Have you ever wondered what happens to your rubbish?
The facility was built at the request of Leeds City Council to ensure that all household waste from the City Council’s boundaries is brought to this facility. This means that no household waste within Leeds City Council goes to landfill.
The UK Government has given a recycling target of 50% to all councils by 2020. (Recycling in this context does not include energy recovery but to be able to be recycled into something else). Currently Leeds is accomplishing a 38% recycling rate.
- The facility cost £140 million to build
- On average 70 vehicles a day enter the RERF
- The RERF is able to process up to 214,000 tonnes of waste every year
- Leeds City Council black bin residual waste is 165,000 tonnes
- £68.6 million of the cost was met by government funding
- The RERF consists of a tipping hall with recycling facilities to take out paper, board and card, aluminium cans, foil and certain plastics. (PE/PET/HDPE types 1,2 and 4).
- It also contains a furnace for incinerating what is left after the recycling facilities have performed their role.
Waste lorries enter the RERF and deposit their waste into the tipping hall. These can be black bins (general waste) or green bins (board/paper/card/plastics 1, 2 and 4/aluminium and foil).
This waste then goes through the recycling facility. The green bin contents tend to be much easier to sort as the waste is dry and uncontaminated by other things such as food. The recycling facility can take recyclable materials out of the black bin waste but it cannot get them all out and some maybe are of poor quality due to contamination.
After all the waste has passed through the recycling facility the residual waste is incinerated.
- The tipping hall and waste bunker can store up to a maximum of 5 days’ worth of waste (2,500 tonnes).
- The energy from the incinerator can power up to 22,000 homes continuously via the National Grid – an average export of 11 megawatts per hour.
- The RERF prevents the release of around 62,600 tonnes of greenhouse gases per year which is the equivalent of taking around 29,000 cars off the road. (Due to zero household waste going to landfill).
- Waste is fed into the incinerator at a rate of 20 tonnes per hour.
- The waste burns at a minimum temperature of 850°C in the incinerator.
- The incinerator burns 24/7 and urea and lime are injected in to scrub harmful emission gases. It is effectively H2O vapour that is emitted up the chimney.
- 23% of what is incinerated is collected as ash which is then used for road aggregate and breeze blocks.
Interestingly of the plastic that is sorted for recycling the council have to pay to have this taken away due to its low value. This is despite its excellent use as a feedstock for incineration. Veolia would rather burn as much plastic as possible to gain more energy but are prevented due to the Government’s recycling targets.
For Leeds at least no household waste now goes to landfill, however, the RERF is just for household waste. (Although it could take business and industrial waste).
Most business and industrial waste in the city still goes to landfill.
Over the next 25 years the RERF will save £270 million for LCC mainly in reductions in landfill tax.
There is a green living wall along one side of the RERF covering 1,800 m2 which is believed to be the largest in Europe.