St Luke’s trainees visit incinerator

Trainees from St Luke’s CARES Retail and Warehouse course visited the Recycling and Energy Recovery Facility (RERF) on Friday 26 August 2022. Veolia’s RERF, situated in East Leeds, is a large wooden dome structure standing 42 metres high and 150 meters long and can be seen from various points in across Leeds.

This is a waste to energy facility which is turning household waste into low carbon electricity that is fed into the national grid powering up 22,000 homes. It also hosts tours to visitors from the city to look at the site for educational purposes. As part of our ongoing awareness around Reduce, Reuse and Recycle at St Luke’s CARES charity shop the site is an important place to visit for answers to ‘where does all our household waste go?’ and ‘how much does it recycle?’

Veolia’s state of the art facility separates and sorts recyclable materials including ferrous metals such as baked beans tins, and non-ferrous metals for example aluminium drinks and cans.

We all went to see the viewing platform where the crane grab that can carry up to six tonnes of rubbish lifts and manipulates rubbish together in a deep pit before going into the furnace. This is a powerful sight – just seeing the amount of rubbish that comes in every day. The incinerator burns 24 hours a day every day.

Business Support Co-ordinator Helen welcomes us and takes us through some green bin activities. We had fun working in two groups separating the of right type of plastic to recycle.

I asked Helen how the site worked over lockdown – she said:

“We got a lot more rubbish because people were staying at home and generating more rubbish. However, we have noticed people are recycling a lot more now too.”

Helen informed us about the direct heating system (Leeds PIPES) which is generated by the heat of the furnace which provides low carbon heat and hot water from a network of underground pipes to homes and businesses.

We also visited the largest single living wall in Europe which runs down one side of the building. This holds over 111,000 plants shrubs and grasses including marsh daisy, wall bellflower, hart’s tongue fern and Japanese barberry. The wall is also home to two Kestrels!

We left learning more about recycling and rubbish than we had before we came.

Here’s some of our volunteers feedback …

“Thank you for yesterday’s visit to Veolia it was both educative and informative.”

“I’m better informed about the green bin and my attitude has changed drastically since yesterday.”

“Intrigued to see how much we actually use.”

“Will definitely be applying my learning to how much I use.”

We walked away with new knowledge and the Leeds Bin App which is really handy as it tells you when your next bin collection day is! Thank you, Veolia.

If you know any community, school groups or individuals who would be interest in a tour please email