West Midlands - removing barriers to recycling


This is the story of how our West Midlands Network has found a way to turn 9,000 redundant barriers into new products.

That’s more than 9 tons of hard plastics otherwise destined for landfill – the equivalent weight of nine adult polar bears.

One of our suppliers has turned them [the barriers, not the bears] into fence feet, cone bases, signage and other elements of our streetworks furniture.

It’s a fantastic example of our teams looking at different options, to deliver on our pledge to protect the planet.

Pete Atkins (pictured below), Delivery Support Manager, West Midlands Network, writes about it here.

Maximise recycling, minimise waste

As Cadent strives towards net zero with environment at the core of our future, the waste material that we create as an organisation needs to firstly be minimised but also disposed of responsibly and sustainably.

We are all familiar with waste separation at home and in the office to maximise recycling and minimise waste to landfill which leads to methane emissions, contamination to land and watercourses. A problem for ecosystems and future generations.

Many will also be familiar with waste separation from our operations where metals, wood, card and more can all be separated and go on to be recycled.

Certain materials and products unfortunately cannot be recycled or at least are uneconomical to do so and therefore no provision for in the waste industry leading to more waste to landfill.

Can we recycle our redundant street furniture?

The street furniture that we use during street works are assets that Cadent uses in great numbers but the types and combinations of plastics, and reflective strips that are used in manufacturing items like road cones, signs and barriers, make them very difficult to process for recycling.

This is a challenge that Cadent’s Environment Team have been working on for some time with suppliers in the waste industry trying to develop the ability for more of our street furniture to be recycled and reducing our environmental impact.

What our West Midlands Network has done about it

In the West Midlands, we faced a challenge when, at the end of GD1, thousands of barriers that were used by our previous contractor were handed back to Cadent.

A large number of these were serviceable and could be distributed to the West Midlands’ Local Delivery Partners to help their delivery of mains replacement. There were, however, some 9000 barriers that were beyond their useful life and now needed disposing of.

We needed to get rid of the barriers which were of no use and also taking up a lot of valuable space at our Wolverhampton and Birmingham depots.

The only option available to us was to send to landfill which we knew was the wrong thing to do, also costing Cadent money to do it.

We found that one of our suppliers, Melba Swintex, had worked with Cadent to recycle some of our street furniture but not the sort that we had.

We developed a process where the barriers could be processed at no cost to Cadent and the plastics separated and put back into products such as fence feet, cone bases, barrier feet, signs and frames.

More than 5.3 tons have been collected and recycled by Melba Swintex from West Midlands sites with another 1.2 tons still awaiting collection shortly, clearing the space at the depots and making a huge impact on the waste to landfill performance of the network and our environment.

By the time we finish, we'll have recycled 9 tons.

Cadent's Environmental Action Plan

READ our Environmental Action Plan here.


Cadent is the UK’s largest gas distribution network with a 200-year legacy.  We are in a unique position to build on strong foundations whilst encouraging the curiosity to think differently and the courage to embrace change.  Day to day we continue to operate, maintain and innovate the UK’s largest gas network, transporting gas safely and protecting people in an emergency.   Our skilled engineers and specialists remain committed to the communities we serve, working day and night to ensure gas reaches 11 million homes from Cumbria to North London and the Welsh Borders to East Anglia, to keep your energy flowing. 

Future of Gas: Here at Cadent we support the Government’s plans to reach Net Zero by 2050. That means we’re backing the introduction of hydrogen as a low carbon alternative to natural gas for the future. We know people love the controllability of gas and, with our network already in place, it makes sense to switch to the lower carbon alternative offered by hydrogen, which we believe can keep homes and businesses warm for generations to come.

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