On the banks of the Thames in London, work is underway to divert non-recyclable waste from landfill and use it to generate low-carbon electricity for the UK. Behind it is Cory Group, one of the UK’s leading recycling and waste management companies.
The UK’s waste management policy framework is based on the waste hierarchy, which prioritises reducing the amount of waste produced by keeping materials in use for longer, through reuse, refurbishment, or recycling. But where these options are not possible, energy recovery is preferred over disposal in landfill due to its environmental impact1.
In a landfill, residual waste generates methane as it decomposes which has 80 times the planet-warming potential of carbon dioxide2. Incinerating such waste to produce energy has been shown to be considerably better for the environment3. Through the process of energy-from-waste (EfW), the heat derived from combusting waste is used to power a steam turbine to generate electricity.
Treating waste at scale
Cory has been operating its EfW facility in East London since 2011. The facility, named Riverside 1, is situated on the south bank of the River Thames – conveniently downstream of the heart of the city so that Cory’s fleet of tugs and barges can deliver waste via the river, avoiding further congestion on London’s roads. The second facility, Riverside 2, is under construction on the same site and scheduled to start operating in 2026.
“This facility is being built to deliver a world-class service for communities, businesses, and local authorities that really care about the environment,” says Dougie Sutherland, CEO of Cory Group, about Riverside 2.
The project will treat non-recyclable waste on a huge scale. Riverside 1 can already process up to 850,000 tonnes of waste a year, and with the addition of the c£900m Riverside 2 investment this is set to increase that to c1.5 million tonnes4. From 2026, Riverside 1 and 2 will process 1.5 million tonnes of waste per year, saving 300,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emission by diverting this waste from landfill, and generating enough electricity to power more than 300,000 homes.
HSBC helped finance Riverside 1 and provided a further £66 million for Riverside 2, which reached financial close in December 2022. More broadly, the bank has to date committed more than £400m in debt facilities to support UK customers involved in waste collection, management, recycling and energy recovery.