Describing itself as “Britain’s largest rail operator”, GTR operates Southern, Thameslink and Great Northern services, including at Brighton station, which had an average recycling rate of 30% during the past year.
In August, it partnered with Berkshire-based firm the Green Block to install a mobile segregation unit operated by eight employees.
The system sees commingled recycling collected from the station’s retailers, as well as from trains and litter bins, segregated on-site by hand to increase recycling.
GTR says this system enabled its recycling rate to rise to around 92% from the first day the unit was installed. The rail operator aims to increase the station’s rate to 95%.
The eight employees at the unit segregate, wash, compact, bale, weigh and electronically tag all waste from Brighton station, as well as all Southern and Thameslink trains running to and from the city, by hand.
Donna Bryant, facilities soft services contract manager at GTR, told letsrecycle.com: “The MSU doesn’t cost anything more than our previous method of waste management, yet we’ve seen so many benefits.”
Though the project is still at a trial stage, Ms Bryant said GTR was looking at using the Brighton unit as a ‘hub’, to which waste from other smaller stations in the Sussex region, described as ‘spokes’, would be delivered. She added that GTR could look to install MSUs at other large stations across their network.
She said: “What we’re doing here will be a driver for other stations, operators and organisations to start being responsible. We can’t turn a blind eye to waste any more.”
Retailers at the station dispose of their waste via a ‘pay as you throw scheme’, whereby they purchase the bags they need on a day-to-day basis.
The bags are tagged with a QR code, so the MSU can track exactly where each comes from, along with how much it weighs. Waste from trains in also taken to the MSU commingled.
Once it arrives, the waste is weighed before being separated by hand into different materials. This means that contamination is less of a problem, Adam Williams, chief operating officer at The Green Block, told letsrecycle.com.
The sorting involves processes such as the compression of glass on-site via a bespoke machine, which Josh Katz, client services manager at The Green Block, said cut CO2 and noise emissions, as the material no longer requires haulage.
After sorting, all recyclable materials, including liquid, are sent to a variety of reprocessors in the area. This provides GTR with the opportunity to gain a revenue from their waste.
The small proportion of residual waste which remains is sent to energy from waste.
GTR says 12% of the total waste collected across its 800-mile network currently comes from Brighton. Prior to the pandemic, the station produced 650 tonnes of waste in an average year.
GTR says the initiative will recycle nearly 400 tonnes of material between now and September 2022 if rates remain at the same level.
The MSU at Brighton is the second of its kind on the UK rail network, after The Green Block installed one at London Victoria for Network Rail in June 2020.