Feb 22

CIWM NGG Group North West, Site Visit – Gowy Landfill and Composting Facility

NGG North West Site Visit

CIWM organised a site visit for the New Generation Group in the North West today and I was lucky enough to have replied early and got a place (ten on the reserve list).

Daydreaming on the M6

I unfortunately was daydreaming a bit on the motorway and missed the exit for the M56. When I realised I was on the way to Stoke instead of Chester I turned around at the next exit but I got caught in traffic and was 20 mins late…


When I arrived the group were being given the run down on the site by the Site Manager. The Site Manager told only biodegradable waste (not hazardous) is processed at the site, they have consent to operate until 2016/2017 and there are 2 cells left for use.

He told us about wildlife on the site and I was surprised to find out they have Barn Owl runs, 3 kinds of woodpecker, Merlins, Buzzards and seagulls on the site. The seagulls can be a problem apparently and they use Falcons to control numbers. Apparently gas cannons can be effective but they scare the living daylights out of the horses in the adjacent stables when used.

Pest Control: 2 Falcons up near the active site.


First stop on the tour was the weighbridge and the first thing we learned was that it is too small for some of the articulated vehicles! Apparently the drivers have to get out to sign off their loads at the cabin. To fix the problem would cost £20k in all so they have learned to live with it.

We then met Ken in the weighbridge office and were told the ins and outs of the weighing and recording system. The weighbridge is calibrated by an independent external company, trading standards perform annual checks and records are sent from the machine directly through to head office in Doncaster.

Restored Landfill

The restored landfill looks like this:

The landfill here goes to a depth of 6m below ground level and beneath that is 1m of clay. Once the landfill was full it was covered with 2m of pete an a sward was planted along with trees (eg silver birch) to restore the site.

Nowadays landfills are more likely to be restored to open heathland, as is now the preferred policy at this site. This is down to the fact that trees drain more water from the ground and need more maintenance eg. coppicing.

Stroll up the Landfill

Next we headed up to the top of the landfill for the main event. Strangely there were lots of chunks of foam on the road up there… along with lots of mud! As we walked up we could see the seagulls swarming around the waste:

A View From the Top

A CAT ‘crushing machine’ spends all day every day chopping and shredding refuse and pummelling it into the ground at the top of the landfill. Articulated vehicles and other waste trucks come up to the top, dump their load then the CAT smashes it up and pounds it for a bit, then the birds eat some.

The idea behind the chopping and shredding is to make sure the land form is stable and settles evenly. This means they can fit more in the landfill and also means more landfill gas is harvested. They tap the landfill gas and use it to power engines at the site, which are currently running at 5MW.

There are 100 vehicle movements per day at the site and there can be problems because they often finish their rounds and turn up at the same time. The average payload is around 4.5 tonnes and sometimes vehicles need to be towed part way to the top.

Artic being towed to the top (not enough traction on its own)

Composting Facility

Next we were shown the green waste composting facility. The site manager cracked me up when he told us what comes in with the green waste. According to him people think if it gets used in the garden it is green waste. That includes: lawnmowers, garden chairs, tennis balls, golf balls, golf clubs and more.. along with all the organic waste.

The waste is treated for 14 days prior to it arriving at the site and some of the contaminants are removed. When the green waste arrives at the site it is composted in a windrow (large pile of compost) at 80-85C for 3 months. The pile is turned every 3 days at first and a total of 8 times in the 3 months.

The machine above is screening the treated compost. The rejects come out of the front and the screened compost is piled up for selling.

Compost left, rejects right

The site manager told us some local authorities don’t challenge residents about what they are throwing in with their green waste and this leads to increased contamination.

Back to Main Office and Reception

After that it was back to the main office and reception to hand over our PPE and have a quick group photo. I tried to exchange emails with some of the group before everyone left so we can stay in touch and someone suggested we go out to dinner some time, cool!

Any thoughts? Please leave a comment.


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