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Future of Leeds' waste

Leeds is the second largest local authority in the UK. 

On average, every household in Leeds produces 590kg of household waste per year – which is the weight of a fully grown cow! 

With 320,600 households in the city, this equals a massive 189,000 tonnes of waste a year.

We currently recycle nearly 44% of our waste - which in 2014 was equal to the weight of 2,166 double decker buses.

However in the same year, we threw away enough black bin waste to fill Headingley Carnegie Stadium one and a half times. 

Our vision is to reduce waste and improve recycling in Leeds. We are achieving this through the introduction of alternate weekly collections and closer working with reuse charities. Part of this work is the creation of our new Recycling and Energy Recovery Facility (RERF) at Cross Green.

Recycling and Energy Recovery Facility

artist's impression of the Recycling and Energy Recovery Facility at LeedsThe RERF – managed by Veolia, uses the most modern technology and engineering to recover recyclables and energy from black bin waste. As we reduce our use of landfill sites, we also reduce the amount of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere.

The RERF will realise huge savings, which can be used for other improvements or valued services. Testing of some machinery at the RERF is taking place from October. During this, steam will be seen and noise from the site will be higher than normal. For more information, please see the attached newsletter under the Documents section.
We will increase the amounts of Leeds’ black bin waste taken to the RERF as we phase out the use of landfill sites. The facility should be completed and fully commissioned in March 2016. The RERF’s modern construction and cutting-edge features provide an environment where up to 214,000 tonnes of black bin waste per year will be safely and efficiently processed. It is an iconic timber-framed building, hosting the largest living wall in the UK. ​

Why does Leeds need a RERF?

Leeds currently produces around 170,000 tonnes of black bin waste a year which costs almost £15 million to dispose of.

When waste breaks down in landfill sites, it produces greenhouse gases such as methane, which is up to 20 times more damaging to the atmosphere than CO2.  

In line with the Climate Change Agenda, we needed to:
-Reduce Leeds’ carbon footprint
-Reduce use of landfill
-Increase recovery of recyclables and energy from waste
-Increase re-use

To find a more environmentally friendly and more economical way to deal with black bin waste, we undertook a comprehensive process to find the best solution. As a result, in 2012 we appointed Veolia Environmental Services to build our new state-of-the-art Recycling and Energy Recovery Facility (RERF) at Cross Green.    

Is the RERF just an incinerator for burning rubbish?

The RERF is much more than an incinerator. 

10% or more of the total amount of black bin waste is extracted and recycled. The waste then goes through a specialised combustion process. The steam power generated from this process is used to create electricity which is transferred to the national grid. In the future, it will contribute to a district heating scheme. The ash that is left is recycled to be used as construction aggregate. 

Green bin waste goes to a different facility where the various recyclable materials are sorted and separated. 

Using the latest technology, waste is converted into something useful. The process is environmentally sound; and it is safe. ​​​

Will it damage the environment?

Waste is delivered to the RERF in contained bin lorries. No waste is stored or handled outside the facility.

Bin lorries use major roads, not local residential streets, to get there. 

The engineering and processes at the RERF are modern and sophisticated. 

Noise levels will be kept to a minimum by the location and design of the facility and fact that all the waste processing equipment is located inside the buildings.

The building is designed so that air continually flows into the building and through the combustion process, stopping smells and dust from escaping. Exterior lighting is designed specifically to minimise light pollution and the visual impact of the building at night.

Unlike greenhouse gases from landfill sites, emissions are clean and not a risk to either public health or the environment.                   
The gases from the boiler are extensively cleaned. This includes neutralising any acid gases; removing pollutants with ‘activated carbon’; and capturing fine particles with a fabric filter. The gas treatment residues will be kept in enclosed storage on site and then disposed of safely at a licensed facility. 

The Environment Agency continually monitors emissions to ensure there is no risk to public health. Once the RERF is fully working  and readings are being taken, a summary of these will be published on our website.  

What are the benefits of the RERF?

The RERF will manage all black bin waste from across the city, preventing it going to landfill. This will save over £200 million in landfill charges over the next 25 years and prevent the release of around 62,600 tonnes of greenhouse gases per year. This is equivalent to taking around 29,000 cars off the road.

The combustion process transforms waste into electricity – enough to power around 20,000 homes per year, when fully operational. 
In the future, the RERF will contribute to a district heating scheme.

About 56 new jobs have been created; and from Spring 2016, the RERF visitor centre will host educational visits and weekly tours. It will also be available for hire by community groups.

The living wall, which will be fully planted by mid-2016 and the extensive landscaping will host biodiversity habitats for wildlife and contribute to Leeds’ green corridors. Rainwater is harvested and used on-site.

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