In an industrial estate in Tower Hamlets mountain upon mountain of recyclable waste sits waiting to be sorted and baled. A copy of ‘Bioinformatics for Dummies’ is discarded on a conveyor belt amidst plastic bags, cardboard and other random items thrown out in recent days. The smell, whilst unpleasant, is better than you might expect.
This is the Bywaters headquarters where thousands of tonnes of dry rubbish is collected and processed every week ready for recycling. The waste management company launched their first ever electric dustcart earlier this year.
Nicknamed ‘Electric-City’, the bright blue dustcart is a zero emission, and silent, vehicle.
“It’s like the future has arrived”, says Ed Van Reenen, associate director of sustainability. Bywaters plan to “electrify” their entire fleet of vehicles if all goes well in the trial period of the next few months.
So far, the battery-powered dustcart has been a “great success with no complications”, says Ben Beagley, head of marketing.
He believes it will benefit businesses in the City by delivering “the same waste management service as before but in the most environmental way possible, with reduced emissions and reduced noise – exactly what we wanted to achieve.”
There are challenges, though.
A shortage of drivers is also a problem since Covid-19 hit the transport industry, but everyone at Bywaters is keen to jump aboard Electric-City. On Monday morning David is practising driving it whilst James navigates the dustcart via three collection points. “It’s a surprisingly smooth ride and is narrower than previous models so it fits the lanes well”, says David.
Back in its East London home the Electric-City can be fully charged to last two waste-collection shifts or approximately 16-20 hours. A rooftop installation of 4,000 solar panels – the largest in London – generates enough electricity for Bywaters to recharge multiple electric dustcarts.
The electric dustcart is “leading the way”, says John Glover, chief executive of Bywaters.