Recycling Blog

A Visit to Hills Recycling Centre at Compton Bassett

Published by Shirley Pryor on 15 December 2011


On 24 Nov, 5 of us visited Hills Waste Solutions at Compton Bassett for an interesting and informative tour, conducted by Henry Newbery and John Chapman. We were shown how materials are sorted and prepared for onward transport and how landfill is managed.

The site takes in materials from the Household Recycling Centres (HRCs) and kerbside collections, as well as household refuse. Apart from green waste, which is composted on-site, recycling is sent elsewhere. Hills employs 150 people, both on the site and making collections. Wilts Council pays £56 per tonne of landfill waste, so greater recycling could also help to keep down council tax. Less waste means a longer life for the landfill site too

Some sorting is done by hand, e g cans, to redirect large biscuit tins and other items that have crept in, such as glass and plastic. Cans are then sorted mechanically into steel and aluminium, then crushed, baled (32,000/bale) and sent to be melted down. Aluminium foil is sorted and baled with cans.Glass is sent to Yorks for crushing and used in new bottles or in road building. Paper (1300 tonnes per month) goes to Kent where it is pulped and turned into newsprint, with a possible turn-around time of 7 days. Textiles to Devizes Textiles: good quality go to people in need; even poor quality can be used as rags to make items such as carpet underlay. Cardboard will be made into corrugated card for boxes. Plastics (types1, 2, 3) are crushed and baled (15000/bale; 130 bales/month) before dispatch. They will be turned into granules and used for drainpipes, low-grade food packaging, fleece jackets. Electrical goods are sent to a salvage company to be dismantled. Most wood is contaminated with glues and chemicals and is sent to a special incinerator. A machine removes nails and screws. Clean wood will be chipped and used for particle board or fuel pellets. Plasterboard has to be dismantled and plaster turned back into gypsum, paper recycled. Garden waste, after shredding, takes 12 weeks to become usable soil improver. It is stacked in huge rows, turned each week and its temperature monitored daily. 

Landfill is divided into cells of 220,000 cubic metres, each currently taking 12-18 months to fill. When the cell is dug, the sand layer is washed and sold to the building trade and the clay reserved for capping the cell after it is full. The base and sides are lined to prevent any escape of contamination; used tyres (instead of quarried stone) form a drainage layer and tipped waste is covered with compost and shredded wood each day. Leachate is pumped out and treated and surface water from the site run through reed beds to clean. Complete sealing of a cell prevents escape of contamination and this is monitored. Methane is collected, converted to electricity, then sold to National Grid. A proportion of household waste is sent to an incinerator in Slough, where the energy obtained is fed into National Grid.


Can we do more to help?

Cardboard: Flatten so takes up less space; can add shredded paper, brown paper bags, office paper.

Plastic bottles: Flatten and replace lid, so that more can fit in lorries, reducing journeys.

Textiles: Tie shoes together (if they go to someone in need, no use if one has been lost). No pillows or duvets.

Green waste: No kitchen waste because temperature in composting process would need to be higher to kill off pathogens.

Paper: Avoid contaminating with cardboard, dyed paper, large quantities of office paper. Remove windows from envelopes. Phone directories and Yellow Pages are OK to add.

Glass: If using HRC bins, all colours other than clear, brown or green, go in the green container. Lids and labels get separated in crushing and sieving process.