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Hazardous Waste Treatment Facility

»Wednesday, October 14,2009


Tucked away in between rural villages near Wallington, in Oxfordshire is Ewelme, Grundon Waste Management’s hazardous waste transfer station and company head office.

Green fields and trees border the site and rare Red Kites patrol the skies above the transfer station, which is surrounded by a regenerated landfill. The site is in a prime location for Grundon as it is not overlooked by towns or villages but is close to arterial routes such as the M40.


The transfer station itself is the centre of Grundon’s hazardous waste treatment facilities. All of the hazardous waste collected by Grundon from all its locations is taken to Ewelme and is sorted by Chemists and repackaged by transfer station operatives to ensure it goes on for the correct type of treatment or disposal.

Hazardous waste is a core part of Grundon’s waste management business making up 10% of its entire operation. It has a hazardous waste landfill near Cheltenham and runs a high temperature incinerator which is capable of treating hazardous waste at Colnbrook, near Heathrow.

The company has been providing hazardous waste management services for over 30 years and has been using the site at Ewelme to transfer hazardous waste for 20 of those years.

Wide Ranging

The site is licensed to take a vast array of hazardous wastes. Technical Manager Chris Edwards explains “We have a broad ranging permit that enables the transfer station to accept virtually all hazardous and difficult wastes collected via council operatives civic amenity (CA) sites. “ However the majority of the waste we collect and also receive from third party disposal companies is commercially produced wastes from airports., universities and colleges, scientific research and development facilities, pharmaceutical manufacturing, London Underground, Military bases” Common examples of waste types coming into Ewelme include lab smalls (waste from scientific laboratories such as acid and alkalis), waste oils, waste electrical, paints and thinners, oil filters, asbestos, drummed acid, bases, toxic liquids, flammable liquids, batteries, contaminated spill waste and contaminated protective clothing, WEEE and asbestos.

However, before any waste can go to Ewelme there are strict processes which must be followed. Due to the nature of the waste all materials must go through a pre-acceptance procedure before Grundon offers a quote to collect or accept the waste.

Scientific Knowledge is seen as important is ensuring the sakes team for the hazardous waste division can do its job effectively. The sales advisors have all achieved degrees in science related fields, primarily chemistry. This helps them to identify exactly which types of waste customers want them to take in and to issue the appropriate pre-acceptance documents. They do this by asking detailed questions and thoroughly examining waste data sheets. Mr Edwards says it is important for the sales team to understand chemistry at a high level in order for them to ask the right questions and interpret darta correctly.

He says: “The continuous challenge, rather than the difficulty, it to keep ahead of the regulations and ensure our customers are advised accordingly to ensure they remain compliant.”

There are also trained chemist working on the site itself; Mr Edwards himself has a Bsc in Environmental Management from Stirling University and a masters degree in Environmental Impact Assessment from University of Wales, Aberystwyth.


The Chemist role is to assess the waste as it comes in; this involves identifying what is actually is and ensuring that it matches the description  of the material the customer gave during the pre-acceptance process. If waste does not conform to what Grundon expects to receive it is rejected and not allowed on to the site.

They then label the waste with a UN number (number assigned by the United Nations). These UN numbers are recognised worldwide and allow for fast identification of the waste which helps the operatives on site repackage in the correct and safe manner and ensure it is sent to the right place.

The number is also useful if there is a fire or spillage  as it indicates to the emergency services exactly what they are dealing with.

Naturally, Mr Edwards explains, everyone on site is trained to prevent accidents and use safe working practices at all times. Even operatives without a background in chemistry have high level of training which is constantly being updated. They also have the opportunity to take NVQs.

The high standard of training and chemical knowledge ensures the site runs smoothly. Different types of waste are segregated into separate areas and once sorted they are sealed into drums and stored in another section of the site ready for transportation to treatment or disposal facilities.

Waste is de-packaged using tow shredders, the Revolution 400 and 600, for the automated decanting of streamed packaged liquids up to and including 25 litre drum size. The 400 is used to de-pack flammable liquids such as paint cans. The 600 is designed for non flammable liquids, and is used principally to recycle oil and the metal cans from aircraft maintenance.

Mr Edwards is particularity keen to champion the aerosol recycling operation at the facility. It is the only part of the site which fully recycles the material that comes in. A specialist machine siphons off the gas and solvents from the aerosols and the materials are channelled into tow separate containers. The gas is then used as a support fuel for the Colnbrook incinerator and the liquid solvent is used as a 'cem fuel' for cement kilns.

Set apart from the reception and storage area is a building where the lab smalls are sorted and segregated. Grundon runs a service called Chem-Pack where degree qualified chemists visit laboratories and identify, list, pack and transport lab smalls back to Ewelme. Grundon has a fleet of vehicles which are there are a high number of research labs from both Oxford and Cambridge universities.

At present, the facility is running at capacity; Mr Edwards says that over 10 million kg of waste passed through the station in 2008 and the time is right for expansion. Grundon is planning to expand the current site to four times its size and has budgeted between £13 Million £15 Million for the project, excluding the head office which is also being improved.

Mr Edwards says that Grundon is aiming to begin work in the next couple of months and hopes to have the new site up and running by 2011.
He adds: “In terms of hazardous waste management, Grundon has grown over the last 20 years and identified the need to further expand to ensure we remain at the forefront of this field.”



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