NEXT time you fill your wheeled bins spare a thought for the recycling plant which processes your rubbish.
The Sita plant, at Diamond Street, Hillhouse, turns Huddersfield’s refuse into electricity and recycles all the paper, cardboard, drinks cans and plastic bottles that thousands of householders put into their green bins.
It is a far cry from the days when all waste generated from homes across the town was buried in landfill or incinerated.
It was in 2000 that the Government began to clamp down on landfill and greenhouse gas emissions following the EU Waste Incineration Directive.
Kirklees Council signed a 25-year contract with waste management company Sita in 1998.
As part of the contract, Sita took over five household waste recycling centres and the old incinerator and transfer station at Vine Street, Huddersfield.
The site was used to send waste away to be managed until 2002, when Sita opened its recycling and energy from waste (EfW) plant at Diamond Street.
In 1998, the company recycled 7,000 tonnes of refuse. Last year 25,000 tonnes was recycled by the plant.
The EfW facility processes 136,000 tonnes of waste each year and generates approximately 10 MWh of electricity – enough to supply electricity for 15,000 homes for one year, says Sita.
And with landfill charges increasing by 20% from April 1, Kirklees Council will be under pressure to recycle more.
So what happens when your rubbish and recycling is delivered to the plant?
Material from your green recycling bin passes along a conveyor belt through a series of filters to separate it into ‘fractions’ of reusable material, such as paper, cardboard, plastic, steel and aluminium.
The materials are collected by the people Sita sells the material to, which include UK reprocessing companies or brokers that trade the material.
Just like raw materials, recycled materials are a commodity and are sold on the world market and the price constantly fluctuates.
The companies which buy the materials are members of the Recycling Registration Scheme, which ensures that reprocessors comply with good industry practice and robust environmental regulations enforced by the Environment Agency.
The metals (ferrous and non-ferrous) are sent to a Sita metals recycling facility in Coventry. Recycling one tonne of steel saves 80% of carbon dioxide emissions produced when making steel from iron ore.
The cans (aluminium and steel) which are melted down after the paint is removed, are used to make new cans.
Paper is pulped to its original fibrous state and used to make recycled paper, toilet tissue and newspaper – the Huddersfield Examiner could be printed on paper recycled by Kirklees residents.
The plastics are taken to a UK recycling plant where they are melted down and used to manufacture new bottles.
Cardboard, like paper, is pulped, before being used to make new cardboard.
Recyclable material is baled and bulked up before being transported away from site by lorry.
Material deemed unfit for recycling, including nappies, food and video tapes, which clogs up the machinery, is collected and incinerated with waste from your grey bins.
Heat from the tonnes of rubbish burned on the site is used to heat water to 400°C and channelled to turn turbines generating electricity.
The electricity is sold to the National Grid.
Danny Carolan, recycling manager at Sita Huddersfield, said: “We can no longer put things into landfill.
“The space is running out and it’s expensive and it creates greenhouse gases.
“Kirklees is leading the way in the region with recycling and recovering energy.
“Ten years ago the amount of recycling would have been a fraction of this. It just shows how much people are recycling now.
“But, of course, the success of this depends on households recycling their waste.”