SOMERSET waste bosses and civic dignitaries braved freezing temperatures to attend the opening of a state-of-the-art new recycling centre in Chard today.

The purpose-built facility, located at the old sewage works off Beeching Close, was officially unveiled by Somerset Waste Partnership and contractors Viridor this morning.

Chard Mayor Jill Shortland joined town, district and county councillors to help Holyrood Community School student Lizzie Barnes cut the ribbon, before being given a tour of the site.

The centre, which opens to the public on Tuesday, is expected to recycle up to 80% of all items taken there, including household and garden waste, wood, domestic appliances and unwanted business material.

Cllr Shortland said: “This is a fantastic boost for Chard and I hope everybody in the town takes advantage of it.

“I was especially excited to find out that traders can bring their waste down here – it will really help small businesses that have no other way of recycling.”

Plans for a new waste facility for the town were first proposed over five years ago after the existing tip at Chaffcombe was deemed unsuitable to meet the recycling targets set by Somerset County Council.

Construction work began at the end of 2008 and produced near-zero waste, with the metal, concrete and rubble recovered from the area used either used in the build itself or removed for recycling.

Steve Read, managing director of Somerset Waste Partnership, said: “The big improvement of this site is that it’s much more user friendly.

“We are trying to encourage people to stop thinking of unwanted items as waste but as things which can be re-used.”

As well as the recycling centre, the plot includes infrastructure for light industrial units and a green area linking Henson Park with Chard Reservoir.

Chris Jonas, regional manger for Viridor, said: “The whole site is designed to make it as easy as possible for people to recycle.

“We’re expecting this to be one of the best performing centres in the UK.”

Pictured on ribbon cutting duties at the new Chard Recycling Centre is Chard student Lizzie Barnes (centre), assisted by (from left) ward councillor Jenny Kenton, town mayor Jill Shortland, project manager Rob Kidson, Steve Read, managing director of Somerset Waste Partnership, and county councillor Derek Yeomans.