Beddington Lane power plant: ‘Filthy and inefficient’

Artistic illustration of the proposed plant.
An artistic illustration of the proposed plant. Pic: SUEZ

A plan to process food waste to generate energy has been described as “filthy and inefficient” by the London Assembly Candidate for Sutton and Croydon Green Party. 

The plan to build an anaerobic digestion facility on Beddington Lane has been submitted to Sutton Council. If this plan is followed through, the air quality of Croydon – one of the most densly populated areas in London – will be directly affected by the fumes produced by the power plant 

Anaerobic digestion involves microorganisms breaking down organic waste, such as food scraps and manure, without using any oxygen.

This process produces biomethane, 95% of which “would be injected into the local gas grid to replace natural fossil gas”, according to SUEZ Recycling and Recovery UK – the company that submitted the proposal which is under review by Sutton Council.

Compared to disposing of food waste via landfill, this form of capturing methane has a lower environmental impact. However, during the methane burning phase, it still produces air pollutants, including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide. 

The plan is to build a power plant that would turn food waste from homes and larger businesses into sustainable energy, and provide renewable gas for around 8,000 houses.  

‘Wrong direction’

This plan has been heavily criticised by the Green Party.  

It has been suggested that the intentions of the project are not rooted in green initiatives. 

Peter Underwood, London Assembly Candidate for Sutton and Croydon Green Party said Anaerobic digestion is better than sending food waste to landfills but it is “looking at the issue of waste from the wrong direction”.

Underwood told Eastlondonlines: “Burning things is a filthy and inefficient way to produce energy and the focus should be on waste reduction, which saves money for individuals and the Council. 

“The waste plants on Beddington Lane are tying Councils (including Croydon) into long-term contracts to guarantee high levels of waste – penalising Councils who do the right thing in trying to reduce waste. We need to be very clear that the plans for turning our food waste into the same gas we get from fossil fuels is about producing big profits for private companies, not dealing with the waste problem in an effective or sensible way.”

Underwood explained how Croydon and Sutton councils are being tied into a contract providing guaranteed food waste levels for the next 25 years. Croydon and Sutton Council are unlikely to be able to maintain these levels, meaning they will have to be transporting waste from wider areas of South London. Traffic levels in Croydon will increase as a result, as lorries will be constantly on the move, transporting high levels of food waste through the borough.  

SUEZ, however, said they had a contract with the South London Waste Partnership for food waste but there was no guaranteed tonnage and that it was not for 25 years.

‘The poorest air quality’

Underwood has also explained how the wind direction in the UK, in relation to this power plant, will cause specific problems for Croydon residents.

He said: “The predominant wind direction in this country is from the South West so that blows towards the North East. All the fumes from the incinerator will blow straight over Croydon. We are down wind of a lot of the stuff that comes out of that whole complex.”  

“The people in Croydon will be suffering from the poorest air quality from all of the emissions that come out of that sight.” 

Without strict odour control, nearby areas are often affected by a strong unpleasant smell. Past examples prove that these controls have not been a number one priority for developers and residents of Croydon could well fall victim to this.

100,000 tonnes of food wastes

SUEZ Recycling and Recovery UK – the company that submitted the proposal to build the power plant – is still waiting for Sutton Council’s approval on their plan.

If they are given the go-ahead, the building will start later this year. The project will provide around 40 temporary jobs for construction workers and 21 permanent jobs once the facility runs at the end of 2025.  

SUEZ Recycling and Recovery UK has said in a press release on their website: “The proposed facility would help to ensure that food waste from homes and businesses is processed in the most environmentally friendly way possible.”  

 Tim Hughes, Project Development Manager at SUEZ recycling and recovery UK said in a press release: “We have now submitted our plans for a new anaerobic digestion facility to help create renewable energy and deal with up to 100,000 tonnes a year of food waste from homes and businesses in London. 

“We need alternative renewable energy sources to help respond to the climate emergency and rising energy costs and anaerobic digestion is an excellent way to generate energy through the recycling of food waste. 

“We believe this is a suitable location as the site is already earmarked for a waste treatment facility, with planning permission for a different type of waste facility that would deal with over three times more waste than we are now proposing to manage here with this new proposed scheme.” 

Corrections: The story was edited on February 29 as “Beddington Lane” was referred to as “Bedding Lane” in the headline in the first version. Some specific details have been added to accurately reflect the future operations of the facility proposed by SUEZ Recycling and Recovery UK. Some generic information about anaerobic digestion has been removed because it does not apply to this particular project while details provided by SUEZ have been added.

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