ERFs and the Battle Against Covid-19 Waste
Recent data from Veolia UK highlights the pivotal role of Energy Recovery Facilities in treating clinical and medical waste during the COVID-19 pandemic.
At a time of reduced clinical waste disposal capacity in the UK the company has rapidly adapted to develop a response on medical waste, and have been able to increase capacity and respond to a very real issue requiring quick disposal and sanitation.
To dispose of the more than 61,000 tonnes of orange bagged clinical and infectious waste that arises each year Veolia’s facilities have already efficiently adapted the operations to typically treat a 15% increase in waste arisings from local areas during the pandemic. Some sites have also played a key role in addressing the problem of the hospital waste treated at the end of 2019, under the RPS, due to shortage of capacity.
During Spring 2020 orange bag waste was trialled at Veolia’s Tyseley ERF in Birmingham the results showed that ERF has the lowest carbon footprint of the three common treatment options by a significant margin. This is because the energy consumption at ERF is low at around 75 kWh per tonne of waste treated, and typical electricity generation is high at around 690 kWh per tonne of waste treated.
The treatment operations across the country have also had a positive energy benefit by supplying electricity to the grid and delivering low carbon heat to thousands of homes and communities through district heating schemes. Veolia currently operates ten Energy Recovery Facilities across the UK which generate around 1.4TWh of electricity by treating non recyclable waste, and these provide enough electricity for over 430,000 homes.
Donald Macphail, the company's Chief Operating Officer for Treatment, comments: "The latest data again highlights the key role we have had in helping treat the additional waste arising from controlling the pandemic, and the part our key workers and specialised facilities have played. By delivering a rapid response and managing the changing situation we have shown the importance of the industry, and how its flexibility has enabled it to adapt to meet these new challenges."
Backed by Veolia's hazardous waste team, the medical and clinical wastes have been compliantly managed through repeat collection, tipping and return, containers for safe on-site storage, and dual coding of waste to allow test kits and PPE to be included in the same bags.