Barking to reduce bins by 98 per cent with underground waste system





A new London housing development will soon boast the UK’s largest underground bin system when it launches in 2019, reducing on-street bins by 98 per cent.

The automated waste collection system will be installed by Envac, the company which first pioneered the concept of vacuum waste collection in 1961. The system will see up to 460 waste collection points or ‘inlets’ installed around the 10,800-home, 178-hectare Barking Riverside site in East London, replacing the 19,000 conventional bins that would have been required (reducing on-street bins by 98 per cent).

Both residual and mixed recycling, though not organic waste, will be collected via the automated system, which involves fans at the collection station turning to create a negative airflow at specific collection times, effectively ‘sucking’ the waste through a network of underground pipes.

The developers claim each collection cycle will take minutes, a stark contrast to the lengthy and often environmentally-taxing process of using refuse collection vehicles. In fact, it is hoped that the automated system will bring about an accompanying reduction in carbon emissions of ‘at least’ 90 per cent.

However, the main driver to adopt the underground system for Barking Riverside was aesthetic. Dave Buckley, Managing Director of Envac UK, stated: “Whilst Envac can be used as a way in which to free up space generally assigned to bin storage for further commercial development, such as building more apartments, Barking Riverside London has taken the decision to install it simply because they want to make the site as pleasant a place to live as possible.”

The Barking Riverside development is a joint venture between housing developer London & Quadrant and the Mayor of London, and has a target of 50 per cent affordable homes alongside retail, schools and community spaces, to be rolled out in four stages with a projected completion date of 2034. Commenting on the partnership with Envac, Matthew Carpen, Project Director at Barking Riverside, said: “Our sustainability-led ethos and commitment to making this a clean, green and pleasant area in which to live led us to this ground-breaking method of waste collection.

“By integrating Envac and making waste collection one of the key environmental strands of Barking Riverside London, we’ve not only ensured that waste collection will operate sustainably and effectively, but also taken the carbon emissions and traffic safety aspects attributable to a constant flow of waste collection vehicles out of the equation.”


Though Envac has installed over 800 automated systems worldwide, this will be only the second location in London and the UK to have such a system in place, the first being Wembley City, which has had a smaller system (252 inlets) operating since 2008.

Elsewhere in the UK, the newly-created Cambridge suburb of Eddington collected its first load of waste via an underground system in 2017, this time installed by Portuguese company Sotkon. In this case, the waste must still be collected by vehicle, though the subterranean bins are fitted with sensors to alert the company when they are at full capacity.

The initial investment on such a system is high, but Buckley believes we are going to see “a huge shift in the way major developments tackle waste collection… As London’s population continues to rise and the physical and aesthetical limitations of rolling out more bins becomes apparent, Barking Riverside London has not only demonstrated a strong and long-term commitment to the environment, but also the residents and the communities it will ultimately serve.”

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