Making the switch to digital television generated a significant amount of analogue equipment waste. Phil Smith, business development director at Hampshire-based ICEE, explains how the project ensured only 1% went to landfill
Seven years ago major UK broadcast infrastructure operator Arqiva, embarked on its nationwide ‘Digital Switchover’ programme to switch from analogue to digital television. Over the course of the project redundant analogue transmission equipment had to be disposed of. From day one the overall objective was that of sustainability - to ensure as little waste as possible was sent to landfill.
ICEE was chosen to carry out the managed services of decommissioning and managing the waste management chain through competitive tender and its understanding of the customer requirements and knowledge of working in live environments.
When put into perspective, the amount of time taken to carry out the work shows the enormity of the project: roughly 36,000 man days. So how was this done, particularly when sites are located from the most southerly islands - Jersey - to the most northerly - Bressay andFetlar - with all the British isles in between?
The solution was to deploy a trained workforce of up to seven teams running concurrently to decommission the sites. Each team had a variety of skill sets to enable them to overcome any challenges and site travelling was kept to a minimum by ensuring teams travelled in as few vehicles as possible.
Some Arqiva sites are located in Sites of Special Scientific Interest and others have protected plants and animals inhabiting the sites. So when at sites, personnel needed to be aware of the potential risks and legal implications of not disturbing these.
A whole host of personnel in the background also ensured that the project ran smoothly, including a project manager and project engineers - based on-site and in the office, as well as the office-based business support functions.
The recycling itself was carried out by an external partner company, managed by ICEE, who collected the recyclable materials and valuable metals in containers. This was a major logistic feat due to the remote locations and where applicable, any right of access in place that had to be adhered to.
In any cable-related industry theft is a major problem that not only affects the services being provided but adds additional cost, so security was also a major concern due to the high scrap value of some of the materials being transported. The containers were weighed and a security seal applied when leaving sites to ensure there was no tampering during transit.
The total amount of waste handled was 2,500 tonnes, which is the equivalent of 62,500 40kg TV sets - and only 1% of this was sent to landfill. Waste encountered ranged from hazardous material, including asbestos and beryllium copper for which experienced handlers were contracted, to valuable metals such as copper, aluminium and steel and of course copper cabling.
Through collaboration of various stages of the supply chain, with various companies involved, the project has been a major feat of communication and realisation of high level objectives, which include corporate social responsibility and sustainability. ICEE has played a major part in the future of Digital Britain, taking away the past to make way for the future.