A Sustainable Depot for Collection Fleet

Yes, it is that multi-faceted word ‘sustainable’ again, and we have seen this substituted with interest in ‘net-zero carbon’ depots, as Councils review their operations in light of the climate emergency and new demands being placed on collection services. These two elements coincide to deliver a conclusion that existing depot arrangements may no longer be fit for purpose as (for example) more footprint is needed to house additional collection vehicles (such as a food waste fleet), whilst the operation must be run in a way that supports and contributes to carbon emissions reduction. A third element comes to the fore, which is ‘cost savings and efficiency’. This also opens the potential for joint working and ‘super-depots’, servicing more than one District. So, what are the considerations?

New or Renew?

If considering carbon, then there is a substantial carbon burden in developing a new depot from scratch. The imbedded carbon in existing sites, with established hardstanding, buildings, utilities etc. is an immediate benefit when considering alternative depot options. A site selection study could identify suitable locations in suitable areas. In order to deliver against low-carbon aspiration, then accommodation for welfare services, workshops or other on-site activities may require retrofit with suitable insulation. For instance, the board of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority will be retro-fitting a solar-farm (with a battery storage system) on the land adjacent to their waste depot in Waterbeach, with plans to power a new fleet of electric refuse collection vehicles (RCVs). If wishing to add infrastructure for non-fossil fuel vehicles there will need to have suitable consideration of grid capacity and connection, the need for a substation for electric vehicles, or other fuelling arrangements (e.g. hydrogen) – for more details on alternative fuels see a future blog! If on the other hand a new site is more preferable for reasons of improved logistics (and therefore emissions from collection vehicles and staff vehicles) or has strong cost benefits, or simply is a Council-owned piece of land, then there is the opportunity to build new infrastructure using sustainable materials (e.g. the Brighton Waste House - constructed with 85% waste material). The depot could be designed to operate in a manner that is energy efficient and low-carbon. For instance, West Lindsey District Council’s new depot has been designed to fit the council’s 2050 net-zero targets. Key low-carbon features of the depot include solar panels on the roof for renewable energy generation (paired with a battery storage system), electric vehicle charging points for the electric RCVs, heating, cooling and hot water provided by air source heat pumps, heat reclaim ventilation technology, supplemented with upgraded insulation and double-glazing windows.


We are seeing more interest in joint depots, potentially realising benefits of economies of scale, and running two fleets (and potentially other services) from a single large depot. We have looked at potential impacts on fleet operations, sites and the business case for such developments. The viability of these will be subject to economics (e.g. current site operations and land prices), the collection (or other relevant service) logistics, compatibility of other co-located services, operating costs and the alternative options available to the Councils in question.


Is the depot going to offer further services, for example commercial vehicle maintenance / MOT services? How much investment would be available to deliver best practice in low-carbon buildings and operations? What is the collection strategy intending to deliver in the medium- to longer-term and how could this affect the depot in terms of vehicle parking / bin storage / any recyclate bulking or handling operations? It is both an exciting and challenging time in waste and resource management, given the changes underway and the movement of technology to deliver the changes.

Frith Resource Management provide technical support and feasibility studies for collection and depot operations, for details see www.frithrm.com or call 01746 552423.

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