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Recycling rate soars at construction site

A UK Power Networks construction site in Whitechapel has recycled 97 per cent of building demolition rubble taken off the site during an electricity substation redevelopment.

The company, in partnership with its demolition contractors Erith Contractors Ltd, recycled 18,000 tonnes of waste – equivalent to 967 lorry loads – during demolition of the existing turbine hall, basement, store rooms, offices and garage in preparation for the construction of a new substation.

A new electricity substation will now be constructed at the existing site containing transformers, switchgear and cables delivering electricity to homes and businesses in London. The project is set to continue until 2015 and will strengthen the local electricity network.

Clive Steed, sustainability manager at UK Power Networks, said: "We believe in working with our contractors to try to minimise our environmental impact and reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill. While we cannot achieve this level of recycling with all our construction projects, this case highlights our commitment to sustainability and shows what can be achieved."

Stuart Accleton, associate director at Erith Contractors Ltd, said: "Targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, along with fuel costs, make using local recycling facilities beneficial environmentally and commercially. Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do and it has always been our business to make money out of other people’s waste. With new technology, better equipment and higher volumes we are achieving greater returns on recycling and reuse than ever before.

"The level of landfill tax within the UK which currently stands at £56 per tonne, rising to £64 per tonne on April 1 2012, £72 per tonne on April 1 2013 and £80 per tonne on April 1, 2014. By using waste transfer stations that do not incur landfill tax we generate savings for the project. With sites generally in close proximity to our projects we are also reducing fuel costs and saving time. Recycling is beneficial to us commercially and environmentally, releasing fewer emissions."

The waste is recycled in various ways. At waste transfer stations magnets remove metal for reprocessing, and air blowers segregate paper and small plastic items which are mixed with other combustible items, baled and used as fuel to produce energy. Larger timber is turned into chipboard for work surfaces and plastic is reprocessed into dustbins or fleeces. Masonry is crushed off site to use in the construction industry, while soil is sometimes used for landscaping.

The Site Waste Management Plan Regulations 2008 encourage recycling and the Landfill Tax has become a significant factor in encouraging companies to use transfer stations.

In February UK Power Networks announced that it had reduced the amount of waste sent to landfill sites from road excavations carried out by its maintenance contractors from 80 per cent to three per cent. It followed a major drive lasting four years by the company’s streetworks department, working with local authorities, recycling plants and recycling agents to use top quality recycled materials to fill in excavations and ensure the condition of roads and pavements are maintained. The final three per cent consists mainly of contaminated materials which cannot currently be recycled, which is also the case for the waste which could not be recycled from the site in Whitechapel.

UK Power Networks delivers electricity to eight million homes and businesses across London, the South East and East of England. The company is investing £360 million in its networks this year as part of £1.8billion it plans to invest between 2010 and 2015 to keep power supplies secure.

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