Beddington incinerator not hot enough to handle clinical waste

The Beddington Lane incinerator, which Inside Croydon revealed this week was mixing clinical waste with domestic refuse in a tipping hall which was overflowing with bin bags, has been accused of breaking further rules intended to protect the environment and the public’s health.

Clinical waste is mixed with domestic refuse in the Beddington tipping hall. Clinical waste requires higher temperatures for safe disposal

The incinerator, built at a cost of £205million, is operated by Viridor, who receive £40million a year from the South London Waste Partnership to burn the rubbish generated by the boroughs of Croydon, Sutton, Merton and Kingston.

The photographs published by Inside Croydon this week from inside the tipping hall clearly show bright yellow clinical waste sacks mixed with the domestic rubbish.

According to a source close to the Beddington incinerator, the plant burns at 850-degree celsius, which is below what is required for disposing of clinical waste. An incineration plant at Slough which handles clinical waste operated at 1,100 degrees.

Waste management companies can make hugely increased profits from taking and disposing of clinical waste: as much as £6,500 per tonne.

The most recent monthly emissions data for Beddington, covering September, shows that the incinerator suffered a number of “mechanical issues” last month.

This shows how the sorting hall should look, with the hall floor clear of waste sacks

Today, specialist publication ENDS Waste and Bioenergy quoted a Viridor spokesperson trying to explain away the overflowing rubbish in the hall: “To ensure this consistent supply of material is available to the plant throughout the week and at the weekend, when there are very few deliveries to the [plant], it is usual for the non-recyclable waste to be stacked up in the bunker and tipping hall chutes.

“There is no manual handling of waste within the tipping hall. It is either directly discharged into the bunker or transferred into the bunker using a loading shovel. All waste in the tipping hall and bunker is processed at the facility, allowing the plant to operate at maximum efficiency and leaving it ready for the next round of household waste deliveries.

“This practice is in line with Beddington’s environmental permit. This requires compliance with the requirements of all necessary standards protecting health and the environment.”

And this is how the hall looks, with overflowing waste bags. Viridor claims that this is all normal

Local environmental campaigners remain unconvinced, and have lodged formal complaints about the state of the plant with the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive.

Viridor’s spokesperson has tried to claim that the clinical waste bags had been received “from care homes and children’s nurseries”, according to ENDS.

“This material is classed as ‘offensive waste’ and includes nappies and sanitary products,” ENDS reports.

“This waste comes to Beddington in yellow bags and is also covered in Viridor’s environmental permit.

“It excludes waste associated with medical procedures which is sent to other appropriately licensed facilities,” the ENDS report states.


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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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3 Responses to Beddington incinerator not hot enough to handle clinical waste

  1. Lewis White says:

    Nappies and waste from care homes? This type of waste is going to include a lot of damp items, which do not burn readily. Is there not a distinct danger that the already low operating tempertaure of Beddington will be dragged down below safe levels by this type of waste ?

    This type of waste will damp down and cool down the burning chamber/ furnace, and may stop the waste burning hot enough to destroy the waste quickly. Low temperature combustion results in more air pollution going up the chimney ?…. which will be smelled and breathed in by people living working or travelling through the areas down wind of the plant.

    According to one independent (non-industry) source I read on the internet, Waste to be incinerated must have a Moisture content below 30%.

    Did the South London Waste Partnership know what is needed to ensure proper incineration, and set the specification for the burning temperatures at the plant? Or did they accept what Viridor said they would achieve? Did the Environment Agency advise?

    Sampling of the waste to assess average moisture content would be vey difficult, and would involve testing on random but representative samples, every day, every night, prior to burning. Is anyone doing that, recording and analysing the results?

    My guess is that the procedure is that a pile of bags from the yellow bagged heaps is grabbed by the machine bucket, and then dumped into the burners by the big loader machines that whizz around the loading hall, with a bucket of black bags (probably containing rubbish that is a tad drier) thrown in next, with the hope that the equal mix of black and yellow bags will burn at or above the minimum temperature, and that the plastic around each bag will add enough flame to fire to burn the contents properly, quickly and to achieve the minimum temperature.

    It seems that Incineration is here to stay unless and until other processes come along that are less polluting. Is the UK government paying anyone to research this? Magic wands do not destroy waste, nor Covid.

    So many questions, but surely one more is pertinent? Is it not true, that one of the core functions of Government to protect the health of the people?

    Answers please, on biodegradeable, organically grown rice paper.

    • Bob says:

      The temperatures are closely monitored and recorded for inspection by the regulatory authorities. They cannot hide these figures.

      As for Covid….It is destroyed through alternative treatment at 121C…That’s orange bag waste.

  2. Mark Murphy says:

    The black striped bags will be nappy, incontinence and sanitary waste but plain yellow bags are usually incineration clinical waste bags.

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