FAQ: The Proposal

  • What is being proposed?

    The scheme, which has been approved by Birmingham City Council, is for the construction and operation of a Renewable Energy Centre (REC). The facility will recover energy non hazardous residual waste in the form of heat and electricity. The proposal includes a gasification plant with equipment for energy recovery, the necessary associated infrastructure, an industrial warehouse to be used for storage and distribution, new vehicular access and appropriate landscaping.

  • Why do we need this development?

    There is a need to generate renewable energy in the UK, and to produce electrical power and heat at the same time. A facility operating in this manner is known as a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant, which is widely recognised as being one of the most efficient methods of generating energy. CHP developments are being strongly encouraged by Government to increase energy efficiency in the UK.

    There is also a need to deal efficiently with the residual waste that remains after recycling efforts have taken place, which is not practical to reprocess into new products. The best way to deal with this residual material is to recover energy from it, through a facility such as the one proposed in this application.

  • Why can’t all waste be recycled?

    It is simply not practical or possible to do so in our modern society, although it’s worth noting that the UK has made massive strides from being one of the worst recyclers in Europe in 1991 (at only 6% with virtually everything else being sent to landfill) to being amongst the best today, when like for like comparisons are made. For example, whilst the UK is at 44.3%, Germany is at 43%, the Netherlands at 52% and Denmark at 58%.

    Examples of materials that cannot be recycled are plastic films like the ones that cover ready meals, some types of textiles, many laminated materials (such as certain types of crisp packets), disposable nappies, paper and card contaminated with food.

  • What is RDF or SRF?

    Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) or Solid Recovered Fuel (SRF) is produced from the residual left over waste after extensive recycling has taken place.  In this case, the waste comes from two sources:  municipal solid waste (MSW), which comes from households and municipal facilities, and non-hazardous commercial and industrial (C&I) waste (such as packaging materials). The recycling systems used beforehand include kerbside collections for specific materials, other segregated collection systems and ‘bring to’ centres, mechanical separation plants and also some biological processing to reduce organic content. As a result, the national recycling rate for MSW was 44.9% in 2014 (DEFRA)  and 44.3% in 2015 which shows the levels currently being achieved in the UK. 



  • What is the difference between RDF and SRF?

    There is no real difference between the terms Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) and Solid Recovered Fuel (SRF), they are both waste derived fuels. SRF can refer to waste fuels that meet specific technical criteria (such as particle size, calorific value and moisture levels) in order to meet European or industry quality standards. RDF is more generic in nature but both fuels are extensively used in Europe and the UK for energy generation in industrial applications, such as cement kilns and district heating schemes where they have displaced fossil fuels. They are also used in dedicated energy recovery facilities, such as gasification plants. In this application, the fuel for the facility is referred to as RDF for simplicity.

  • Which other countries burn RDF and SRF to generate energy?

    Almost all countries in the EU use RDF and SRF to generate energy. They have been active in using this fuel in combined heat and power plants to provide energy for local communities for many years prior to the UK beginning to develop such facilities.

    For example, Sweden has 32 such facilities, Denmark 27, Germany 81, Switzerland 30 and Austria 13 (see http://www.cewep.eu/information/data/studies/m_1459). All these countries have a strong and well-deserved reputation for environmental security and the achievement of high operating standards. The UK is now beginning to match this type of efficient facility.

  • What about climate change?

    The REC will be equipped with modern technology that maximises energy efficiency and effective use of the RDF. This will recover energy in the form of electricity and heat (as steam or very hot water). Typically, over 50% of the content of RDF is biomass, or organic material from food or plant based materials, and degradable carbon such as paper, cardboard, natural fibres and wood. Energy recovered from RDF is classed as a partially renewable energy source, sometimes referred to as a low carbon energy source.

  • Are there any local customers for the heat?

    The site is set in Fort Industrial Park, an industrialised area providing considerable potential for the export of heat from the REC.

    The site is in close proximity to a number of local business users for the potential off-take of energy (heat and electricity).  Rolton Kilbride is currently in on-going discussions with the national distribution network and local business users for the export of electricity and/or heat via a private connection.

  • How long will it take to build?

    The facility will take roughly 24 months to construct, with an additional 6 months commissioning and testing at the end of that period.

  • How much energy will be generated?

    The facility will be capable of generating 8.6 MW of electricity, which could power more than 15,000 homes every year (see DECC factsheet). The facility can also generate heat for local use. This may decrease as the amount of heat exported electricity generated to any local user increases, depending on the temperature and quantity of heat that is required. Both the electricity and heat can benefit local consumers.

  • Who will operate the facility?

    Rolton Kilbride will not operate the plant. Instead, the facility will be operated under contract by an experienced company with an established track record of operating similar energy generating plants using waste fuels such as RDF. Due to the number of similar facilities now operating in the EU and worldwide, there is no shortage of such companies and interest in the operating contract. The storage warehouse may be operated by the same, or a different, contractor.

  • How many people will it employ?

    The proposed REC will create a number of temporary job opportunities during the construction phase of the development and once operational it will provide up to 20 permanent employment opportunities. These will be made up of 13 full time positions directly employed on site with a further 7 people providing services from local specialist businesses.  These will be across a variety of skills and levels of expertise and there will be employment opportunities for local people.  Additionally, there will be approximately 28 job opportunities created by the proposed warehouse to the front of the site.

  • A recent report claimed that the UK will reach overcapacity in energy from waste infrastructure by 2020 – what is your response?

    Waste management in the UK is driven by the waste hierarchy, which promotes the reuse, recycling and recovery of materials. This has mostly replaced the use of landfill sites for waste disposal, which had been prevalent over previous decades. While the ultimate aim is to minimise waste production in the first place, modern society continues to produce an excess of waste. The recycling processes used can only go so far and it is currently impossible to reuse or recycle all of the materials in the waste stream. 

    Most recycling processes recover a large proportion of the materials processed, however they still leave a residue of materials which are unsuitable for recycling (either through contamination or due to there being no practical method for recycling) and this material must be managed in an environmentally safe and efficient manner. The recovery of energy from these materials represents the next best option and a significant improvement over landfill disposal.
    Recent reports by the consultancy Eunomia have suggested that the UK will have excess EfW capacity in the future. This conclusion has been reached by the presumption of very high recycling rates, and the provision of significant new waste infrastructure. This conclusion has been repeatedly disputed by the recycling industry (see letsrecycle.com articles here and here) as the recycling rates suggested are unlikely to come to fruition and would counteract recent trends in the industry, while the amount of capacity developed is likely to be significantly smaller than assumed in the reports. An additional factor is the effect of Brexit which may see the waste currently exported to Europe, often for use in their own EfW plants (approximately 3.5 million tonnes), requiring treatment in the UK.

    Energy from waste plants support the recycling industry, providing a reliable, safe and efficient outlet for the residual waste created and for any contaminated materials. It is essential that sufficient Energy from Waste capacity is available in the UK in order to prevent a slide back to reliance on the landfill disposal of the past.