South West Devon Waste Partnership - Energy from Waste Project

In late April 2015 the new Energy from Waste plant in Devonport was certified ready and the SWDWP Partners (Devon, Torbay and Plymouth Councils) transitioned seamlessly from landfill disposal to the plant. Following a successful commissioning period the plant became fully operational in September 2015.


The project has been acknowledged by various industry associations throughout its various phases. Having already won 7 awards during construction, the project has received further nominations and won 2 of these in the first year of Service Commencement.

Best National Public Sector Award for Decentralised Energy
Awarded by the Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE), this award relates to the highly efficient and effective use of the heat and electrical energy produced by MVV at Devonport Dockyard.

Best Market Development Award in Europe for Combined Heat and Power
Awarded by Cogeneration Europe (COGEN), this award relates to MVV’s work to promote and significantly improve the market for heat and power generation via Devonport Dockyard.


  • The Partnership delivered a total of 154,000 tonnes of waste and with this MVV achieved a 99.99% diversion from landfill exceeding their target of 97%. This is equivalent to over 10,000 refuse collection vehicles being buried into the ground if it had gone to landfill.
  • The plant is exceptionally efficient at recovering energy, achieving 49.7% net efficiency which exceeds MVV’s expectation of 48.8%. This means half of all the energy in the waste delivered is successfully recovered and gainfully used. To give an idea and to show how beneficial even a small increase can be, the additional 1% could provide energy for up to 370 homes for the entire year.
  • When compared to landfill, the plant achieved carbon savings of more than 76,000tCO²/year which is over 3,000tCO²/year more than expected. This is equivalent to taking 29,000 cars off the road and would be like removing all the cars from the towns of Tavistock and Newton Abbott.
  • The Visitor Centre at the EfW has received regular visits and positive feedback from local schools, community groups and technical groups from across the Partnership boundary.

Cost Benefits

  • The estimated financial benefits from the project have proved accurate with actual costs being under half the cost of landfill thereby providing significant benefits to the Partnership Councils and charge payers of Torbay, Devon and Plymouth.
  • Defra’s support for the project via the Waste Infrastructure Grant contributed over £6.8m towards the Partnership costs in 2015/16 although this grant links to the Partnership’s commitment to push and increase recycling in the Partnership area.
  • Additional savings were also made in this first year due to the plant undergoing commissioning which was slightly cheaper.
  • A total saving of £13.4m was made across the South West Devon Waste Partnership when considered against land-filling the waste.

Areas to improve

Whilst the project has exceeded in several aspects there are still areas for improvement.


The first year highlighted several issues relating to odour control outside of the site boundary, in the summer months in particular, which resulted in complaints from local residents, attention from local media on occasions and compliance assessments from the Environment Agency which brought about subsequent actions. MVV have acknowledged there is a problem that needs to be resolved and are undertaking a series of ongoing measures to overcome this which the Partnership is monitoring closely.


It is important to note that while the plant is performing to a high level, this should be seen as a last resort after all efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle have been exhausted. Recycling will always be a high priority to the three councils of the South West Devon Waste Partnership throughout the life of the project, with each Authority seeking to improve recycling rates year on year and fulfil its commitments to Defra to maintain the support grant. The Partnership and MVV continue to work together on the education aspect of the project with a common objective to encourage the use and understanding of the Waste Hierarchy, which ranks waste management options according to what is best for the environment.

The Waste Hierarchy

  • Reduce lowering the amount of waste produced.
  • Re-use using materials repeatedly.
  • Recycle using materials to make new products.
  • Recovery recovering energy from waste.
  • Disposal safe disposal of waste to landfill.

Visit Recycle Devon Opens in a new window for more information on reducing, reusing and recycling waste.