Black bin waste becomes green energy of the future

Unhygienic black bin bag waste will be transformed into energy for nearly 180,000 homes at the UK’s most advanced energy recovery facility.

North London Waste Authority (NLWA) has signed the contract for this pioneering project with infrastructure and renewable energy developer, ACCIONA, creating hundreds of job opportunities for local people, including at least 418 full time roles, 180 training placements and 90 apprenticeships.

The public-owned Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) will transform black-bin waste into electricity for up to 127,000 homes, and heat and hot water for up to 50,000 local homes, eliminating the need for gas boilers.

It will prevent black-bin-bag waste from ending up in landfill, where it generates greenhouse gas methane, which has a warming impact 30 times greater than CO₂. It will also save the equivalent of 215,000 tonnes of CO₂ each year, equivalent to taking 110,000 cars off the road.

The ERF forms part of a £1.2 billion investment in Edmonton in Enfield known as the North London Heat and Power Project (NLHPP), serving seven north London boroughs*. It includes state-of-the art recycling and waste facilities with the most advanced technology in the world. The new facilities will replace a single energy-from-waste plant on the 16-hectare site, which began operating in 1971 and is now Europe’s oldest such facility.

NLWA’s chair Clyde Loakes said: “With contracts signed and sealed with ACCIONA, work now begins on the next stage of one of the most sustainable and nationally significant projects ever to tackle waste and increase recycling rates, and one which greatly boosts employment opportunities in the area.”

ACCIONA will build the ERF section utilising world-class tech such as Selective Catalytic Reduction technology, which converts the nitrogen oxide created by incinerating waste into water and nitrogen, a harmless gas that makes up 78% of the Earth’s atmosphere. It’s the same tech used at the Amager Bakke/Copenhill ERF in Copenhagen, recently featured in the BBC’s Earthshot Prize, which even has a dry ski slope on the exterior because the pollution controls are so effective.

Cllr Loakes added: “In parallel with the project, NLWA’s focus continues apace on preventing waste in the first place by urging Government and business to make vital systemic changes and through ongoing community engagement. NLWA is leading the way on recycling too, dealing with difficult items such as mattresses and expanded polystyrene as well as ensuring recyclable plastic is processed only in the UK.”

NLWA has spent over eight years specifying an ERF that exceeds statutory requirements on environmental standards as well as due diligence to ensure value for money.

It’s estimated the ERF will save an estimated £20 million a year (or £1 billion over its lifespan) in third-party waste disposal. NLWA has already secured funds for the first stage of works with a loan of £280 million at extremely low interest rates from the Public Works Loan Board.

The facility also aims to install carbon capture after 2030, aligned with the development of a south-east industrial cluster.

*NLWA is the statutory waste authority serving the London boroughs of Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Islington, and Waltham Forest.

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