Science & Technology
Coordinator: Mike Green; Deputy: Nigel Nixon
Web page editor: Mike Green
Meetings: Fourth Monday in the month, September to May, excluding December, in the upstairs meeting room, Ambleside Library. There is lift access to this room.
Normal meetings are currently suspended because of the Covid-19 emergency but we are arranging for some to be given using Zoom. See details below.
We arrange talks followed by discussion on a wide range of topics in the field ranging from the latest developments in research to the history of science and technology. We aim to present material in a way that is accessible to those with an interest in the field but who do not have any formal knowledge or experience.
Visit to the Mechanical Biological Treatment Plant in Barrow
Following the talk to the group by Andy Vickers in February (click on the link upper right or look at the May 2019 newsletter for a summary) we made a visit to the Mechanical Biological Treatment Plant in Barrow on 19 June. Perhaps expecting to see conveyor belts will people sifting through our waste to sort it we were amazed at the level of mechanisation of the operation, which employs just seventeen people.
In South Cumbria, after we put our “non-recyclable” rubbish into our black bins, there is no more human interaction with it. The “bin lorries” take it to Barrow, dump it through doors into a very large pit from where it is lifted by a crane into a shredder. Now left for two weeks with warm air circulating through it to allow organic material to decompose and for it to dry it is then separated using magnets, drums, sieves and blowers into ferrous and non-ferrous metals, aggregate replacement (stones, glass, etc.), shredded paper, wood, plastic foil and similar, and “fines” (organic, soil-like material). Metals are sent for recycling, aggregate to road making, the shredded material to be burned for industrial heating, and the fines are typically used for covering old landfill sites. The only material sent for burial in landfill is the dust that collects in the plant. The loading of all this material into separate trailers is also fully automated.
We had many questions as we tried to understand the process but perhaps one of the most interesting was “would it be possible to process material that has been left in landfill sites in the past” to which the answer was a very positive “yes”.
The kitchen waste put into our bins is very welcome since it helps the decomposition process and there seems to be no need for South Cumbria County Council to set up an expensive collection service for such material. Don’t feel guilty about putting it into your black bin.
A truncated description of the operation of a similar facility in Dumfries and Galloway can be found on YouTube.
If you are interested in receiving updates by email contact the coordinator or register as a member of the group using the Beacon portal (for this you need your membership number).