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Did McDonald’s give Sheffield’s incinerator indigestion?

Sheffield incinerator operator Veolia has been forced to seek household waste from further afield after shortfalls in waste arising combined with increased reliance on trade waste resulted in what Veolia describe as “notable inefficiencies to the energy generating process”. Veolia has applied for planning permission to import 75,000 tonnes of extra household waste a year from Barnsley, Doncaster and Chesterfield.

Veolia’s admission calls into question any incinerator operators’ ability to rely on topping up with commercial and industrial waste. As householders continue to reduce, reuse and recycle, an increasing number of incinerator operators appear to be chasing a diminishing quantity of household waste.

In a letter to Sheffield City Council, dated 13th May 2008, Veolia’s consultants RPS state that: “…it is evident that waste arisings have not grown as quickly as was assumed [in 2002]…Recycling rates have exceeded projections…”.

The McDonald’s connection was introduced when in 2007 the multi-national fast food retailer struck a deal with Veolia to incinerate waste from eleven McDonald’s outlets in Sheffield, Rotherham and Barnsley. Could it have been the high-calorie polystyrene and fatty food waste that caused problems for the Sheffield incinerator? Has the composition of Sheffield’s trade waste changed as a result of the deal? Apparently so!

Sheffield City Council Planners asked Veolia to explain why in 2002 Veolia argued that a projected 80,000 tonne per annum shortfall could be filled with commercial waste, when now “it is now being argued that this level of commercial waste is a problem”. RPS replied: “The composition [of] commercial wastes today do not reflect the circumstances which prevailed in 2001”.

Local campaigners South Yorkshire Against Incineration (SAI), along with Sheffield Green Party activists, are gearing up to oppose Veolia’s application. Watch this space! Or even better, contact the UKWIN Coordinator to find out how you can help this campaign.


  1. Lorraine Dowen

    I feel really proud of the people of Sheffield, who, despite the best efforts of their so called leaders and waste operators, are still managing to reduce their waste enough to make a difference. Lots of Sheffield folk must be reducing re-using and struggling to recycling bring sites. I look forward to a day when this social heroism is acknowledged rather than it being just another inconvenient truth for Waste PFI defenders to moan about.

    Two of my children are in the process of moving to Sheffield and are distressed at the lack of kerbside recycling. They are already resigned to bringing stuff home to Notts to go in our recycling bin. Veolia’s Notts Municipal sorting facility is being built five minutes away from my kerb so I guess the miles travelled ain’t so bad.

    I knew McDonald’s must be good for something, but am amazed to find it is helping us fight incineration…I guess what Veolia could do with is a contract with a porridge oats factory for a slower burn.

    keep on keeping on Sheffield

  2. BillHindmarsh

    The last ‘dash to burn’, with associated Toxic Waste scandals and Wath ‘Recycling’ was proven to be dangerous, unnecessary and of dubious benefit to anyone ~ other than profiteers. Today with improved recycling and production methods, and the increasing value to recycling scarce resources ~ even plastics, there is no need whatsoever to build monster carbon footprint enlarging, health and environment degrading incinerators and chimneys. TOXIC WASTE OUT

  3. Barry Robinson

    You don’t want me to talk about Sheffield. You want me to talk about Hull City, and East Riding, councils’ efforts to turn this green and pleasant land into a cess pit for our childrens’ children to bathe in.
    Here in the east, we still stoically put up with the stomach-churning stench from Yorkshire Water’s sewage works. The annoying bit is that a vast amount of the muck comes from the posh folk on the west side. Ah well, that’s what being NIMBIES is all about. If you’re posh, you eat ’til you bust. Then you pass your droppings to the peasants.
    In an interesting development, Hull City, & East Riding, councils have withdrawn their bid for PFI funding to build the Saltend incinerator. In fact, HOTI put the wind up them by showing it was probably illegal. Unfortunately the two councils have possibly wasted about £2 miillion in the process.
    I have complained to ERYC about the possibility that officers acted against the financial best interests of ERYC.
    We inspected the annual accounts of ERYC in August, and found that WRG may have been overcharging for handling our MSW to the tune of between £1 miliom and £2 million a year.

    I blieve that the councils are witholding about £3 million from WRG because WRG are not achiweving targets for diverting waste from landfill.

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