On Monday 11 March members, partners, and friends of our club embarked on a fascinating journey to see the Voelia Recycling and Energy Recovery Facility in Cross Green, Leeds. This state-of-the-art facility is a testament to innovation and sustainability, offering a glimpse into the future of waste management and energy production.

As we stepped into the facility, we were immediately struck by the impressive infrastructure that surrounded us. Designed to remove and sort recyclables before the combustion process, the facility boasted cutting-edge technology that ensured the safe and efficient treatment of  black bin waste. This not only has helped increase recycling rates but also generates heat and electrical energy, significantly reducing the amount of waste destined for landfill—a crucial step towards a more sustainable future.

One of the facility’s most remarkable features is its living wall, an architectural marvel designed by Biotecture, a British company. Stretching an impressive 120 meters wide and rising to heights equivalent to six double-decker buses stacked together, the living wall is not just a visual spectacle but also a model of sustainability in action. Capturing rainwater and utilizing passive solar gain, the wall is self-sustaining, providing habitat for insect life while enhancing the building’s thermal efficiency—a true fusion of nature and technology.

But the facility’s commitment to sustainability extended beyond its architectural design. In 2012, Veolia signed a 25-year Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract with Leeds City Council for residual municipal waste treatment and energy recovery. With the capacity to handle up to 214,000 tonnes of waste annually, the facility plays a crucial role in processing black bin waste from Leeds households. The facility currently handles black bin waste from Leeds households totalling 170,000 tonnes.

Inside the facility, we witnessed firsthand the intricate process of waste treatment and energy recovery. Black bin rubbish was shredded and sorted to extract metals, such as steel and aluminium, which were then recycled. The Energy Recovery Facility operated 24/7, adhering to strict UK and EU standards for emissions to the atmosphere. Through carefully controlled combustion, heat was generated to turn water into steam, powering turbines to produce around 13MW of electricity—enough to power approximately 22,000 homes.

But the sustainability journey didn’t end there. Steam from the facility was utilized to provide heat energy to a District Heating Network, supplying energy to homes and businesses across Leeds. This extensive underground pipe network delivered low carbon heat and hot water, benefiting nearly 2,000 council homes—a shining example of how waste-to-energy initiatives can contribute to community resilience and well-being.

As we concluded our tour of the Voelia Recycling and Energy Recovery Facility, we left with a renewed sense of awe and inspiration. Here was a facility that not only managed waste efficiently but also harnessed its potential to generate clean energy and support local communities. It served as a reminder that sustainability is not just a goal but a journey—one that requires innovation, collaboration, and a steadfast commitment to building a greener, more sustainable future for all.

Get in touch with Roundhay Rotary Club:

0113 266 6203