Sutton Council statement on the planning application from Viridor for new diesel tank at Beddington Energy Recovery Facility (ERF)

29 Jun 2022

Councillor Barry Lewis, Chair of the Environment and Sustainable Transport Committee, said:

“Viridor has submitted a planning application for a new diesel storage tank at the Energy Recovery Facility in Beddington. 

The application has nothing to do with changing the type of items that can be processed at the site (such as medical or hazardous waste), it does not involve or facilitate increases in the amount of waste that will be treated at the facility, and will not lead to more burning of waste at the site.

The suggestion that the Beddington ERF will treat radioactive and medical waste is completely unfounded. What can and cannot go through the facility is strictly controlled by the Environmental Permit, which is awarded and monitored by the Environment Agency - a separate body to the council. 

Unrelated to this planning application, Viridor has recently made a separate application to the Environment Agency to increase the amount of waste the facility can treat by 10%. This is a separate matter for the Environment Agency to consider. The Council has already set out that it is opposed to any increase to the amount of waste processed at the site and has urged the Environment Agency to carry out a full public consultation to ensure the council and local people can have their say before any decisions are made.  

To be absolutely clear, the Beddington ERF does not have a licence to burn radioactive waste, medical waste such as body parts and organs, or chemicals consisting of or containing hazardous substances”.


Will the new storage tank lead to more burning? 

Until now 'red diesel', stored in a single tank, was used for two purposes: to fuel the mobile plant (vehicles and machinery) working at the site and to bring the Energy Recovery Facility up to operating temperature during start-ups. 

A change in law means that red diesel can no longer be used for the mobile plant. A new tank is therefore required to store 'white diesel' for use with the mobile plant while the existing tank will be repurposed to store a specialist fuel called 'furnaceflame' that will be used to support the ERF operations during start-ups. The new diesel storage tank will not result in the facility processing more waste. 

Why are we burning waste in the first place? Surely it causes more pollution? 

The Council takes the climate emergency very seriously. We would all like to see a future where residual waste treatment facilities are not needed. But the reality is that - for now at least - they are a vital part of our waste management operation. Sutton, alongside our partner boroughs, are among the best recyclers in London. But we agree that more must be done.

There are only three ways to deal with residual (non-recyclable) waste - bury it, export it or burn it and use the energy created to feed the national grid. We have chosen to use the energy - even more vital as gas prices rise and families face rising fuel bills.

The electricity produced by the generator is exported to the National Grid to supply homes, schools, shops, businesses and industry across the country. The Beddington ERF produces around 26MW of electricity every year - enough to power the facility itself plus around 57,000 homes.

The Council is committed to improving the environment around the ERF and Beddington Farmlands is an important area for wildlife and is classified a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation and Metropolitan Open Land (equivalent of Green Belt within an urban area). The site is being restored into a mosaic of important habitats for wildlife ahead of the development of a flagship nature reserve. The restoration of habitats and public access is due to be completed by the end of 2023.