UK’s largest EfW powered waste-collection fleet launched

Westminster Council and Veolia unveil depot, which will house 50 electric refuse-collection trucks powered by the iconic SELCHP EfW facility


Waste management giant Veolia and local authority Westminster Council have showcased a state-of-the-art refuse vehicle depot where they will power trucks from an energy-from-waste plant and eventually sell power back to the grid. 

The new depot in south east London is in the borough of Lewisham, not far from the border with the borough of Southwark, and is built on industrial land, which was largely abandoned other than some bats, which had to be removed very carefully. 

The fleet of vehicles, which currently number 45 and will eventually reach 50, are Dennis Eagle eCollect eRCV. They can fully charge in just under six hours and have a range of about 80 miles, with Westminster City Hall just under five-miles from the depot, that should be more than enough to cover the routes and two-way journey.   

Westminster said it had paid £20m (€23m) for the 45 trucks, but did not give precise figures for the buying of the land. EWB understands it was involved in some drawn-out negotiations for a small stretch between its new depot and Veolia’s South East London Combined Heat and Power (SELCHP) EfW facility. 

The EfW plant, which processes about 450,000 tonnes a year and as its name suggests supplies heat to homes as well as power to the grid, has been operational since 1994.

Speaking to EWB at the launch, Veolia municipal strategy manager Briony Bendle, explained the work the company and Westminster had carried out to make the project work. 

Bendle said: “The depot is connected to SELCHP by a private wire, which allows up to 3,300MWh to be used to power up to 30 vehicles at one time. The software system means the charging is carried out in as an efficient as possible way keeping it to a limited supply.

“These trucks collect waste, bring it back to the plant and then source power produced from that waste, it’s a nice circular economy story.”

Bendle also explained that the power demands for charging the vehicles was in reality “such a small amount”, that it would not have any impact on SELCHP’s supply of heat or power. Eventually, the trucks will also be used to sell power back to the grid at times of high demand. 

Veolia also has a smaller system powering two refuse trucks at its Sheffield-based EfW, which was hailed as a world first when it was unveiled back in 2018. 

Bendle further explained the much larger system installed next to the SELCHP plant had been completed in a way that it could be easily replicated at other such facilities in the future, but she would not be drawn on when new projects would be announced. 

Westminster waste and recycling manager Jarno Stet told EWB at the event: “Today marks a major milestone on delivering this incredible project. It is a testament to the dedication, passion, expertise and perseverance of the joint Veolia and Westminster City Council team in delivering this huge and complicated project. 

“It is a major leap forward on decarbonising the city council’s waste management operation and improving air quality in Westminster. The path of this project was filled with hurdles and, often big, challenges, each of which was successfully mitigated. 

“We hope our project showcases what exactly is possible around implementing a more sustainable waste collection fleet, creating a closed loop solution of powering trucks with clean electricity generated from the very waste these trucks collect.”

Westminster cabinet member for city management and air quality, Paul Dimoldenberg, said: “By replacing diesel-powered refuse trucks with a £20m investment in UK-built electric vehicles, Westminster City Council is voting with its fleet. 

"The trailblazing electrification will deliver an essential service that is quieter for residents, improves air quality in central London and reduces our fleet emissions by 50 per cent, or over 2,000 tonnes of CO2 per year. This is a significant moment in the evolution of sustainable council services and we look forward to further expanding our zero-emission vehicle fleet in the future.”

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