Veolia puts Leeds at heart of circular economy ambition

Waste and water giant Veolia wants Leeds to become "a hub for circular economy innovation", induced by a flagship energy-from-waste (EfW) plant that the firm says will provide a multiple boost for the city.

Speaking at a stakeholder event in Leeds last week, Veolia’s chief executive Estelle Brachlianoff said the circular economy “should go hand-in-hand with the Northern Powerhouse,” and the development of a Recycling and Energy Recovery Facility in Cross Green “will put Leeds at the forefront for recycling technologies” when it opens next year.

“The circular economy is not a dream – we already have numerous examples of it in practice” Brachlianoff said. “We have a pipeline of next-generation ideas in this space, and we want to localise them in Leeds to gather momentum here.”

Living wall

Typifying that vision is the new Recycling and Energy Recovery Facility (pictured), which will open in approximately six months’ time. The 11MW plant will extract recyclable waste from black bins collected by Leeds City Council and recover energy from what is left over, with the ability to manage up to 214,000 tonnes of waste each year.

The energy-from-waste plant, which is currently in the testing phase, has been designed to be a “positive landmark” for Leeds’ Aire Valley region. Dubbed as “the greenhouse”, the building housing the plant will feature a 42-metre vertical living wall – the largest of its kind in Europe.

The plant will also incorporate a range of energy and water-saving features such as rainwater harvesting and sustainable drainage systems. And it is listed as “CHP-ready”, with the opportunity to heat local homes and organisations such as hospitals and universities in the future – as Veolia has successfully done in other areas.

“It’s a lot more than just burning waste,” Brachlianoff explained. “We’ll produce 11MW of power which will replace nuclear or coal. Progressively, we are replacing fossil fuels with this type of facility, which is far better for the energy mix of this country.”

Policy stability 

Brachlianoff, who became Veolia’s chief executive in 2012, has previously spoken out about the UK’s lack of support for the energy-from-waste sector and the need for policymakers to provide a more stable environment for a circular economy to flourish.

At last week’s event in Leeds, she said: “Policy is not just about subsidies, it’s about stability. Being able to work under stable policy frameworks and move in the same direction is just as important as public money in the system.”

Speaking about Veolia’s own role in driving the circular economy, Brachlianoff confirmed that the business is currently more than half way to achieving a target of 40% of its business to be involved in the circular economy by 2020.

“Just over 20% of Veolia’s revenue in the UK is now being driven by circular economy processes,” she said.

Estelle Brachlianoff at Sustainability Leaders Forum

Veolia chief executive Estelle Brachlianoff is among the list of expert speakers that will feature at edie’s Sustainability Leaders Forum on 19 November.

The Forum offers a unique opportunity for businesses to consider the long-term challenges that lie ahead and consider how new business models, innovations and collaborations can help to future-proof operations.

Brachlianoff will be taking part in an on-stage interview with edie editor Luke Nicholls under the theme of ‘transformational change’. View the full Sustainability Leaders Forum agenda and register to attend here. 

Luke Nicholls

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