The London EcoPark in Edmonton, north London opened its doors to Epping Forest District Councillors on a fact-finding tour of its garden and kitchen waste recycling facilities.
The London EcoPark composts around 30,000 tonnes of garden and kitchen waste each year from homes in north London. The compost end-product then goes back to gardens, allotments, parks, farming and horticulture.
Ben Donaldson manages the organic composting operation at the London EcoPark. During a busy morning, he took Councillors around the facility and explained the process of turning garden and kitchen waste into high-quality compost using a system known as In Vessel Composting (IVC).
Pictured above – Ben Donaldson shows Councillors the GORE-TEX® tunnels. Once sifted for contamination, the raw kitchen and garden waste is loaded into the huge tunnels where bacteria and fungi break it down
Food and kitchen waste destined for the Centre is collected by north London Councils. After being checked for contamination by non-compostable waste (eg bottles, plastics and `black sack` rubbish), the material is mixed and loaded into long tunnels with GORE-TEX® roofs and doors. The GORE-TEX® material enables the waste inside to `breathe` but keeps most of the smells in. The tunnels create the perfect environment for heat loving bacteria to multiply, breaking down the waste. As the bacteria work through a natural process, temperatures of 60 degrees centigrade are reached.
Pictured above – the atmosphere inside the storage buildings is warm and humid thanks to the moisture and heat given off by the compost as it degrades
As the heat-loving bacteria use up the food supply, the bacteria die off, being replaced by fungi which continue to break down the material. When the fungi have completed their work, the compost is transferred from the long tunnels into a huge sealed building where it continues to give off moisture and heat. Earth moving machines are used to scoop the material into a giant shredder which shreds and screens the compost into a 0-10 millimetre or 0-20 millimetre particle product ready for farms, gardens and allotments.
The process is completely natural and is providing a valuable resource from material that once went to landfill. Meat products including bones are included, enriching the quality of the final compost. The heat sterilisation process removes any potentially harmful bacteria such as salmonella and all the compost is rigorously tested to ensure that all dangerous bacteria have been eliminated. The process of transforming the waste into high quality compost takes just twelve weeks.
Pictured above – earth moving machines feed tonnes of raw material into large shredding machines, reducing the compost down to fine grades
Councillor Mary Sartin, Environmental Protection Portfolio Holder for Epping Forest District Council was very impressed. She said: It was an extremely useful and informative visit. No amount of reports or briefings can quite substitute for seeing for yourself. Composting is a very old idea but the application of modern technology on an industrial scale is very new. The facilities at the London EcoPark are clearly one of the ways forward.
Councillor Sartin added: Recycling has increased to more than 40 per cent in Epping Forest District over the last few years. We are very good at dealing with non-organic waste such as paper, glass, plastic and metal and of course organic garden waste. Getting food waste away from landfill and into recycling is the next big challenge. Residents are helping us to develop our ideas through the recent consultation and the fact-finding tour of the London EcoPark helped to answer more questions. I will keep residents up to date as our plans develop.