  eight  Quatro Select vehicles and one truck covers up to 2400 houses which is equivalent to 4800 bins.  The operators work in shifts and each man can empty up to 180 bins in one shift.  With Lunds 90% sorted potential – their results are three times higher than anywhere else in Sweden.  Before leaving Lund I asked what they did with the old bins which were no longer in use?  Their answer – they sell them to Poland.

The next leg of our trip took us to the municipality of Åstorp, this was an unexpected stop which ended up being an invaluable one, as we observed a Quatro vehicle and its driver making his rounds in a residential snow-bound street .  A telephone call to the local depot manager of SITA  Michael Liverstram, saw him speed to our location to talk us through the process and SITA’s role in Åstorp’s waste collection.

SITA serve 9000 households in Åstorp and operate six vehicles in total.  SITA work on a collection only basis and give the waste back to the community to sell on back to the producers.  They too operate a one man one machine set up – the workers have a target of 160 – 180 bins per six hour shift and there are two shifts per day.

Talking to the bin operator, Laars, he was really passionate about his lorry and was genuinely enthused by its ease of operation and its effective collection capabilities.  I asked him about the food waste collection, which is only every two weeks, and if there was a problem with the smell during the warmer months.  He said not, as SITA provide bags  (paper) to put the food waste in before putting it in its Quatro compartment – this he said – did the trick.  The truck is also weighed using an onboard weigh system, with each ejection to quantify the volume of each recyclable material.

He showed me inside the Quatro’s cab and explained the computer system – which tells him how many bins he has emptied but also has the facility to log any household who have ‘mixed’ their waste therefore he was not able to empty their bin.  These household would then get a letter to explain why their bin was not emptied and advice on how to correct for future collections.

We had taken up enough of Låårs time and we were in danger of putting him behind on his six hour shift – and besides it was about minus 10 by this point and I had lost all feeling in my feet and face! Back on the bus we began on the next leg of our journey which was to the Swedish town of Klippan to visit Nårab - North Åsbo Sanitation Company.

Nårab, is a small community company and is responsible for waste management within the owner municipalities Klippan, Perstorp and Örkelljunga.  The percentages of ownership comprise 50% of Klippan, 24% of Perstorp and 26% of Örkelljunga. Nårab are responsible for the waste collection of approximately 10,000 houses, 700 holiday homes, around 500 apartments and 700 individual companies.

On our arrival at Nårab, we met with company director Dan Waldemarson, and after a delicious traditional Swedish breakfast and some steaming hot coffee, we adjourned to the meeting room to discuss the company’s experience with the Quatro system.

Narab was the 1st company in Sweden to start waste collection at the door back in 1978.  The company collected newspapers, glass, cans, textiles, sacks and plastic bags.  In 2000 over 20% of the inhabitants of the three-regions used the system and thought separation was the best way.  This was when the company embarked on a trial of 1000 residents and offered three trial systems, Alma – two bins plus bags, Beda – Quatro select system and Cara – food and residual waste but no recycling.

After six-months of the trial 65% were positive of separate collection at the door, 20% had no preference, the remainder did not want collection (these were the holiday homes mainly).  The next factor was the costings of the proposed systems, both the Alma and Cara systems would be a 40% increase to the residents and the Beda (Quatro) was a considerable 80% increase in fees.  The results were the same with 65% residents wanting the separate waste collection and agreeing to the 80% increase in costs, 20% had no preference – so that equated to 85% residents were prepared for the increase and the Beda (Quatro) system.

After 10-years of operating the Quatro system 90% of the residents in the three areas use it and the cost to each house hold (2740 Krona - £274 GBP) has not risen.  Every year Narab analyse the quality of fractions collected based on figures of 100 kilos of waste per year per person (it was 600 kilos per person prior to the Quatro system).  Paper is 99.9% clean, glass is 99% clean and food 98% clean.  Again, the paper belongs to the producers so Narab is unable to sell on – if they could collection costs could reduce by 200 Krona per year (£20 GBP).

The food waste goes to slurry to create bio gas which runs their vehicles.  Dan did say that in a few years’ time legislation is changing and they will be able to sell it on.  Other fractions the company do sell on from their own ‘drop off site’.  Narab also reported that MRF sites in the area had been reduced to four sites from an original 15.

To date Narab operate six Quatro vehicles and Dan said the key to its success was ‘educating the people’.  The Scandinavians really have embraced the whole recycling ethos and have really looked at the bigger picture.  Yes, the set up cost of the Quatro System is greater, and yes it is more costly to the residents however – this is balanced by less trips to the recycling centres, which saves time and fuel – reducing C02 emmissons.  There is also no land fill – as residual waste is incinerated.  For the operators, who all agree that Quatro is a superior system, there are fewer vehicles in their fleet, a greater return on recycled fractions (would be even greater in the UK), the life span of the vehicles is longer and the downtime is minimum.

The NTM Quatro system is now available in the UK, Wrekin and Telford Council is currently displaying the Quatro bins in the council offices inviting feedback from local residents.  The biggest hurdle in the UK for the Quatro is going to be culture – but we really could learn a thing or two from Scandinavia and if we could just look at the bigger picture and beyond the cost factor – we too could reduce land fill, reduce C02 emissions and really do our bit to ‘save the planet’.  Operators of Quatro fleets would also benefit from increased revenue from material – which in time would give a greater return on their investment. Certainly ‘food for thought’.

Louise Murphy is the press officer for NTM-GB

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