University of Cambridge to install underground waste system

The University of Cambridge will install ‘one of the largest underground bin systems in the UK’ at its new expansion development, North West Cambridge.

The £1 billion development is the largest single capital development project that the university has undertaken in its 800-year history.

The North West Cambridge site, which is being developed to ‘meet the long-term growth needs of the University’, will include:

  • up to 1,500 homes for university staff; 
  • up to 1,500 private houses for sale (pictured right); 
  • accommodation for 2,000 postgraduates; 
  • 100,000 square metres of academic and research and development space;
  • community facilities such as a primary school, community centre, health centre, trading supermarket, and unit shops;
  • a hotel;
  • a care home;
  • a sports centre and playing fields; and
  • public open space

As part of the sustainability strategy provided by engineering design firm Aecom, an underground bin system will be built under the housing development to provide an ‘efficient’ waste collection service.

Sotkon underground bins
An estimated 450 underground bins (such as those pictured), supplied by Portuguese-based Sotkon UK, will be located across the 150-hectare development site and will reportedly help reduce the site’s carbon emissions by ‘taking away the stop-start collection of traditional, above-ground wheelie bins’.

The system will use software that will alert the collection company when bins are full to ensure collections will only take place when necessary, thus 'vastly reducing the collection time'. It was estimated that if the site utilised a wheelie bin collection system instead, 9,000 bins would need to have been emptied on a weekly or fortnightly basis.

In addition, around 50 underground bins will be provided for the 2,000 student accommodation rooms.

'A unique method of waste collection which is designed to make life simple'

Speaking of the system, Gavin Heaphy, Construction Director for the North West Cambridge Development, said: “Building a sustainable development is imperative and the University has looked for innovative ways to deliver on this strategy. Communal underground bins across the site will encourage recycling without detracting from the streetscape. The contract with Sotkon UK to provide the underground bins is a unique method of waste collection which is designed to make life simple for residents, and importantly has been supported by the local authorities.”

Joao Martins, Executive Director of Sotkon, added: “Having successfully delivered many installations in mainland Europe we are very excited to be part of the biggest single installation of an underground waste system in the UK.”

Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council have developed a shared service collection agreement under which the city council will empty and maintain the bins on behalf of both councils using a new and specially-adapted collection vehicle.

Councillor Mick Martin and Councillor Peter Roberts, the members responsible for waste in both authorities, said: “We are very pleased to be involved in this innovative collection scheme and commend the university for taking this bold step to support sustainable waste management on the site. We hope that it can act as a beacon for other developers and councils to drive cutting edge schemes for the future.”

Works on the first phase of the development have begun and completion of the residential homes will be from Spring 2016.

Find out more about the North West Cambridge devlelopment or discover more about Sotkon's underground bin systems.