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Growth Market

Contractor Colas is expanding into the booming waste recovery and energy from waste markets. Declan Lynch reports


Waste is no longer just dumped into landfill. Instead government policy at a national and local level has seen a huge rise in recycling centres and energy recovery schemes in a market now worth £11bn per year. Driven by the government’s commitment to create a zero waste economy, waste is being either recycled or used in energy recovery centres.

But there is still some way to go to meet this target, with 60% of all household waste and 50% of business waste still ending up in landfill sites.

To support this move to a zero waste economy, new waste infrastructure is required, and waste management firms like Veolia are investing in huge new municipal waste incinerators and recycling centres. Contractor Colas has been working alongside the major waste management firms, and is currently close to completing a recycling centre in Warwickshire (see box).

Colas divisional development director Murray van der Poll is leading the firm’s work in this sector, and is concentrating on two types of energy recovery schemes. “There are the sub 5MW schemes, which are a little more low tech, and the greater than 20MW schemes,” he says.

“One of our differentiatiors is that we operate nationally very quickly”

Murray van der Poll, Colas

Schemes larger than 20MW capacity tend to be in the form of energy from waste schemes at municipal level promoted by local councils or waste management firms like as Veolia and Sita. Van der Poll says the push into renewable energy by both sets of clients is promoted by renewable obligation certificate schemes (Rocs). Heavy carbon emitters such as factories want renewable energy schemes to help offset their CO2 emissions.

Meanwhile, municipal energy from waste schemes are driven by the increase in landfill taxes, and incentives to generate electricity from renewable sources through Rocs and feed-in tariffs.

Opportunities for contractors to break into this market can vary. Council projects are often procured through pre-existing frameworks, but not all, notes van der Poll. Private schemes tend to be built through an engineering procurement construction (EPC) contract, which is where Colas hopes to lead, while other schemes may be procured using more traditional forms of contract.

But whatever the scheme, energy from waste projects often face planning hurdles. “Planning is a huge issue,” says van der Poll, explaining that it is not the nationally significant schemes that struggle to get through planning but the smaller scale projects decided at local council level.

“I know of three schemes that should have gained planning permission in the past three months but have not,” he says.

As a result, firms like Colas must ensure they have a number of enquiries under consideration to balance out projects that could be stalled in planning. But van der Poll says this uncertainty provides his firm with an opportunity. “One of our differentiatiors is that we operate nationally very quickly,” he says.

Expanding portfolio of waste management schemes

Private sector and public sector have combined to come up with the best solution possible for a new household waste recycling scheme in Warwickshire.

Contractor Colas won the contract to construct a new £3.5M household waste recycling and waste transfer centre at Lower House Farm and then suggested a partnering workshop with the client team to rethink the design to make it more efficient and cost effective.

The facility will be jointly operated by Warwickshire and Staffordshire County Councils. When complete it will be able to handle 10,000t of material a year and will include a purpose built charity reuse shop. The 2,400m2 waste transfer station will handle up to 70,000t of waste, of which 50,000t will be sent to Staffordshire’s planned energy from waste plant at Four Ashes.

The client embraced the far reaching best practice improvements that were shared by Colas to make public access and operation safer and more efficient. “The improvements will deliver significant efficiency savings as there is now capacity for householders to deliver recyclable materials for discharge and segregation in large volumes with reduced operational resources and cost,” says Colas business manager Mark Pemberthy.

Innovative thinking and an integrated supply chain has also produced over £100,000 of savings for a waste transfer scheme for Aylesbury Vale District Council, which are now being reinvested in the project. “We started on site one week after contract award,” says Colas divisional development manager Murray van der Poll.

“We are delighted with the work that Colas is doing for us,” comments Aylesbury Vale District Council project manager Nick Morse. “This is a very tricky job to very tight timescales and it is going extremely well. Colas has found significant savings that can be reinvested in the project and we are very glad to have them on board.”

At Leatherhead in Surrey Colas has created a bespoke precast twin-wall solution for retaining walls at a community recycling centre that is part of a larger waste management facility being delivered for Sita Surrey.

The units are fabricated in factory controlled conditions, which reduces on site activities and produces a better quality product. For every week on site to erect a wall arrangement in situ it takes just one day with this system. The systemuses over 80% secondary aggregates, improving the scheme’s sustainability as well as site safety and programme management.

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