Veolia has rejected claims that recycling from Sheffield household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) is being sent to its energy-from waste (EfW) facility in the city.
The GMB union said an email it had obtained from Veolia’s commercial manager John Gummerson proved that “residents are being misled as to where their recycling is going”.
The email, from earlier this year, refers to HWRC wasteflow data covering 2011. Gummerson stated: “The graphs demonstrate that increasing ERF [energy recovery facility] diversion tonnes every year for each site contributed directly to the year on year reduction to the recycling rate.”
The union said Veolia appeared to have made a decision to divert recycling because its EfW plant had “struggled to get fuel”, and quotes reports that the operator sought permission in 2011 to increase the intake of household waste because of a shortfall.
The GMB is in dispute with Veolia as its members receive a bonus based on Sheffield City Council’s recycling rate, which dropped from 30% in 2014-15 to 28.9% in 2015-16.
Senior organiser Peter Davies said: “Veolia appears to be burning things that could be recycled, adding to pollution and avoiding paying our members any bonus at the same time.”
But Philip Gilmour, north regional director for Veolia UK, said the union’s claims were “false and entirely incorrect”, and the company had not instructed any of the Sheffield HWRC contractors to dispose of recyclable materials.
“I have reviewed the ‘leaked’ email that the GMB references, too, and there is no such instruction in that email either. I have asked the union to clarify this as a matter of urgency,” he said.
“The HWRC service in Sheffield is geared towards high levels of recycling, and there have always been recycling targets that the service providers are targeted to achieve. This year’s recycling rate from our HWRCs is already 2% above last year’s impressive achievement and we would like to thank residents for their continued efforts to support recycling in Sheffield.
“As always we welcome the opportunity to have a conversation with the GMB to clarify this matter.”
Veolia currently runs the 225,000-tonne EfW plant in the city through its subsidiary Sheffield Environmental Services. The plant provides a district heat network to more than 150 city centre buildings.
Defra figures show that the tonnage of household recycling in Sheffield declined last year, as did the amount sent to landfill. The tonnage of waste sent to incineration grew from 125,424 tonnes in 2014-15 to 133,844 tonnes in 2015-16.
Earlier this year, Sheffield City Council announced it was prematurely ending its 35-year waste contract with Veolia, revealing a preference to split up the services through reprocurement.