Community R4C - the Resource Recovery, Recycling & Refining Centre

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Will the R4C plant change the way our rubbish is collected?

Community R4C is a company dedicated to establishing a circular economy, both here in the county and more widely. Collection of separated recycling is an important part of the process and would certainly continue. However, there is an opportunity here to simplify collection rounds and to reduce the amount of work that householders have to do and to focus on high value recyclates. The goal is to encourage behaviour which sits higher on the waste hierarchy, reduce, reuse – then optimise recycling which the R4C plant can dramatically increase (to over 70% County wide from day one, with higher levels in future likely) while not putting an additional burden on householders' busy lives.

Will it have less impact on the environment than incineration?

Yes, in every respect the impact on the environment will be significantly reduced. There will be no toxic fumes released from the R4C plant as no plastics are being burned. The production of recycled materials and biofuel displaces the production of those products elsewhere, which effectively reduces the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Compared to the incinerator this represents a saving of 132,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

Will the facility smell as much as an incinerator?

No. There are no significant emissions (including smells) from the Biocentre process we will use for R4C. The plant uses enclosed processes, careful air management and filtering - unlike many alternative MBT plants - and no on-site burning. The fuel has been cleaned of chlorine and other harmful materials, so burns far more cleanly, producing no dioxins. Please see the MBHT paper in our Documents Archive.

Will it be noisy?

It is an industrial process with some mechanical equipment and conveyors, however noise levels are well within accepted norms (and requirements) for an industrial building. The process will operate under the requirements of an environmental permit as all industrial processes of this type are required to follow.

How much will it cost to build the R4C plant?

Around £15M for a one line plant, £25M for two lines. One line should be sufficient to process all of the County's municipal waste, a second line could process commercial waste. Commercial waste could be processed at around £50 per tonne (half of the incinerator or landfill cost) and this would effectively subsidise the costs for municipal waste. Municipal waste will have a gate fee of just £5 - £20 per tonne - 1/5th that of the incinerator.

How is the cost of building the R4C going to be funded?

The plant will offer a commercial return to investors of around 8% p.a., There are number of sources of funding for this type of project including the government’s ‘Green Investment Bank’, we hope also to be able to offer a community bond offering this return to local small investors. There are a number of major potential commercial partners who have expressed and interest in being part of this project (including Biocentre Technology Ltd who have already made a substantial commitment through their free community operating licence).

What would the gate fees be for the R4C?

It is estimated that the gate fee charged to the districts will be less than £20 per tonne – £5 per tonne for early adopters through C&I subsidy. So a massive saving to the local taxpayer compared to the £100 per tonne gate fee of the incinerator.

The R4C plant sounds good so why haven't the County chosen it?

The R4C plant is that good but the public procurement process and planning process often favours big expensive solutions provided by companies with big balance sheets. Community R4C offers an opportunity for us to demand that this stops. We have a right to expect sustainable local solutions which cost us less, and support our local communities, economy and environment.

What does the R4C plant do?

It takes municipal black bag (or black and green bag) waste and sorts it mechanically:

  • extracting recyclates eg metals, plastics – stuff that can be used for making new products
  • removing toxin-producing material
  • making the remainder into clean-burning biomass fuel pellets

What are the main advantages of the R4C plant over other means of waste disposal?

In a nutshell: waste is treated as a resource, squeezing the maximum value out of it rather than just blindly burning it or sending it to landfill.  It literally turns our trash to treasure.

How does the R4C plant work?

Using various proven sorting techniques, including magnets, air currents, water and infra-red light, the various materials in your bin bag are separated out, cleaned and refined. The process is known as Advanced Mechanical Biological Heat Treatment (MBHT).

Where will the R4C plant be built?

At Javelin Park or another suitable local site.

Isn't Javelin Park already set aside for the incinerator?

We have been in discussions about using another part of Javelin Park which is not owned by the County Council. With the R4C plant in operation, the Council won’t need to build there – and thereby save millions in public money. They could sell the site to fund any cancellation costs.

When will be the R4C plant be operational?

It could be operational as early as 2018.

Doesn't the County Council decide what happens to Gloucestershire waste?

Yes, but only once District Councils have already recovered as many recyclates (glass, metal, paper, etc) as possible, which they have a duty to do. So District Councils can and should send their waste to R4C before handing on the residual remainder to the County Council. Or, even better, the County Council can use the R4C plant themselves.

Can the R4C plant cope with all of Gloucestershire’s waste?

Yes it can, and it's expandable if required.

Who will manage the project and what support is required from the community?

