UKs first underground vacuum waste system unveiled

The UK's first underground vacuum waste management system has been unveiled at Wembley City housing development in North-West London.

The system was launched today (December 9) at the £2.5 billion Wembley City housing project and is intended to help residents dispose of waste and recyclable material, while also lessening the number of journeys undertaken by refuse collection vehicles around the complex.

Quitain's deputy chief executive, Nick Shattock, puts the first piece of recyclable material in the new Envac system
Quitain’s deputy chief executive, Nick Shattock, puts the first piece of recyclable material in the new Envac system
Engineered and installed by Swedish automated waste collection company Envac, the system uses three inlets situated in the courtyard of the housing developments for residents to deposit dry recyclable, organic and residual waste into separate colour coded containers.

The waste is then sucked through underground pipes by a fan system at speeds approaching 50 mph to a central bulking point where it is stored in airtight, 30 cm³ containers, which can then be sent on for further reprocessing by the waste contractor for Brent borough council, Veolia Environmental Services.

Julian Gaylor, managing director of Envac, said: “At the moment, we can get 700 properties' worth of waste into one of these containers and so one vehicle can collect 700 households' worth of waste in two or three minutes and I hope you can appreciate the benefit that will give the contractor, the council and the householder as well.”


The system – which has been introduced in 30 countries around the world by Envac since the 1960s – allows the three waste streams to remain separate, with individual valves in the chutes opened twice a day into underground tubes to send the waste to the bulking facility.

Once it reaches the bulking facility, the waste is compressed and the air used in the suction process is released through particle filters to remove impurities. The pipe system also includes observation doors at 100 metre intervals to enable maintenance and removal of blockages caused by large or inappropriate items.

The facility is intended to cater for commercial waste generated during the housing project, which will see an added stream for cardboard waste added shortly, and all dry recyclables are set to be sent to a materials recycling facility in Greenwich for reprocessing, the organic waste to West London Composting and the residual fraction to the Edmonton incinerator.


Launched for the first 700 properties completed as part of Quintain Estates and Development's 85 acres housing project, the Envac system is intended to serve all 4,200 homes when the development is completed over the next 10 to 15 years.

The property company praised the Envac system's environmental credentials, as it is intended to lessen the number of collection vehicles needed on collection rounds in Brent as fewer vehicles will visit the central collection point than currently cater for individual buildings.

Nick Shattock, deputy chief executive at Quintain, said: “Our aim is to make Wembley City a highly advanced new district for London by embedding technologies that won't be found on other schemes for five years. Envac is the first such system we're launching and the aim is to make waste management clean, quick, and efficient and significantly reduce its impact on the environment.”

The system can also be retrofitted to existing housing developments as has occurred in historic areas of Barcelona and Vitoria in Spain, which have proved difficult for refuse vehicles to navigate.


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