SO, EXACTLY what does happen to Basingstoke and Deane's rubbish after the bins have been collected?

Last Friday, I donned sensible shoes and a hard hat and joined the borough council's new recycling champions to discover the answer to that question.

Our first stop was the Integra North Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) - better known as the Chineham incinerator - to see what happens to the contents of the borough's black bins.

The ERF, one of three in the county, deals with a staggering 90,000 tonnes of waste per year. It was set up in a bid to dispose of unrecyclable waste without sending it to landfill, and it burns the rubbish to generate electricity to power thousands of homes.

But the county's ERFs, which are owned by Veolia Environmental Services - the same company that collects Basingstoke and Deane's waste - have reached capacity.

Keely Gallagher, our tour guide for the day, said: "Veolia designed all three facilities based on 1995 levels of waste. They are now at full capacity.

"We have been working with the county and district councils on waste management to try to get more recycling going and to avoid waste going to Energy Recovery Facilities."

The second stop on the tour showed us one of the sites where Veolia and local authorities hope to send more of our rubbish.

The Little Bushy Warren composting site was full of huge, steaming rows of green garden waste slowly turning into Pro-Grow compost.


  • Chineham incinerator is capable of processing 90,000 tonnes of waste per year - about 12 tonnes every hour
  • Burning rubbish in the incinerator generates eight megawatts of electricity at any one time - enough to power about 8,000 local homes
  • It takes nearly six months to turn green garden waste into Pro-Grow compost
  • Veolia's composting process keeps the waste heated to a minimum of 70 degrees Celsius to kill off any pesticides or weeds
  • Alton MRF processes more than 85,000 tonnes of recyclable material every year
  • Paper products are turned into new paper or cardboard
  • Recycled plastics can be used to make a wide range of items, from drainage pipes to fleece clothing
  • Food and drink cans are recycled into a number of products, including new cans, car parts and paperclips

Even though this was just one day after north Hampshire was covered in snow, we were told the temperature inside the piles was at least 70 degrees Celsius.

The piles of rubbish are turned every seven to 10 days for about six months to break the waste down into fine material suitable for compost.

Our last port of call was the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) at Alton, to find out what really happens to the contents of our green wheelie bins.

Nearly as many tonnes of rubbish are sent here as to the ERF in Chineham - but this rubbish is turned into new items such as paper, fleeces and car parts.

Lorries transport the recyclables to the MRF and empty them into a delivery area, where the rubbish is loaded onto conveyors.

Workers then have to pick out a range of non-recyclable materials that people have chucked into green bins. During our visit this included giant toy dice, women's underwear and carpet underlay.

The waste is then sorted mechanically into high-quality paper, low-quality paper and card, plastics and metals, which are sent to be recycled.

Although thousands of tonnes of rubbish made it to the MRF and the composting site to be recycled, the extent of the rubbish at the ERF in Chineham - which was dotted with recyclable items that should have gone in green bins - proved Basingstoke and Deane still has a long way to go in the battle to be green.