The project will be managed by a professional company – Revolution R4C Ltd which has been established to deliver this plant for community benefit, but within normal commercial frameworks. The plant can be operated by this Company, or it could be assigned to UBICO (the local waste company owned by the local authorities) or other body.

Why are you doing this – isn't the incinerator a done deal?

We don’t believe the incinerator is inevitable, for the sake of our beautiful County and the resources we treasure we certainly hope not! In reality, as the R4C plans progress it would be very odd (and wasteful of taxpayers resources) to continue with the incinerator build, and it may well be that bank and UBB support wanes – in any case we would hope to develop a positive dialogue with all authorities and companies that share our vision for harnessing waste as a resource within a sustainable and vibrant local economy.

As a council taxpayer, is this going to cost me more money?

In a word: "No!" In fact, compared with the proposed Incinerator, the R4C plant will make a saving of around £10 million every year.

What does Biocentre get out of this?

Biocentre wishes to be a supporter of a project this important and ground breaking. They are committed to delivering sustainable solutions for waste and the R4C plant will be a feather in their cap too. There will be opportunities for Biocentre to work with us on the second line and the free licence only applies to municipal waste. Finally, Biocentre will be working to develop markets for the fuel, partly by achieving 'End of Waste' certification. They will share in any increase in value of the fuel as it competes with virgin wood pellets which sell for £100 pt or more.

Will the viabilty of the R4C plant be affected by changes to government legislation?

Changes in legislation are all moving to use waste as a resource  – so these changes all support the R4C plant. It is already the case that new legislation emerging from Europe is likely to mandate some kind of sorting (in the way R4C plant achieves) prior to incineration – so even if the incinerator goes ahead, the county will need to build a plant like ours to sit before the incinerator to sort the waste … so why not just use ours!

Who pays to get rid of the waste that is left over at the end of the R4C process?

There is only a very small amount (less than 8% by mass) and this would be the County Council’s responsibility to dispose of. In practice R4C would manage this process.

How much do we have to pay Urbaser Balfour Beatty if they don’t go ahead with the incinerator?

It is possible that the contract can be modified to incorporate an alternative technology such as the R4C plant. However if the County Council decides to cancel the contract there will be cancellation costs to cover the expenses of UBB to date – these haven’t been calculated and go up the longer the decision is delayed. If the costs were as much as £15M this will be recovered in just one year of operation of the R4C together with the proceeds from selling the land no longer needed for the incinerator. From the second year onwards we would all benefit from savings to the County in excess of £10 million a year!

What happens to nappies?

These are mainly bio waste which will be separated, washed and end up composted.

What happens to the very thin plastic?

Small amounts (such as the windows on envelopes) may end up in the biomass fuel – which is why the fuel is not 100% biomass. Larger amounts are separated and partially cleaned. Further cleaning is possible, and we are in discussion with various processors who would take this material. This is an evolving market (and technology is improving) – a key feature of our technology is that it does enable future improvements - and by separating and having a steady flow of this material, Community R4C can champion and be early adopters of improving processes which recycle this material. Nearly all is technically recyclable, so it is important to capture this material.

Short term there are environmental and economic issues as to how this material is used, and it may be best to use it in a fuel – eg for cement kilns (which are very heavy users of fossil fuels). In this case it is far better burning plastics as a dry fuel where it is needed, rather than using it to burn off the water in biomass, and to waste the heat generated. Alternatively the plastic can be buried – this is carbon sequestration. Longer term, more and more of this type of material will be economically recyclable and we wish to encourage this.

Doesn't the efficiency of the R4C plant just encourage people to put everything into the black bag?

We wholeheartedly want people to take more interest in the resources they use. As a society, we all need to be aiming towards creating less waste whether this goes in a recycling bin or ends up in the black bag. Getting households to separate their waste does help the recycling process, so we encourage this. However there are many limitations to this, and not all households can or do this well. There are also implications on multiple bins and separate collection, home washing of recyclates and the imperfection of separation by households who all have different understandings of what should go where.

We believe that collection and source segregation can be optimised, not least by using an automatic sorting machine - which is effectively what the R4C plant is. We also believe the best overall outcome can be achieved by engaging sympathetically with householders, encouraging them to focus on waste reduction and source separation of high value recyclables such as clean paper, electronics and other reusable material.

We are flexible and encourage the evolution of the process to minimise the burden on householders, but maximise the care for our resources. To this end, Community R4C welcomes involvement from groups and individuals to help develop and evolve the best process – and also to focus higher up the hierarchy on reduction and reuse.

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