A HOUSING group is opening the first of its kind environmental centre to help it reduce its landfill by as much as 95 per cent.

Thirteen is opening the innovative centre in Billingham in a move aimed at transforming the way it handles waste.

It means the group will have complete control over its waste management and processing, which it claims will mean it can maximise recycling and reduce its landfill by as much as 95 per cent.

The centre is the only one of its kind in the region and housing sector and is part of the company's green agenda.

Director of facilities management Scott Lowther said: “This is an ambitious project, but one that is very close to all our hearts at Thirteen.

“This state-of-the-art investment means we can reduce costs, improve efficiencies, invest in people and improve our local environments.

“I am really proud that the environmental centre, which will continue to evolve will no doubt be a landmark scheme for the sector.

“Having the ability to control our own waste and its processing, as well as being able to educate and engage people on the impacts on the environment is a real leap forward that will contribute towards cleaner, greener neighbourhoods.”

Among the facilities at the new centre is an innovation lab, where researchers can test new technology aimed at making homes safer, greener and smarter.

It will also have photovoltaic panels to create a supply of on-site renewable energy, reducing electricity consumption from the grid.

The estimated 35,000 kWh of power a year generated will be enough to make the site entirely self-sufficient and the system is expected to reduce carbon emissions by around 50 tonnes of CO2 equivalent each year.

There will also be an ecology centre, run by Thirteen’s environmental specialist with classrooms for local children, as well as beehives, chickens, bat boxes, trees and planting, which the company wants the community to get involved with.

Helen Beaman, from the company, said: "We want to give back to our community and we have some great opportunities to do that."

The centre, which will have its on weighbridge, will provide a new base for the grounds maintenance team with storage for materials and equipment, which will reduce the miles they have to travel and will allow them to recycle some of their materials, including soil and wood.

There will also be office space and meeting room facilities.

It will also offer a van washing facility for trade operatives, aimed at saving money and time on destination car washes and an upcycling department for furniture from empty properties, offices and unsold stock from furniture stores.

The aim will be to refurbish the furniture to help some of the company's most vulnerable clients and those in need.

Mr Lowther added: "The environmental centre will continue to evolve and will no doubt be a landmark scheme in the sector and that's something we are really proud of."

Thirteen, which has its headquarters in Middlesbrough, is the largest landlord in the North-East, managing just under 34,000 homes across the region, with the majority in the Tees Valley.