Veolia has unveiled plans to build an energy recovery facility plant in North Hampshire on the site of its existing materials recycling facility (MRF) in Alton.
A planning submission is expected to be made for the ERF to Hampshire county council next month and consultation by the waste management company with residents in the locality is underway.
As well as the proposal for the ERF, Veolia is planning for the current MRF to be replaced by a “super MRF”, referred to as an “sMRF” by Project Integra, the local authority organisation which is made up by the county and other councils in Hampshire as well as Veolia. The sMRF will be developed on another site in Hampshire which is yet to be disclosed subject to discussions with Project Integra.
Unlike Veolia’s three existing energy from waste facilities in Hampshire, which are operated under its 28-year contract with Hampshire councils and take in municipal waste, the new plant is to operate on a “merchant” basis taking in commercial waste and potentially some “overspill” municipal waste from the county. Veolia (as Onyx) won the Hampshire work in 1996.
Speaking to letsrecycle.com, Richard Kirkman, Veolia’s chief technology and innovation officer, explained the rationale behind the proposal for the new ERF (often known as an energy-from-waste plant).
He said that the aim is “to recycle more and landfill as little as possible, they are the two obvious objectives and along with the climate emergency that we have, we need to do something now.”
According to Mr Kirkman, there is a need to fill an infrastructure gap, particularly in the south of England where landfills are closing and Veolia’s only landfill in Hampshire – Blue Haze – is filling up.
“So we are looking at developing large facilities that can recycle more and also a suitably sized facility for residual waste that’s currently going to landfill,” he said.
There is pressure within Project Integra for Veolia to start recycling more materials but there is limited capacity for expansion of the Alton MRF and it does not handle pots, tubs and trays.
Mr Kirkman acknowledged that “recycling across the country is not encapsulating all of the materials that could be recycled and at the same time there is a shift to making things in a more recyclable way. So that will mean that the mix going into sorting plants will slightly change so we need to upscale the technology we’ve got at Alton; we need a bigger site for that and so that’s making that site available for taking residual waste.”
The new North Hampshire facility will be an “advanced ERF,” he noted. “It will be the cleanest, most efficient, recycling-more metals than ever, super-duper version of this technology. We will get twice as much metal out of the IBA [Incinerator Bottom Ash], it will be 30% more energy efficient and will be cleaner in terms of emissions.”
However, as yet there is no plan to use the heat from the plant, although Mr Kirkman emphasised that it would be “district energy ready” and that Veolia would be seeking to attract a local user of the heat.
“There’s a big need to have this facility there, particularly with all the landfills being closed in the area.”
In terms of feedstock, he explained that the company’s “other plants in Hampshire are operating taking the contract waste that we have with that client. We think there is significant commercial and industrial waste, waste coming from growth of housing and there’s a big need to have this facility there, particularly with all the landfills being closed in the area.”
And, he confirmed that the site could be an “overflow to the current facilities because they are all full – it can take Project Integra waste as the population grows.”
The aim for the commercial waste is for it to come from Hampshire, but with the plant “very well situated on the road network” Veolia would not want a planning restriction on the source of the waste, explained Mr Kirkman. “We wouldn’t want a planning restriction, but we’re planning this for the county of Hampshire.”
In terms of the planning process, he emphasised the importance that Veolia placed on consultation with local residents and the local authority.
“There is always local concern and we need to meet people and explain what we are doing and that’s what we are doing over the next two weeks.
“We have recently received planning permission for the Heysham facility [in Lancashire] where that was received quite well by people who felt it will bring jobs and commerce.
“Landfill in the south is running out more than it is in the north and this is an important aspect of levelling it up so that waste is not shipped around the country.”
And, local residents are being encouraged to give feedback in terms of design. Mr Kirkman said he hoped the proposal would be recognised for being a “really sympathetic design in terms of the green wall.”
He also touched on the concerns of some about the safety of energy from waste plants. “We know these processes are safe and we have a really good track record in Hampshire… It is fake news to say these things are a problem.”
In terms of the process at the ERF, Mr Kirkman said there were three significant features from “using an advanced version of the grate technology”.
1. Emissions will be lower, particularly of nitrogen oxide.
2. Energy recovered will see 30% more energy out
3. Double the amount of metals out of the bottom ash will be recovered through a new, enhanced process which improves the embedded carbon recovery of the metals.
The footprint of the ERF is not going to be significantly different from the existing facility, according to Veolia. And while the site at the moment is not an industrial site as such, the location is seen as suiting the energy recovery facility, with it noted that the site with the MRF has an industrial process at present.
The proposal for the facility is causing concern among some local residents to the plant with an action group being formed. It is expected that the group will lobby East Hampshire district council to reject the application.
In terms of the planning process, if the plant was not approved and Veolia chose to appeal, the decision would then lie with the Planning Inspectorate.