Suffolk Waste Incineration
GREAT BLAKENHAM – 7th February
A wet and overcast Tuesday found a group of fifteen voluntary Debenham litter pickers and Debenham Project lunch club members, visiting the S.U.E.Z waste incineration unit at Great Blakenham. Not a very promising morning out on such a day but for anyone with an enquiring mind, it was a really interesting, informative and enlightening experience.
Designed by Grimshaw , world renowned architects of Cornish Eden Project fame, the buildings are ‘state of the art’ with clean, crisp lines and neutral colours, all very effectively landscaped into the site which includes a rainwater collection lake, wildlife meadow and copse. Group members commented that the external appearance and internal administrative area could have been a new hospital, school or company headquarters.
All this aside; the key thing is what it does. Amazingly, it takes all the household waste from Suffolk and some from Norfolk and incinerates it, leaving nothing but unburned metal, ash and a lot of heat. No rubbish is sent to landfill.
Now for the technical bit. The recovered metal is sold on as scrap and ash is graded and used in the production of building blocks or as an aggregate component in road construction. Heat from combustion is reclaimed to generate steam, powering a turbine producing 23 Mw of electricity. 3 Mw are retained to power the site and combustion blowers and 20 Mw are fed into the National Grid – enough to power around 20,000 homes. The only fuel added is to start combustion after an incinerator shut down (usually half yearly for maintenance or if oversize metal or wood is irresponsibly included by householders). Waste arriving at the plant is mixed in a huge silo to ensure the burn is totally even. Combustion happens on a moving ‘staircase’ bed, ensuring everything is fully incinerated. All exhaust gases are ‘scrubbed’ to remove harmful emissions and dust.
Whilst the unit comfortably occupies its site externally, it is huge inside. After being equipped with high-viz jackets, hard hats, safety glasses and an audio aid for communication we traversed over three hundred industrial metal grid steps. The size of the main incinerator hall and industrial scale and layout of the machines, pipework and ducting were awesome. It all gave us plenty to think about, if only to carefully follow the guidelines of what we should put in our household waste bins and impress us to see such a ‘Green’ industrial operation.
Thanks go to Joy Walton for organising an interesting visit and toEmily Pike and her colleagues at S.U.E.Z for talking us through the whole process and conducting the tour.