RDF ‘teething problems’ lead to odour at Pembroke Port

Pembrokeshire county council and its contractor Potters Waste Management have apologised to local residents for ‘initial teething problems’ with RDF processing which gave rise to odour issues at Pembroke Port.

Bales of RDF being loaded at Pembroke Dock for export to Sweden on Saturday (August 8)
Bales of RDF being loaded at Pembroke Dock for export to Sweden on Saturday (August 8)

The first shipment of refuse derived fuel (RDF) from Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion councils left the port for Sweden this week under a £48 million deal agreed with Potters in February to process 30,000 tonnes per year of residual waste for energy recovery in Sweden (see letsrecycle.com story).

Approximately 2,500 bales of waste, each weighing around 1.5 tonnes, were loaded at Pembroke Port on Saturday (August 8) and are now heading across the North Sea before they are due to reach Västervik on the east Swedish coast on Friday (August 14).

However, Pembrokeshire council said problems during the processing of waste at the docks “arose under certain weather conditions when odours were discernible beyond the processing and storage areas and were the subject of a number of complaints”.

As a result, both Pembrokeshire council and Potters Waste Management “have apologised for any inconvenience caused to local residents”.

Food waste decay

Director of Potters, James Potter, said the main problem was the amount of food waste in the black residual bags which the firm received for processing, which he said “was becoming odorous as it started to decompose within the bales”.

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He explained: “The problem was identified several weeks ago and fortunately we were easily able to resolve it with the inclusion of an additional process that removes the food before the remaining waste is baled and plastic wrapped – very much like a silage bale. However the first batch of bales produced did contain food waste, which gave rise to complaints in the locality.”

According to Mr Potter the food waste has now been removed and the make-up of the bales is “very different and there is now no odour problem with them”, although the firm had to store the older bales until the first shipment via the MV Visurgis vessel on Saturday.

He added: “Thankfully that is now behind us and we are grateful to Natural Resources Wales, the Port of Milford Haven and the council for their constructive input to resolving this problem.”

Regulator Natural Resources Wales (NRW) said the permit issued to Potters has “strict rules to follow” so that operations do not pose a risk, and that it was therefore meeting regularly with Potters and the council “to ensure that the site adheres to the conditions in the permit”.

Andrea Winterton, operations manager at NRW, said: “We will continue to monitor the situation and work with the operator to reduce the risk of any impact on the local community.”

15-year deal

RDF from Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion will be used to feed the Mälarenergi energy from waste (EfW) plant based in Västeras, which is just east of Stockholm and several hours’ drive north of the port at Västervik where the RDF is being shipped to.

According to Pembrokeshire council, the Swedish incinerator is “more efficient than its counterparts in the UK as it produces electricity and heat for district heating networks” and therefore “recoups more energy from the waste than would be possible in this country”.

The 15-year deal Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion councils signed with Potters began on March 1 2015 with an option to break after 10 years. It is claimed that the flexible ‘innovative framework contract’, which was created under advice from consultancy Eunomia, will save each authority £350,000 a year.

Pembrokeshire county council’s cabinet member for environmental and regulatory services, Huw George, said: “The reduced waste management cost is essential at this time as we seek to protect valued front line services. The contract will create 11 jobs at Pembroke Dock and in local haulage. We are also working in partnership with Pembroke Port through the use of their facilities at Pembroke Dock thus ensuring job protection in the area.”

Part of Potter Group, Welshpool-based Potters Waste Management acquired Resources Management UK from SITA UK – now Suez – in November 2014 (see letsrecycle.com story).

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