Waste treatment in Cumbria

Waste treatment in Cumbria

There are six district council areas in Cumbria and each one has a separate and different way of dealing with waste and recycling.  Each district has the responsibility of the collection of household waste as well as collection of recycling.  At present each district has a requirement to collect a minimum of two materials but in reality they each collect more.  Garden waste collection is a discretionary service supplied by councils - they are not obliged (at present to provide this at all).

Districts have their own responsibility for what happens to materials collected for recycling.  They may have their own fleet of collection vehicles or they may have outside contractors doing the job for them.  Recycled materials are generally sold where there is a market for them - we try to keep them in this country but occasionally they are sent abroad. 

Waste collected by districts which is NOT for recycling becomes the responsibility of the County Council for disposal.  Traditionally this was sent to landfill but as these are running out of space this is no longer a viable option for the future.

In 2008, Cumbria County Council signed a 25 year deal with Shanks Waste Solutions (now Renewi following merger of Shanks Group plc with Van Gansewinkel Group BV in 2017). This partnership will slash the amount of rubbish Cumbria sends to landfill. From 2012, much of the county's waste has been sent for mechanical biological treatment (MBT) at two state of the art plants - one in Barrow and the other near Carlisle. The MBT process produces a Solid Recovered Fuel (SRF), a potential alternative to fossil fuels in industrial processes.  The Carlisle plant was the first to open on 17 December 2011 and the Barrow plant on 1 April 2013.  There are 3 transfer stations where waste is collected before being transported to the plants - this saves smaller bin lorries travelling long distances around the county. 

Wagons come into the plant and empty the waste into the reception pit.  From there it is put through a shredder before being transferred into the drying hall.  The drying hall contains rows of waste from around the county, each row being one days waste.  It stays there for approx two weeks as it is dried out.  This is done by drawing air down through the waste and out through the floor, the air is released through a bio filter outside which stops smells coming out of the plant.  The waste is reduced in mass by around one third through this drying process.  After this it is then put through a series of drums, sieves, trommels, flip flops and magnets to take out any materials that can be recycled.

While MBT offers a long term and sustainable future for the county's waste, the process will only work if we all continue to reduce the amount of rubbish we create in the first place. In Cumbria we have taken huge steps to reduce the amount of waste we send to landfill over the last 5 years. Our recycling levels have been increasing steadily year on year. In 2005 we recycled 25% of our rubbish, today we recycle 44%.

For more information on Cumbria's plan to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible you can download our Joint Municipal Waste Management Strategy 2007 to 2020 (PDF 1.8MB).