FAQ

How Energy from Waste Works Key Facts Air Quality Monitoring & Emissions Visitor Centre Community Liaison FAQs

Why did we need new facilities?

How does energy-from-waste work?

Is it safe?

How will the energy-from-waste facility affect recycling?

What about emissions and smoke from the chimney?

What about smell, noise and air quality?

Has it meant more traffic on the roads?

Where does the waste come from?

What does the building look like?

How much has it cost?

How many jobs have been created?

What was the timetable for the project?

Who are SITA UK?

How do SITA UK engage with the local community?

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 Why did we need new facilities?

We are proud that thanks to the efforts of Suffolk residents, we are one of the best recycling counties in the country with over half our waste recycled. 

But despite this good work, we are left with around 170,000 tonnes of household waste a year. This waste used to go to landfill. We were running out of landfill space and  it is extremely costly because of the government’s hefty landfill taxes, and environmentally we could do better.

We wanted to find a tried and tested technology to provide a cheaper, greener solution to dispose of this waste. Both politically and at officer level we have spent a long time researching and debating this issue.

As a result, we have chosen Energy from Waste, also known as incineration.

 How does energy-from-waste work?

Modern Energy from Waste plants put waste to good use as a fuel for generating electricity – reducing our dependence on increasingly scarce fuels such as oil, coal and gas. The plant we have constructed provides enough electricity to power itself and around 30,000 homes, that’s equivalent to a town the size of Lowestoft.

For further details go to Key Facts and see how Energy from Waste works.

 Is it safe?

Before the facility opened it needed a permit, with strict environmental and operating conditions attached. The permit has been issued because the Environment Agency is sure people and the environment will be safe and protected.

Numerous studies have been undertaken, both in this country and abroad, into the safety of Energy from Waste plants. All have concluded there are no significant health risks.

 How will the energy-from-waste facility affect recycling?

Since the energy-from-waste facility has started operating, waste collections have continued with recycling collected on one week, and residual waste collected on the other week for most residents in Suffolk. Suffolk councils and SITA UK are committed to the waste hierarchy which promotes reduction, reuse and recycling above energy-from-waste.

The Suffolk councils awarded a new contract for the sorting of mixed dry recyclate from all of Suffolk’s homes at the end of 2014. The new contract allows an even wider range of materials collected at the kerbside for recycling which now includes empty aerosol cans, cartons, metal pots pans trays, and old books as well paper, card, plastic bottles, tubs and trays, metals cans and foil and textiles.

Under its planning permission, the energy-from-waste facility is not allowed to take materials that have been collected for recycling.

 What about emissions and smoke from the chimney?

Much of what comes out of the chimney is not smoke at all, it’s steam. Everything that is discharged through the chimney has already been treated to remove potentially harmful substances, so emission levels are well below the limits set by the Environment Agency. Everything is continuously monitored to make sure the site is operating safely.

 What about smell, noise and air quality?

The site does not create excessive noise or vibration and latest technology is used to minimise any smell and make sure it is contained within the building. SITA UK operates three other Energy from Waste plants in the UK and in the last six years, there hasn’t been a single complaint about smell from any of them.

Strict conditions on air quality and noise levels are included in the operating permit form the Environment Agency. The site is operating well within those limits.

 Has it meant more traffic on the roads?

An independent survey has shown the overall amount of traffic going to the Energy from Waste plant will be more than halved compared with its previous use as a highways depot, although the number of lorries has increased slightly.

Vehicles going in or out of the site each day

 

Energy from Waste

Highways Depot

Difference

Lorries

212

178

+34

Cars

96

502

-406

Coaches

4

0

+4

TOTAL

312

680

-368

 Where does the waste come from?

The facility has been designed to take household waste from the whole of Suffolk (around 170,000 tonnes a year after recycling). With a capacity of 269,000 tonnes, there will also be room to take some of the county’s business waste.

 What does the building look like?

The building has been designed by celebrated architects Grimshaws, who also designed the Eden Project in Cornwall. We are aiming for the BREEAM excellent standard and if successful this will be the first building of its type in the country to achieve this. For the building to be judged on this international standard it will be marked on factors including the materials used in construction, energy consumption, water-use and the management of the building, including heating, lighting, noise, and air quality.

It is extremely important to us that the facility looks right in our Suffolk setting and a tremendous amount of work was put into the design of the building, which sits on an industrial site, but close to the spectacular Gipping Valley.

The skyline, such an important feature of the Suffolk landscape, is emphasised as it reflects against the building, so the view you get will change, depending on the light at different times of the day.

 How much has it cost?

Financially Energy from Waste is a good deal for Suffolk. Our contractors, SITA UK have paid for the £180 million building, and a government grant, worth nearly £200 million over the 25-year life of the contract, will help to cover the on-going costs. In all, switching to Energy from Waste will be around £350 million cheaper over the next 25 years than our previous landfill operation.

 How many jobs have been created?

There are 43 long-term jobs now the facility is open, there were up to 250 temporary jobs at the peak of construction. The jobs include both skilled and semi-skilled long-term opportunities with roles ranging from shift managers and maintenance personnel to crane operators, security and admin staff. There will also be opportunities for local firms to supply goods and services to the site. Experience at other SITA UK sites suggests around £1 million a year is spent in the local economy. A business open morning, for firms interested in supplying the site, has already been held.

 What was the timetable for the project?

SITA UK was granted planning permission on 21 July 2011. Work started in early 2012 and the site was fully operational by December 2014.

 Who are SITA UK?

SITA UK is a recycling and resource management company, established in 1988. It currently runs three other Energy from Waste plants in the UK and it parent company runs many more across Europe.  For further details E-mail: suffolkefw@sita.co.uk

 How do SITA UK engage with the local community?

SITA UK prides itself on being a good neighbour and is keen to make sure local people are kept fully informed about the facility. Two rounds of public exhibitions were held - in July 2010 in Great Blakenham and in September 2010, at various locations around the county, including Great Blakenham.

Regular newsletters are distributed to around 9,000 homes near the site, and a Community Liaison Group, made up of local people, meets regularly. The agenda and minutes from the meetings can be found at: www.suffolkefw.co.uk