Waterbeach MBTP

17:40 Friday 30th March 2012
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

CHRIS MANN:It cost Cambridgeshire County Council £42 million, and it’s called The Terminator. But is it rubbish? The mechanical biological treatment plant, or MBTP, is the first of its kind in the UK. It’s meant to sort and shred the contents of Cambridgeshire’s black bins, so they can be recycled or composted, but 18 months on, The Terminator is still not working to its full capacity, despite the cost of £42 million. Well the Council’s head rubbish expert is Leon Livermore and he joined me a short while ago to explain . (TAPE)
LEON LIVERMORE: The site at Waterbeach deals with the residual waste. So obviously anything we can recycle, we do recycle. And what happens is it takes residual waste, and it goes through a series of processes. It’s like a Meccano set. They piece it all together, and it goes along a series of belts. And the idea of that is it recovers as much recyclate as possible. And than at the end of that you’re left with the residual waste that we either can’t recycle, or there’s no market for. That then goes into a big hall, if you like, and gets churned and churned and churned over a number of weeks, with the idea to drop down the biodegradability of it. And we’re left with what’s called a compost-like output at the end.
CHRIS MANN: Am I right in thinking this machine is called The Terminator?
LEON LIVERMORE: Yes. I don’t know who named it. It’s obviously someone. There must have been a naming ceremony somewhere, but yes, it’s called The Terminator.
CHRIS MANN: And it terminates the waste.
LEON LIVERMORE: Yes. That’s the whole idea. The whole idea is to minimise what we stick into the land, both for a cost reason, because it costs us in landfill taxes, but also actually it’s better for the environment if we can find other used for the waste.
CHRIS MANN: Well you’re talking about what it’s supposed to do. But so far it’s not doing that.
LEON LIVERMORE: Well it is. If you look at the contract overall, we recycle 54% of household waste within Cambridgeshire. And that puts us right at the top. Our partners down at Waterbeach, AmeyCespa, they still process a lot of our waste that goes in there. So if you go down, they’ve got in-vessel composting, they’ve got materials recycling facilities down there. What it is, it’s just this last bit of this process that deals with everything that’s left. And they’re still within their contract, so they’ve still got till November 9th to do this. And they’re 100% confident that they’re going to get there.
CHRIS MANN: But still, you spend £42 million on something, you’d think that after 18 months, it would be fully functional.
LEON LIVERMORE: I think the thing to realise is that these are both complex and huge machineries. And it’s not uncommon, and I know that Amey have visited various plants around Europe, it’s not uncommon for the stage between the construction of the site and full commissioning to take this long.
CHRIS MANN: Even when you’ve spent £42 million on something.
LEON LIVERMORE: It can take a while, and if you look at it, that’s why the contract provided .. this is when we expected it to be done, and that would be great .. that’s why the contract has got the long stop date, if you like, of this year. So it’s still within the commissioning phase.
CHRIS MANN: Could it not have been done any quicker?
LEON LIVERMORE: There were issues with one of the parts there. And it is a case of you can’t just go down to B&Q and buy one of these parts. So they have to get it on order, they have to get it in, they have to get it tested.
CHRIS MANN: Sounds like me talking to my local garage, or trying to get my car fixed. Shouldn’t it be a bit more efficient, again, when you’re spending that kind of money?
LEON LIVERMORE: Well, like I said, these are big pieces of complex kit. The contract allows for this to happen. So you start a process, you test a process, which is still contract time. So the plant is working, it’s just this final process that needs to be fully commissioned for that contract to be signed off.
CHRIS MANN: Ok. You’ve made that point. So how does this affect what we are putting in our bins?
LEON LIVERMORE: It doesn’t. people should still follow the guidance of whatever their collection authority is. The best thing to do is recycle properly, because obviously if we get clean virgin recyclate, it’s worth a lot more money. And that’s offset against council tax. And the we just take it in and it gets processed. At the moment, there’s probably a little bit more going to landfill than we might have liked. This last process, once that last process is signed off, we can then look for markets for this compost-like output.
CHRIS MANN: Leon Livermore, the head of rubbish from Cambridgeshire County Council.


Here is the same story from a different angle in the Cambridge News.