16 March 2021 by James Langley

Coventry approves loan for ‘upgraded’ MRF

Coventry city council’s cabinet gave initial approval on 9 March for a £1.9 million loan to upgrade its plans for its in-house materials recycling facility (MRF).

The loan will be used to increase the plant’s capacity from the original 2019 proposal by 45% to 175,000 tonnes, amongst other things. The additional capacity is needed after Walsall council and Warwick district council joined the project in November.

The Coventry MRF will feature 14 SamurAI sorting robots

The plant design has also evolved to include low grade plastics separation, something the council describes as a UK first. And, the cost of insurance is said to have gone up, not least because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Councillor Patricia Hetherton, cabinet member for city services at Coventry, said without “seizing the opportunity” to invest now, the plant risks not going ahead.

She said: “Recycling has improved dramatically in recent years, with people being more able, and willing, to recycle household waste. There is also greater market for recycled materials as people become more environmentally aware.

“If we do not seize this opportunity and invest now, we will be forced to either abandon our plans completely and return to paying private firms to handle our recyclables or build a facility that would soon be too small and out of date.

“In making this wise investment we can create a state-of-the-art facility that will be the most advanced of its kind in the UK, and potentially one of the most advanced MRFs around the world, featuring the latest robotic technology.”

The plans will now be discussed at a meeting of Coventry’s full council later today (16 March).

Revenue

“This extra investment makes sense for the council and the people of the city”

Councillor Richard Brown

A report which went before Coventry’s cabinet says the “volatility” of global markets for processed recyclates had led the private sector to pass the risk of price fluctuations on to local authorities.

Coventry hopes the planned MRF will save around £1.4 million a year and provide an opportunity to bring in revenue in future.

Councillor Richard Brown, cabinet member for finance, said: “This extra investment makes sense for the council and the people of the city. The alternative will be paying out ever increasing costs every year.

“Coventry is a city of innovation and it is a green, environmentally-friendly city, and this new facility would not only help protect the planet and improve the quality of life for local people, it would also bring in much-needed revenue to the council and make our city a world leader in recycling technology.”

MRF

Plans for the in-house facility first received approval in September 2019 (see letsrecycle.com story). It is to be run by a partnership of Coventry city council and seven other local authorities in the area.

The eight councils behind the plans include Coventry city council, North Warwickshire borough council, Nuneaton and Bedworth borough council, Rugby borough council, Stratford district council, Solihull Metropolitan borough council, Walsall council and Warwick district council.

Work on the MRF is scheduled to start in spring 2021 and finish in spring 2023. It is to be built on the site of some former allotments, described as “disused and overgrown”.

The MRF will be operated by Sherbourne Recycling Limited, a newly established, wholly owned local authority company.

Machinex was named the preferred provider of process equipment for the facility in January (see letsrecycle.com story). The MRF will feature artificial intelligence, using 14 SamurAI sorting robots and a further 14 optical sorters.

The report which went before the cabinet says the use of technology addresses labour shortages, which it claims is an increasing problem in the waste industry, in part because of Brexit. Lower skilled manual sorter roles are typically filled by an Eastern European workforce, the report says.

Coventry

Representing a population of more than 325,000, Coventry city council had a household waste recycling rate of 33.4% in the 2019/20 financial year.

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