Non-Recyclable Rubbish Will Heat the Homes of South London

A borough in South London is the first to test a new heating scheme which promises to lower energy costs and raise environmental responsibility. The Southwark Council partners with Veolia Environmental Services in a ground breaking project: non-recyclable rubbish will be incinerated, and the resulting heat will go to five properties in the southern borough.

Getting the most out of rubbish

Although recycling is on the rise globally, there are still various kinds of waste which do not lend themselves to reprocessing and reuse, such as hoover bags, unusable clothes and footwear, some product wrappings, or nappies and sanitary products. Currently, these and other waste materials are deposited in landfills and left to rot.

The public-private partnership between Veolia and the Southwark Council will involve sorting through the non-recyclable rubbish of the city of London, picking out the suitable items, and burning them in the South East London Combined Heat and Power facility (SELCHP). The incineration will help generate heat and hot water, which will be sent to five estates in Rotherhithe for a 20-year test run.

Setting up the scheme costs 7 million pounds, and targets about 2,500 South-Londoners. The initial run of the project will commence by the end of 2013. After 20 years has past, the Council and Veolia will work for an extension pending positive evaluations.

Environmentally sound solutions



The project is a real breakthrough in the strive for sustainable and environmentally friendly energy solutions. First of all, it diverts a huge chunk of waste from landfills and lowers the strain on British waste management. It also makes the most of the SELCHP whose generators have been ready for such a project since 1994, says cabinet member for transport, environment, and recycling Barrie Hargrove. The Deptford-based facility processes 430,000 tonnes of waste per year, but this is the first time it will harness the heat from the production process and make it available for public use.

Carbon emissions will also go down drastically thanks to the scheme. The rubbish-incineration scheme involves cutting the gas supply to the participating Rotherhithe estates, resulting in a projected carbon footprint reduction upwards of 8,000 tonnes annually. Although it involves burning, the project’s carbon dioxide emissions will be times lower than traditional gas supplies.

Sustainable development on a budget

Southwark is the first London borough to take such a serious step towards sustainable energy supply. The rubbish-for-heat scheme will reduce both carbon emissions and energy prices for the five participating estates. Since it relies on existing resources and infrastructure, the project involves minimal transition costs and has already attracted a lot of attention and hopes. London mayor Boris Johnson has lauded the public-private collaboration with a clear interest in spreading it to other parts of the city, too.

Local residents are very much in favour of the scheme as well, according to Rosamund Beattie, Four Square lease holder’s association chair. Estelle Brachlianoff, UK Country Director at Veolia, has signalled readiness to add more buildings to the scheme in the 20-year period according to SELCHP capacities.

As hopes are soaring for this new project, it might very well usher in a new stage in low-cost, low-carbon, sustainable energy supply to one of Europe’s largest metropolis.

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