Tour “Brookhurst Wood – Mechanical Biological Treatment facility”

“Waste – it’s an emotive issue.” – Joy Dyson, Mid Sussex DC’s Waste Education and Improvement Officer.

MSDC’s Sustainability Officer at Brookhurst Wood.

On Tues 27 September 2011, the MSSP took a fact finding tour of the Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) facility under construction near Horsham.  Before we toured the plant in hard hats and tough boots, Joy outlined how waste collection and disposal works in Mid Sussex, stressing how a new facility like the MBT does not do away with our responsibility to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

Mid Sussex District Council (MSDC) is a Waste Collection Authority (WCA), with legal responsibility for collecting waste from households in Mid Sussex, and delivering it to West Sussex County Council (WSCC), who are our  Waste Disposal Authority (WDA).

Destination Brookhurst Wood

Since the introduction of alternative weekly collections recycling has improved from 26% to 46% of our annual 45,000 tonnes of domestic waste. At least 60% of domestic waste can be recycled if full advantage is taken of local facilities for recycling items like batteries, DVDs, shoes and clothing, plus composting at home and using the kerbside blue bins and  green garden waste bins.

Recycling bins now often exceed the 4% target  limit for wrong items and a 2 year campaign is underway to teach us all what can and can’t go in the kerbside blue bins. See our Ford page for more info.

Blue bins can take dry paper and cardboard (not shredded), tetrapaks, clean plastic bottles (lids removed), glass bottles and jars (not pyrex or crockery), rinsed aluminium foil, empty aerosols and steel cans.

Foil can be tricky to distinguish from some shiny plastic wrappings- try the “scrunch test”, if it stays scrunched, its the real deal and (if clean enough) can go in  your blue bin.

Wispa wrappers look like foil, but fail the scrunch test and cannot be recycled

Reducing waste is even more important than recycling. Real school meals and work canteens can help cut packaging and food waste whilst making healthier choices easier.

Growing your own food can eliminate packaging – as well as making a healthy diet both fun and affordable. Cuckfield Local has been leading the way showing villagers how to grow window sill salads by reusing supermarket fruit containers, and swapping seedlings and seeds at their monthly local food market.

Home grown tomatoes, from seeds sown in a reused plastic fruit tray

Tetrapak drink packs – like the Ribena pictured below – can be rinsed and recycled, unlike Capri-Suns. These drinks may look like foil but the scrunch test shows they are in fact plastic. Ribena also appeals to my family for UK grown fruit at farms working with the Wildlife Trusts on wildlife habitat collection. The swing factor for my kids is that Ribena is easier to open. A waste free packed lunch? We’re almost there now, kids.

Ribena – tetrapaks can be recycled (don’t forget to remove the bottle’s lid before recycling!)

Food and compostable waste

Astonishingly, local grey bin audits have revealed a third of food purchased in Mid Sussex is simply thrown away (mirrored in national research). This isn’t just food wasted, but all the resources, from land, water and energy to labour, which brought it to our shelves and fridges. If you need tips for food waste reduction, try the Love Food Hate Waste website at “”. If you have a garden, a food waste digester can eliminate unavoidable food waste from your grey bin.

12,800 Mid Sussex households currently subscribe to MSDC’s kerbside Garden Waste Collection service  – and there is a waiting list to join.

At Brookhurst Wood, Biffa run the current landfill site and will operate the new Mechanical Biological Treatment facility under construction by German group M+W. Costing £1.2bn over 25 years, operations should start in 2013. Capacity is 320,000 tonnes per year, some of which may be used for local business waste to reduce road haulage. It costs £55 per tonne in tax to send waste to landfill, set to rise by £8 per year under the EU Landfill Directive – and there are heavy fines on top should local authorities exceed set limits for landfill.

The MBT will reduce by 80% the need for landfill.  Organic material will instead go to anaerobic digesters, producing biogas that can fuel vehicles and a compost like “digestate” which can be used in remediation of the landfill site. Metals will be extracted and sent to recycle (getting lower prices here than if rinsed and put in your blue bin). Dirty paper and plastic waste will be turned into Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF). Items such as mattresses and engine blocks remain a challenge, but one which Biffa and WSCC intend to meet in future.

Built in a giant former clay pit, the facility has rainwater storage tanks both to prevent flooding – even from a once in a hundred year storm, and to flush the toilets on a rather more frequent basis.

Wastewater will be recovered using reverse osmosis treatment, with some hazardous liquid waste tankered off site for specialist treatment. To meet West Sussex County Council’s requirements, an education centre, connected by an underground tunnel to enclosed viewing platforms, will teach the facts about waste prevention. The MBT is expected to provide 80 new jobs.

The MSSP would like to thank everyone who made our tour possible.

For more info on recycling and refuse in Mid Sussex see “”

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