17 October 2019 by Lucy Pegg

‘Clapped out’ Suffolk MRF to get £7.5m investment

Suffolk county council is set to invest £7.5 million in one of its materials recycling facilities (MRFs) to reduce the costs of processing waste.

The Great Blakenham MRF is operated by Viridor and handles all of Suffolk’s kerbside-collected mixed recyclable materials. The facility near Ipswich was built in 1998 and is now “clapped out”, according to Councillor Paul West, Suffolk’s cabinet member with responsibility for waste.

The £7.5 million of funding is expected to reduce gate fees for mixed recyclable waste from the present rate of £79.61 per tonne to £58.20. This would reduce annual contract payments by £1.4 million, a total saving of £14.7 million over the remaining 9.25 years of the contract.

Viridor’s Great Blakenham MRF will get £7.5m of investment from Suffolk county council

Explaining how the investment would work, Cllr West said: “Suffolk pays off some of the Viridor capital costs and saves a significant sum over the life of the contract through reduced processing fees.

“Sorting will be much more automated and the plant will be producing much higher quality output which will ensure we can find buyers in challenging and more strict market for secondary materials.”

The decision has been described as an ‘invest to save’ opportunity and will be funded by a loan from the Public Works Loan Board, which will cost the council £8.1 million in borrowing and repayment over the remaining contract period. This results in a £6.6 million saving for the Suffolk Waste Partnership.

Cllr West noted that the capital repayment would have a particular benefit for waste collection authorities in Suffolk.

Paul West, Suffolk county council cabinet member for Ipswich, communities and waste

He explained: “It is a good deal for the county council but I might say it is an even better deal for the boroughs and districts because it is the county council who are proposing to put up the £7.5 million capital sum.”

Cllr Richard Smith – cabinet member for finance and assets – said the funding “makes good commercial sense”.

He added: “I like to think of it as making savings by paying off part of our mortgage earlier than we had planned to do so.”


Earlier in the year, Viridor announced that they would invest £15.4 million in the Suffolk MRF (see letsrecycle.com story)

Viridor’s managing director of recycling and integrated assets, Paul Brown, said the investment would increase the capacity from 65,000 tonnes per annum to 75,000 tonnes, with a significant investment in mechanical recovery equipment, including 11 optical sorters.

Mr Brown said: “Viridor has a clear focus on developing the real opportunities to put quality recycling materials back into the economy where they belong.

“This starts with viewing waste as a resource, rather than rubbish, and, thanks to Suffolk’s commitment to recycling, and this new Viridor investment, we are well positioned to make the most of the county’s recycling opportunities.”

Resources and Waste Strategy

Suffolk county council’s report which recommended the £7.5 million was approved did acknowledge that the Resources and Waste Strategy could change the landscape for local authority waste sorting.

But council officers said that though there could be a requirement for recyclate to be collected separately, “the strategy document and subsequent consultations have given no indication that such a system will be imposed through statute”.

The report also highlighted that recent consultations have proposed to fund the costs of transitioning to new services as a result of government policy and that councils are being encouraged to time service changes with the end of existing contracts.


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