20 August 2019 by Lucy Pegg

Midlands authorities eye MRF to cut sorting costs

Coventry city council is leading a group of six Midlands authorities in drawing up plans to build a new Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in response to ‘rising’ private sector costs for sorting recyclable waste.

The development of the £34.45 million plant will be considered by Coventry’s cabinet on 27 August – with a report to councillors suggesting that £584,000 could be saved annually by taking the recycling sorting work in-house.

Coventry’s recyclable waste is currently sent to Biffa’s Aldridge MRF

Loan funding would be sought to pay for the development of the plant, if it is approved next week.

Subject to agreement, five ‘partner’ councils are expected to supply recyclable waste to the plant, these include Nuneaton and Bedworth borough council, North Warwickshire borough council, Rugby borough council, Solihull metropolitan borough council and Walsall council.

Councillor Patricia Hetherton, Coventry’s cabinet member for city services, said the plans were a “win-win” as they would deal with rising prices and enable the local authority to raise its recycling rates.

“By opening this facility and taking greater control over the process, we can cut significant cost,” Cllr Hetherton explained.

“We also anticipate that this facility will give us the opportunity to make the recycling process more efficient and environmentally friendly.

“The design of the facility will give us the flexibility to deal with changing demands. And in turn this will give us a chance to make sure the service is as efficient as it can be.”

Price increases

The council says recent procurement exercises suggest the upward trend in costs for the sorting of dry mixed recyclate is likely to continue – with West Midlands MRF gate fees expected to increase between £57 and £86 in coming years. The council paid an average processing cost of £62.37 for recyclable waste in 2018/19, it said.

A report to the council noted: “Escalating costs associated with the processing of dry mixed recyclate are a direct reflection of the volatility of global market prices, and the unavailability of traditional material outlets in China and South East Asia.

“By opening this facility and taking greater control over the process, we can cut significant cost.”

Cllr Patricia Hetherton, Coventry city council

“In addition, the costs associated with the development of new technologies in the UK and an emerging market in Europe are currently being passed directly to local authorities through pricing of existing contracts.”

Currently MRF services are provided to Coventry city council by Biffa, which processes the material at the Aldridge MRF near Walsall. Tom Whites Waste provide bulking and haulage.

Costs of bulking, haulage and MRFs has risen to £1,652,614 in 2018/19, up from £457,400 in 2014/15, according to the council. The tonnage handled has risen by just over 1,700 tonnes in the same time period.

It is proposed that the MRF will have a treatment cost of £44.31 per tonne for material entering the site.

Details

In 2017/18 a study undertaken to assess the feasibility of developing a MRF for Coventry found there was a positive business case for supporting the project.

More recent work has established that a facility with a capacity of 120,000 to 175,000 tonnes would be commercially viable. Coventry currently collects around 24,000 tonnes of recyclable waste annually – the rest of the capacity would be used by the partner councils.

Provision of land for the MRF has already been made adjacent to the Energy from Waste (EfW) facility on Bar Road, to the south east of Coventry city centre.

Coventry says that working with other councils will mean risks and benefits are shared between the local authorities.

The council’s plans have been made on the assumption that the facility would initially only receive 90,000 tonnes of waste, rising to 120,000 in year 20 as the number of households managed by each council grows. There will be flexibility to increase capacity to 175,000 tonnes per annum through additional shift patterns.

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