How does the technology work?

Energy recovery is a safe, clean and modern process that already operates at over 50 sites across the UK. You can view a map of where other Energy Recovery Facilities are located in the UK, here.

The process uses non-recyclable waste that has already had the recyclable material removed at source and treats it at high temperatures in carefully controlled conditions to create high pressure steam. The steam drives turbines to create electricity.

This process also creates useful by-products that can be re-used and recycled. This means 100 per cent of the waste input is diverted away from landfill. This includes ash, which is used in construction, and metals, which are removed and recycled. The facility also produces heat, which could be piped to nearby homes and businesses to be used.

Information from other ERFs

For further information on how energy recovery facilities work, you can visit Viridor’s virtual visitor centre. Ford ERF is proposing to use similar technology.

Visit Viridor’s Virtual Visitor Centre
How the Ford ERF would work.

Managing air quality

Ensuring what comes out of the stacks (chimney) is compliant

An essential part of turning waste into energy is combustion. When waste is combusted (burnt), it produces gases (emissions) which, if left untreated, have the potential to be harmful to the environment and human health. That is why it’s not advisable to burn rubbish in your back garden. It’s also why one third of the proposed Ford ERF will be dedicated to cleaning these gases to ensure that what’s released into the atmosphere (via the flue stack, or ‘chimney’) is safe and will not harm the local environment or the health of local people.

Monitoring emissions

Emissions from the proposed Ford ERF will be monitored every 10 seconds, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We’ll record raw data that will be used to create averages. Samples will be taken from the gases in the flue stack. The results will be fed back to the ERF control room, so any potential issues are known about immediately and appropriate action can be taken.


The emissions from the proposed Ford ERF will be closely monitored by the Environment Agency, who set strict limits (based on half hourly and daily averages) for different types of emissions (see below). If any of these limits are breached, we must inform the Environment Agency within 24 hours. We will also be required to submit quarterly emissions monitoring reports to the Environment Agency. In the event of issues or problems, the Environment Agency has a range of powers at its disposal, up to and including revoking a facility’s Environmental Permit and prevent it from operating.

The proposed Ford ERF has been designed to operate at the very highest international standards and under normal operating conditions, emissions are well below the limits set by the Environment Agency.

Providing local people with reassurance

Grundon Waste Management and Viridor recognise that the safety of the facility is a very important issue for people who live in Ford and the surrounding areas.

To provide reassurance that the facility is safe and does not pose a threat to human health or the local environment, we will make emissions monitoring reports available for anyone to view.

What emissions are monitored?

The following emissions will be monitored on a continuous basis at the proposed Ford ERF as they are all a product of the combustion process:

  • Dust (Particulates) - Particulate Matter is generally categorised on the basis of the size of the particles. It is made up of a wide range of materials and can arise from a variety of sources. Particulate Matter derives from both human-made and natural sources, such as sea spray, Saharan dust and volcanic eruptions. In the UK one of the biggest human-made sources of particulate matter is transport.
  • Total Organic Carbon - Total Organic Carbon is part of a group of liquids and gases often called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Many industrial processes emit VOCs including printing, surface coating and painting, however, households and road transport also contribute a substantial fraction.
  • Hydrogen Chloride (HCl) - At room temperature, Hydrogen Chloride exists as either a colourless or slightly yellow gas. The main source of Hydrogen Chloride is old coal burning power stations.
  • Carbon Monoxide (CO) - Carbon Monoxide is formed from incomplete combustion of carbon-containing fuels. The largest source is from road transport; older vehicles which do not have catalytic convertors produce significant amounts with newer cars producing very little.
  • Sulphur Dioxide (SO2)- UK emissions are dominated by combustion of fuels containing Sulphur, such as coal and heavy oils by power stations and refineries. In some parts of the UK, notably Northern Ireland, coal for domestic use is a significant source.
  • Oxides of Nitrogen - All combustion processes in air produce oxides of nitrogen (NOx). Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and nitric oxide (NO) are both oxides of nitrogen and together are referred to as NOx Road transport is the main source, but this can also be formed in lightning storms and from natural breakdown processes in soil and water.

Ensuring measurements are accurate

It is vital that the specialist equipment taking gas samples from the flue stack of the proposed Ford ERF will be operating correctly and taking accurate measurements. To make sure this is the case, the Environment Agency ensures the equipment is put through a rigorous three-stage testing and quality assurance process:

  • Firstly, the monitoring equipment must meet the rigorous performance requirements of, and be evaluated under, the Environment Agency’s Monitoring Certification Scheme (MCERTS).
  • The second level of quality assurance calibrates the instruments. An independent and accredited test house carries out a full calibration every three to five years. In addition, each year an independent accredited test house undertakes an Annual Surveillance Test to ensure that the calibration remains valid.
  • Finally, we will berequired to regularly measure the drift of the monitoring equipment using a specified gas of known composition and take action to restore calibration if significant drift is detected.

More information

Public Health England’s (PHE) publication on the health impacts of ERFs stated that - “We found no evidence that exposure to PM10 from, or living near to, an ERF operating to current EU standards was associated with harm for any of the outcomes investigated.”

PHE has also published the following statement on the health impact of waste incineration: “Modern, well managed incinerators make only a small contribution to local concentrations of air pollutants. It is possible that such small additions could have an impact on health but such effects, if they exist, are likely to be very small and not detectable."

During the planning and permitting process for the Ford ERF, we will conduct a comprehensive environmental impact assessment which will include a number of air and ground quality measurements that will be carried out in the locality of the Ford ERF site. This will include detailed modelling of the potential impacts of the proposed Ford ERF on its surroundings.