We recently carried out a waste and recycling survey which more than 1,300 of you took part in. We asked you what you thought happened to your black bin waste and an incredible 73% of people said it went to landfill.
In fact, your black bin waste goes to the EnviRecover Plant at Hartlebury. This was built specifically so your rubbish could be diverted from landfill and instead used as a fuel source for electricity generation.
Every year the Plant deals with 170,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste from homes across Herefordshire and Worcestershire and another 30,000 tonnes of waste from businesses.
To ensure maximum efficiency when waste first arrives at EnviRecover, it is mixed to ensure it burns evenly. This is because some items have a higher energy value when burnt than others. For example, plastic burns more easily than food waste.
It is then put onto the grate where it is burnt to heat water to generate steam, which then powers the turbine creating electricity.
If you would like to know more about the process in detail then you can read more on our website.
Disposing of our waste in this way has several environmental benefits including:
- The Plant generates enough electricity to power about 38,000 homes.
- It removes the need to burn 90,000 tonnes of coal, or 40,000 tonnes of gas which would otherwise be needed to generate the same amount of power annually.
- We are sending hardly anything to landfill. In fact, every year, the waste the Plant diverts from landfill would fill the Royal Albert Hall seven times over or 242 Olympic swimming pools.
- Water used to create steam is condensed and reused in the process.
- Ash generated at the end of the burning process is separated off-site for recycling into aggregate and building material.
- Ferrous and non-ferrous metals are removed from the ash and recycled.
- Emissions from burning the waste are strictly controlled to keep them within the safe levels set by the Environment Agency.
So do we no longer need to worry about recycling? The short answer is absolutely not. The three Rs – reduce, reuse, recycle – remain as important as they ever were and we need to do much more to eliminate waste in the first place and push our recycling level to 50% and above.
Critics of Energy from Waste Plants like EnviRecover claim they encourage waste, as a certain amount of rubbish needs to be burnt in order to make them viable. However, there are two important reasons why this doesn’t make sense – cost and environmental impact.
Firstly, it still costs Worcestershire County Council – and thereby all of us as council taxpayers – money to dispose of waste using the Energy from Waste Plant. In fact, the county council spends more than £33 million a year dealing with our waste. So it doesn’t make financial sense to encourage people to keep generating lots of waste, regardless of how we dispose of it. If we can reduce our waste to a minimum in the first place we can free that money up to be spent on other key services like adult social care and highways.
Secondly, to ensure our planet is sustainable we need to move to a closed-loop system of waste management, known as the circular economy. Put simply, we need to use less (reduce), ensure we use products more than once (reuse) or find other uses for them (recycle).
If we were to just abandon recycling and move to a complete system of energy recovery that would generate more demand for virgin material leading to all the associated environmental impacts in terms of quarrying, water and air contamination as well as greenhouse gas emissions. The resources themselves would also run out more quickly.
Many of you have asked us about how your non-recyclable waste is disposed of and hopefully this information has been useful to you. However, please do not stop the amazing efforts you are making to reduce your waste and increase your recycling.