Recyclers rise from the ashes

The smothered pile of burnt carpet waste which will eventually be cleared away as part of a mjor expansion plan for the Barkston Heath site of Mid UK Recycling. EMN-151015-132420001
The smothered pile of burnt carpet waste which will eventually be cleared away as part of a mjor expansion plan for the Barkston Heath site of Mid UK Recycling. EMN-151015-132420001

A recycling firm has unveiled major plans to expand its site, creating another 200 jobs over the next ten years.

Mid UK Recycling has plans to expand its operations at its Barkston Heath site, which they say should also reassure neighbouring villagers with the introduction of enhanced fire prevention measures.

The site suffered a major fire in July when spontaneous combustion was blamed for bales of waste carpet stored on site bursting into flames and burning for ten days. The remains have now been smothered with soil and waste gypsum.

Managing director Chris Mountain and group systems and compliance manager Alister Constantine described to The Standard their significant investment in fire prevention as part of a 10-year development plan which was already underway.

Mr Mountain said: “The fire brigade has been coming to the site for the last five years and had visited two months before the fire and new exactly what was there.

“They insisted on larger gaps between the stacks, which we had done. None of us want a fire, it is not in anyone’s interest. Unfortunately the industry has a history of fires and we have to invest to make sure it doesn’t happen again, but we do need to be able to store up to 2-3,000 tonnes at a time.”

The company currently employs 400 people in the county and expects to employ another 200 over the next 10 years. It has just been awarded a 10-year contract to supply fuel from recycled waste to be burnt by the Ketton Cement works.

Solid Recovered Fuel, created from whatever waste cannot be recycled, is now being offered as an alternative fuel to coal for the cement industry, helping cut CO2 emissions. Mr Mountain said: “Ketton cement works will burn 60,000 tonnes of our fuel a year as a minimum. That saves 50,000 tonnes of coal - that is a lot of saving on imports.

“It has changed from 15 years ago when everything was being chucked in a hole in the ground.”

The company is set to submit a planning application and environmental scoping assessment within the next week to local authorities for its Barkston Heath site.

Mr Constantine explained that changes to fire regulations required extra storage space for the bales with wider gaps between stacks on a large, graded concreted area with sealed drainage interceptors to prevent any contaminated water run-off, instead diverting it into a lagoon and reed bed which will act as a filter. Water can be recycled by firefighters in the event of a blaze.

There would be an access road and weighbridge leading directly off the site.

Mr Constantine said: “During the fire at Barkston Heath, we were reliant on pumping water from Woodland Waters which caused considerable disruption and road closures. With any future incident there will be suffient water on site to deal with any incident.”

Concrete screens are going up as additional fire breaks and sprinkler systems installed inside buildings along with four water storage tanks with a combined capacity of 212,000 litres. There are 30 trained fire marshals on site, with further training on handling hoses. Each department has fire hydrants and hoses at hand.

Mr Constantine said the company has been in constant dialogue with the surrounding community. There is an open invite to local parishes to look around the site. Mr Constantine said it is a heavily regulated industry. They have to check their waste with probes and thermal imaging cameras and provide photographic evidence of stock rotation, so that the oldest material does not get overlooked.

Mid UK Recycling is one of the largest re-manufacturers of plasterboard, which cannot go to landfill. Employing technology derived from the rice industry, the recycled material is being marketed as an industrial absorbant to mop up oil spills and as very clean cat litter.

Two new buildings for packaging and storage of these products are also on the plans, plus office space and car park plus more storage space for plastics from the county council’s recycling collection system, explained Mr Constantine. He went on: “Nationally there is a shortage of methods for recycling mattresses, so we are creating a unit for recovering materials from mattresses with automated machinery for reprocessing.”

The company’s own workshops have designed machinery for reprocessing the plasterboard. They are one of the largest businesses reprocessing carpets, with machinery separating the elements for different uses. Other machines can detect and separate the various types of plastics. “We have a track record for innovation,” said Mr Mountain.

A waste glass cleaning plant is almost complete to enable all of it to be recycled.

Neighbouring Ancaster parish council chairman David Sayer said: “If the lagoon prevents the fires which have closed the A153 several times then it is definitely a positive. Our concerns about it growing in size are just in terms of their lorries causing disturbance in the parish, and how many more there would be. And how they manage the smell, litter and noise, as well as these HGV movements.”