How do we make waste useful?
How can we take the items in your black bin and turn them back into something valuable again?
I see waste as a valuable resource, using the right technology can make it useful once again. It allows us to manufacture green products plus have the potential to generate energy.
You may have seen our Leeds Recycling and Energy Recovery Facility (RERF) slowly taking form in Cross Green. Some people call it the Cross Green Incinerator but it’s certainly much more than that. Let me explain why.
Leeds’ big challenge is the over 300,000 tonnes of domestic waste that needs to be processed each year. Landfill taxes and environmental levees are high and the damage to the environment can take many years to recover.
The RERF will be able to manage up to 184,000 tonnes of waste each year. But there is often a misconception that it is just going to burn waste, hence the ‘incinerator’ moniker. This is not the case. The first and most important stage of the process is to recover valuable recyclable materials that include paper/card, plastics and metals. All of these can be re-processed and turned back into valuable resources, thus contributing to the circular economy.
Furthermore, the residue from this first stage recycling process can be used to create a recognised renewable source of energy that will be used:
- To Create 11 megawatts of electricity to power 20,000 homes
- As part of a District Heating Heat scheme providing low carbon energy to buildings such as high-rise accommodation, hospitals and universities
This means less need for landfill, fossil fuel consumption and fewer harmful CO2 gasses to atmosphere.
Whilst the RERF will contribute to the City’s recycling levels it is part of the bigger effort to get people thinking more about recycling. I understand that Leeds is achieving a 44% recycling rate which is very good when compared to similar sized cities. But we all need to do more. We’re creating a visitor centre with an education programme to help our future generations make Leeds even cleaner and greener.
The RERF will be fully commissioned ahead of next summer and we start work planting the living wall at the end of autumn so the concrete and wood arches that you can see now will look very different by the time we open. It’ll provide an iconic building that will also have a green focal point within the industrial estate. The living wall will help to harvest rain water, encourage biodiversity and will be one of the biggest in the UK. When linked with the extensive landscaping it will help to create an important bio-diverse habitat for wildlife.
We’ve got a great Open Doors event on the 6-7 March 2015. Sign up here and come and take a look behind the scenes. See how we’ll be making waste useful again.