Betton Abbots landfill site

The Councils old tip on the outskirts of Shrewsbury, Betton Abbots landfill site, is now decommissioned and the 'asset' (some would say liability) has been passed over to (formed Council-owned firm) Shropshire Waste Management Ltd. which is now owned by the multinational civil engineering firm SITA

Throughout the later part of the 20th century, the old dump acted as the central hub for disposal of municipal refuse from the town of Shrewsbury and the surrounding area.   Year after year tens of thousands of tonnes of black bag waste and all manner of material which these days is banned from landfill was squashed up and buried in the ground here. 

In the late 1990's a survey carried out by SWM for the extension of the landfill demonstrated that the geology beneath the site is primarily sandstone, which contains a major aquifer.  Environment Agency guidance, based on the requirements of the EU Landfill Directive, precludes the authorisation of any new landfill sites located on major aquifers unless substantial low permeable barriers such as certain types of clay protect them.  This does not exist at Betton Abbots and as a consequence the site would never have been granted an environmental permit needed to operate waste facilities.

In addition to the pollution control issues, there were outstanding planning issues before the site could be considered for further importation of waste materials, these related mainly to the provision of a new road into the site.  As such the site became unviable and so more sustainable ways of managing the towns waste have been developed. 

Since 2005 the site has been dormant and has been capped off with clay and reseeded.  However the site still has an aftercare programme in place and regular sampling of groundwater and methane gas levels is undertaken to make sure pollution does not spread from the site. 

The site is being put to some good use though - not just by the farmer who grazes the site but by local (Cheshire based) green energy specialists Energos who have developed a system of pipes to capture the landfill gas being given off here.  The gas (which is mainly methane) is burned on site to create electricity for the national grid yielding some 2,694 MWh per annum - enough for about 700 homes - and this saves around 800 tonnes of CO2 each year (by reducing the need for fossil fueled electricity generation).  Of course this resource wont last forever though – once all that food waste, paper and other organic refuse which was buried there all those years ago finishes rotting away there wont be enough gas to make it worthwhile - but the gas levels at the site have been modelled to have another 15 years or so left. 

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James Thompson James Thompson

Waste Prevention Officer, Waste Management, Shropshire Council

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