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Go underground to go green

Andy Mudd, Head of APSE Solutions, explains why more and more local authorities are considering going underground to reduce the carbon footprint of waste collection. 

Refuse collection is a high carbon use activity - perhaps the highest for many local authorities.  It is also essential, and whilst the future will see new vehicles running on low carbon fuels, this will take time and no fuel is carbon neutral.  Finding a way to minimise the impact of collecting waste must be high up the list of priorities. 

As APSE Solutions and Liverpool City Council launch the UK’s first procurement framework for Underground Refuse Systems (URS), this is the time to look at the business case for URS initiatives. One important element of this will be assessing how going underground can help with combatting climate change. 

Underground refuse systems (URS) can in fact have a dramatic impact on the carbon footprint of refuse collection.  The most significant contributors to this are reduced fuel use from needing fewer vehicles and increased efficiency in the use of them.

URS units typically have a capacity 20 times greater than that of a 240ltr wheeled bin.  The contents of underground bins are also naturally compressed by the weight of material they hold, meaning that they actually hold a great deal more per cubic meter than smaller containers.  This, plus the fact that fill level sensors can ensure that they are only emptied when needed, translates into a far more efficient use of fuel, compared to current frequency scheduled collection methods that sees containers emptied regardless of how full they are.    

According to data collected for APSE’s Performance Networks benchmarking service, the average amount of fuel used by refuse collection vehicles per 1000 population is 2000 litres per annum. This equates to approximately 4,960 litres per annum per 1000 properties or 12,500 litres for the average vehicle coverage of 2,500 properties.  

Using the UK Government’s Greenhouse Gas conversion factor for a typical diesel/biofuel mix, the emissions from a refuse freighter, burning 12,500 litres of diesel, can be calculated as 31.9 tonnes per annum, indicating an average total CO2 equivalent from fuel usage to remove refuse from a 5,000 property development of 63.75 tonnes. Installing URS has the potential to reduce this by at least half, if not more, indicating a minimum saving of 31.9 tonnes of CO2e emissions from a development of that size. 

As diesel burning vehicles are replaced with lower carbon alternatives, the savings calculation will be different. However, no fuel technology is truly carbon neutral and moving to URS will always make a contribution to tackling climate change. 

There are underground refuse systems to suit just about any location and a wide range of suppliers.  Now, for the first time in the UK there is a single source of information to find the right system for your location.  APSE Solutions has partnered up with Liverpool City Council to create a unique procurement framework, not only for underground bins but also for associated technology, vehicles and maintenance contracts.  

The framework is a genuine one-stop shop for URS.  All the major European suppliers of URS are represented and don’t forget that collection vehicles and amazing technology, such as fill sensors and controlled access systems are also featured.  It is available to all UK public sector buyers and supports direct call offs from tendered prices as well as mini-competitions.  

Take me to more information on the URS framework      

Promoting excellence in public services

APSE (Association for Public Service Excellence) is a not for profit unincorporated association working with over 300 councils throughout the UK. Promoting excellence in public services, APSE is the foremost specialist in local authority frontline services, hosting a network for frontline service providers in areas such as waste and refuse collection, parks and environmental services, cemeteries and crematorium, environmental health, leisure, school meals, cleaning, housing and building maintenance.






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