A first look at Edinburgh’s first multi-million pound energy saving waste plant
“Everyone is talking about recycling, but what we really need to be thinking about is how much waste is going to landfill.”
Those were the words of Paul Taylor, chief executive of FCC Environment, the team running Edinburgh’s first multi-million pound energy saving waste plant.
“Of course it’s important to recycle,” he continued.
“But it’s important to think about the material we can’t recycle.
“Well this plant helps solve that issue.”
Eco-giant Millerhill, in Whitehill Road, officially opened its doors to the public on Friday, the same day thousands took to the streets in Edinburgh for a climate change protest.
The £142m project is the result of a 25-year partnership between the City of Edinburgh Council, Midlothian Council and FCC Environment.
Its aim is to help Edinburgh, and eventually Scotland, reach its target of no landfill waste by 2025, and its zero waste goal by 2030.
“The councils in this case had the vision for the future,” Mr Taylor said.
“And look to where it has got to.”
The plant accepts truck loads of household waste, 24 hours a day, from the Edinburgh and Lothian areas.
The rubbish is then poured into a large indoor vatt where it is mixed together by large cranes controlled by staff in an overlooking control room.
The waste is then treated before being dumped into a giant furnace.
It is burnt down into ash, which is recycled and used for making building materials.
Any metal found left over is collected, recycled and sold.
Heat from the burning waste reaches a staggering 1000 C and is used to turn water into steam to drive a turbine.
This then generates electricity, which is then sold to the grid.
All of Millerhill’s electricity runs off the burning waste, which also supplies other buildings across the region.
“This treated waste is providing power to more than 30,000 homes and businesses across the Edinburgh and Lothian areas.
“155,000 tonnes of waste that used to go to landfill is now being used for green energy.
“It’s an incredible achievement, and something we should certainly use as a model for future projects.
Mr Taylor said he hopes to extend the plant’s uses to heating thousands of homes.
“We can hopefully divert some of that hot steam used to power the turbine into pipes that can heat peoples homes in the community.”
Julie Fourcade, Head of External Affairs at FCC Environment said the plant will not only have huge benefits for the environment, but also for the tax payer’s pocket.
“It costs money to bury waste,” she said.
“This will make a huge difference for tax payers because this waste is simply being turned into renewable energy.”
Councillor Cammy Day, Depute Leader of the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “This wonderful new facility is great news for Edinburgh – it will go a long way to help meet our Zero Waste target.
“The Scottish Government has a target for no more than five percent of waste being sent to landfill by 2025.
"Before this great new facility came on stream, Edinburgh and Midlothian councils sent about two thirds of our household waste to landfill. The capability of this new plant is astonishing.
“With over 150,000 tonnes of waste diverted from ending up in landfill, this will be the key aspect of being on track towards reaching the milestone Zero Waste target.”
Midlothian Council’s leader, Cllr Derek Milligan said: “I am delighted to see this flagship project taking off and ready to generate green energy from waste.
"It is crucial to transfer household and commercial waste to advanced facilities like this rather than discarding them in landfill.
"This forward-thinking site will benefit the local area in a number of ways from protecting the beautiful local landscape to providing green energy.”
Recent statistics published by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency showed waste going for landfill is decreasing across the country.
In 2017, Edinburgh was sending 113,237 tonnes to landfill, but in the last year it was down to 100,701 tonnes.
Construction at the brownfield site, formerly the Millerhill Marshalling Yard, began in October 2016 with the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) role delivered through a joint venture between FCC Medio Ambiente SA and Hitachi Zosen Inova (HZI).
The plant has been receiving residual waste for commissioning purposes since October 2018, entering into operation in April 2019.
The official opening event on Friday for the site bought the Partner Councils, FCC Environment and other key stakeholders together to celebrate the occasion.