Energy recovery, also known as Energy from Waste, is a proven, reliable technology that has been used for many years by some of the most environmentally-aware countries in Europe such as Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany and Austria.
In 2007, our Members' Waste and Recycling Group recommended energy from waste as the best practical environmental option for treating Peterborough’s residual waste - the materials that can’t be reused or recycled.
In 2013, we appointed Viridor to build a state-of-the-art energy from waste facility in Fengate to manage the city’s residual waste.
Officially opened in March 2016, the facility:
- uses the latest technology, making it the most efficient of it kind in the country
- can process up to 85,000 tonnes of waste per year, which includes additional capacity to cope with Peterborough's predicted growth
- meets the highest safety and emissions standards
- has the potential to produce renewable electricity equivalent to the amount required to power around 15% of Peterborough homes
- produces heat that can also be captured and used locally
- enables Peterborough to deal with its own waste locally and save money in the process (in 2015 burying the city's waste cost around £4 million).
The Energy from Waste facility makes the era of landfills virtually a thing of the past by reducing the volume of our residual waste by 94%. Even the end product from the process is used as an alternative to aggregate in road building.
How energy from waste and recycling works
Energy from waste takes residual household waste and burns it at very high temperatures (exceeding 850°C) in a combustion chamber under controlled conditions.
The heat is captured and used to produce steam, which drives a turbine to generate electricity. In addition, heat in the form of hot water and/or steam can be supplied to heat buildings or for use in manufacturing processes. This combined heat and power facility is the most efficient form of energy from waste.
Benefits to the environment
Modern facilities are much more than just an incinerator. As well as the electricity generating equipment, around two thirds of a facility is dedicated to monitoring and emissions control. This equipment treats the exhaust gases to neutralise acidity and pollutants, while sophisticated filters remove more than 99% of particulates.
The by-products from the energy from waste process, chiefly clinker and fly ash, can often be recycled for other uses.
Energy from waste safety
Under European Union legislation, energy from waste facilities are strictly controlled. Regular testing of temperature, steam pressure, and flow ensures that the facility is operating properly. All modern facilities are equipped with sophisticated computer-controlled monitoring equipment that constantly checks operating conditions and emissions levels.
In addition, energy from waste facilities can only be operated under a special permit and any breach of the licensing conditions can result in immediate closure of the facility. Energy from waste facilities in the UK are independently monitored and regulated by the Environment Agency.
Energy from waste and recycling
Energy from waste facilities do not discourage recycling, especially when the facility is correctly scaled to the needs of the local community, as is the case in Peterborough. When used as part of an integrated waste management strategy, an energy from waste facility can have a positive impact on waste management and recycling rates.
More than 300 facilities are already operating across Europe and an estimated 20% of UK local authorities, including Devon, Cornwall, Suffolk and Lincolnshire have energy from waste schemes in place.
Countries such as Denmark, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands achieve some of the highest recycling rates in the world in combination with energy from waste facilities, proving that using this technology does not detract from recycling rates.