New zero waste method being used by the Coal Authority

The Coal Authority is applying a zero waste method to the disposal of its reed bed cuttings by composting the material to divert it away from landfill sites.

Wednesday, 9th June 2021, 1:41 pm

Reed beds are used as the final stage of the mine water treatment process where they filter out the remaining finer iron particles (ochre). Over time, the resulting buildup of ochre affects their ability to filter particles and they need to be maintained. This involves removing the reed and ochre and replanting the reed bed with either new or transplanted reeds.

This is an expensive operation and historically, the materials were sent to landfill.

The new process, known as land spreading, beneficially adds organic matter to soil and reduces our reliance on manufactured fertilisers and other conditioners and additives.

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The new process underway

Stephen Smithson, the Coal Authority’s contract service manager, said: “We adopted high efficiency planning and scheduling practices and worked with external partners including the Environment Agency and farmers to see if our by-product streams could become inputs for other processes in order to achieve better sustainability outcomes.

“Land spreading these materials offers significant environmental benefits, as well as operational cost savings of up to £1 million.

"Since the raw material was hauled away in bulk, this minimised the need for transportation and helped to reduce our carbon footprint. The product itself serves as an environmentally friendly solution in farming and the move strengthens our commitment to sustainability.

"Eventually we want to achieve full circularity and this is the first step in that direction.”