Staffordshire - FAQs

veolia staffordshire Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions relating to the Staffordshire contract

What is Veolia proposing?

We are proposing an Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) that treats rubbish that cannot otherwise be recycled or composted by combusting it to create steam power from which electricity can be generated. This reduces the county’s reliance on producing energy from fossil fuels.

The energy that can be produced from one tonne of waste is equivalent to the amount of energy produced by burning one-third of a tonne of coal. There is a double benefit – waste is prevented from going to landfill and replaces the need for fossil fuels. Therefore, using waste instead of coal is much more environmentally friendly and this approach will ultimately help combat climate change.

Energy Recovery is a robust, safe and proven technology used throughout the world that will reduce the volume of waste whilst creating 29 megawatts (MW) of electricity for the National Grid – enough to power 66,000 homes. We already operate a network of ten ERFs within the UK, with another already under construction and others in the pipeline.

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Why can’t we carry on burying our waste?

Between 2008 and 2009, Staffordshire recycled 42% of its household waste. Over half of the remaining waste went into holes in the ground called landfill sites. Landfill is regarded as the least environmentally friendly way to dispose of our waste and the Government is making this option increasingly less desirable by making landfill tax more expensive. By 2020, as required by the EU Landfill Directive, we must landfill only 35% of household waste (based on 1995 figures). Landfill sites are filling up fast, so the county needs new ways of dealing with waste that cannot be recycled or composted.

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How does this proposal differ from the facility approved in 2009?

Veolia’s proposals largely reflect the design-concept layout and orientation of the facility originally proposed which gained planning approval from Staffordshire County Council in 2009. These new proposals do not change how much waste would be treated at the facility or how and where the waste would come from. The primary differences in our proposals is because we have used our detailed knowledge and experience of designing and operating such facilities to reduce the footprint, scale and mass of the Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) building. This includes a slim-line exhaust stack system with reduced visual prominence and a range of improved environmental and sustainable features, compared to the design originally approved.

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How does an ERF facility work?

Recyclable and compostable material is first separated by each household, collected via kerbside recycling schemes or the network of Household Waste Recycling Sites, and then processed for recycling. The remaining waste is then delivered (again either direct from the kerbside, the Household Waste Recycling Sites or in bulk from Waste Transfer Stations) to the Energy Recovery Facility where:

  1. It is deposited into a bunker. 
  2. A crane grabs the waste and places it into the feed hopper. It then drops down a feed chute onto the furnace grate.
  3. The action of the moving grate turns the waste to allow it to combust fully.
  4. The bottom ash left over from the furnace passes through the ash discharger onto an ash handling system, which extracts metal for recycling.
  5. The remaining bottom ash is suitable for recycling or disposal and, in Veolia’s proposals, will be sent for reprocessing and reuse in the construction industry.
  6. Hot gases produced in the combustion process pass through a water tube boiler where they are cooled and the heated water becomes steam. Veolia’s proposals have been designed to include the potential to remove some of the steam and heat for use by local businesses and community facilities where this proves practical.
  7. A turbo-generator uses the steam to produce electricity for export to the National Grid.
  8. The gases from the boiler go through an extensive flue gas cleaning process. This consists of a gas scrubber and a bag filter where particulates are filtered out. The resulting material known as Air Pollution Control Residues will be sent for safe disposal at a Veolia, specialist licensed, facility in Cheshire. The cleaned gases are finally released to the atmosphere through the twin exhaust stacks.

Click the link below to view a pdf of the processes involved in the facility. The numbers on the drawing correspond to the processes described above:


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Would there be smoke from the twin exhaust stacks?

There will be no smoke from the twin stacks. Sometimes, you may be able to see a heat haze from the top of the stack and, in damp and cloudy conditions, you may observe a white plume, but this is primarily water vapour and not smoke.

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Would the ERF produce an odour?

No. In an ERF all combustion air is drawn from the bunker area into the furnace and therefore controls any risk of odour by maintaining a slight negative pressure in that area. The emissions from the chimney are odourless.

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Would this facility affect air quality and residents’ health?

ERFs, like all waste management activities, are subject to strict UK and European Commission regulations. There are very tight controls on the emissions from these facilities. The facility proposed for the Four Ashes Industrial Estate would be highly regulated, with all emissions restricted and monitored within safe limits and the monitoring data would be publicly available.

A recent review by the Health Protection Agency of the latest scientific evidence of energy recovery facilities has concluded that modern, well run, regulated facilities do not present a risk to public health.

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How would the facility affect the local wildlife, soil quality and water quality in nearby rivers, canals and reservoirs?

A detailed environmental impact assessment for the site at Four Ashes has also been carried out and will be submitted with the planning application. This demonstrates that the impacts from the development on wildlife habitats and other sensitive receptors, including residential premises, surface and ground waters within the Four Ashes area, will be minimal and the plans include mitigation measures to address any impacts arising.

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How would refuse vehicles access the site?

The refuse vehicles would travel entirely via the main roads which serve the Four Ashes Industrial Estate, but would do so in accordance with a Traffic Routing Plan designed to minimise the impact of Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) traffic on sensitive routes. A new signalled controlled junction at A5 / Vicarage Road is to be installed by the County Council to improve local highway safety in the area and would form part of the Traffic Routing arrangements. The majority of waste deliveries would be during the normal working day Monday-Friday, but there will also be some lorry movements outside of these hours and at weekends as envisaged by the previous planning permission.

A detailed breakdown and analysis of traffic movements will be provided as part of the planning application and will remain very much in line with those movements considered acceptable when permission was granted for an Energy from Waste facility at the site in 2009. Approximately 100 lorries would deliver waste to the site, Monday to Friday, and a much smaller number of lorries would do so at weekends.

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Would the jobs created in the construction of the facility go to local residents?

If we receive planning permission, construction is anticipated to take place between Spring 2011 and Spring 2014. During construction some local jobs would be created by the contractors appointed to undertake the project. Once the facility is operational, it would have a permanent staff of about forty and it is hoped many of these will be local employees.

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Would local councils abandon any recycling and waste reduction plans?

No. Local councils will be increasing their recycling and composting rates to achieve at least 50% recycling. This facility is proposed as part of an integrated waste strategy adopted by the County Council and it's partner authorities which include waste reduction, re-use and recycling before any residual waste is converted to energy.

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How big would the facility be – will it have the capacity to grow?

The purpose of this facility is to meet the obligations of the waste procurement contract for the management of residual waste arising from the partner authorities, with flexibility to receive commercial and industrial waste of a similar nature to meet any fluctuations in municipal waste and to ensure the plant operates at optimum capacity. The plant has been sized to meet this obligation and this remains unchanged from that currently approved. Our design revisions have also enabled us to reduce the overall footprint and building envelope of the facility from that approved, giving further assurances of our intention not to expand the capacity.

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