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OU on the BBC: Wastemen

Updated Tuesday, 7th April 2015

Join the people who work round the clock to cope with the vast swathes of waste produced by modern Britain, as we meet the Wastemen.

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Kev and his crew, Decca and Big Andy from the BBC/OU series Wastemen Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: BBC Britain generates enough rubbish to fill the Albert Hall every hour. But once we put our bins out to be collected very few of us know exactly what happens to what we throw away after it goes in the back of the truck.

Newcastle is much like any other city in the country but it is one that is leading the way in waste management. Since landfill tax was introduced the need to find alternatives to throwing rubbish in a hole in the ground has become the holy grail of the waste industry. And this goes beyond simply encouraging residents to use their recycling bins.

Behind the doors of Newcastle's Byker Waste Processing Plant they do everything they can to get as much use out of the rubbish as they can. In an enormous operation using giant sieves called trommels, moving belts and huge magnets the rubbish is sorted and a use is found for 80% of all the waste. Food waste is turned into compost, metals are removed and most of what's left is wrapped in bails and turned into Refuse Derived Fuel. This fuel is then shipped across the North Sea to Sweden to be used to generate electricity.

The lesson we learn from looking closely at our waste is that there is more value in what we throw away than we could ever imagine. From places like Byker Waste Processing Plant, to people struggling to make ends meet by salvaging what they can from skips, never has the expression idea that one man's rubbish is another man's treasure been so true.

Wastemen shows for the first time on BBC Two from April 28th 2015.

 

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