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Our Sustainability Journey: Electrifying Westminster’s Waste Collection Fleet

Commercial Waste Services Westminster
Commercial Waste Services Westminster

As a city, Westminster was once responsible for one of the worst air pollution levels in Europe but a lot can change in 5 years…

A quiet revolution has been underway—one that holds the promise of a cleaner, fairer Westminster. This is the story of Westminster City Council Commercial Waste Services and its journey towards sustainability—from a single electric waste collection truck to a sustainable, industry-leading fleet.

September 2019 – The Beginnings

The journey commenced in September 2019, marking a pivotal moment as we introduced the UK’s very first fully electric collection truck. 

Despite the early stage of electric trucks, in both a commercial and technical sense, we were unwilling to wait for maturity before implementing this transformative technology. In partnership with Veolia, we decided to start retrofitting an existing collection truck and converting it into an electric powerhouse. This inaugural truck became the trailblazer, collecting waste and recycling throughout Westminster so that eventually we can use that waste to generate electricity. It marked the start of a unique local closed-loop waste management system – helping us to now live and breathe sustainability. 

With the help of the discarded materials from Westminster’s residents and businesses, we can now harness existing waste into fuel, producing low-carbon energy to power the very trucks collecting them.

November 2019 – Testing the Limits

At that time, only four of these pioneering models were undergoing testing. Two of them navigated the bustling urban landscape of Westminster, while the other pair confronted the challenges of Sheffield’s hilly terrain and greater distances between collection points. With winter on the horizon, it was the perfect time to test the limits of our creations. 

These trucks faced extreme conditions in order to test their adaptability across the UK. While they were still in their assessment stage, the vehicles were also receiving software upgrades to make them even more efficient, and even more sustainable.

July 2020 – Rigorous Trials

After 6 months, the second testing phase began and pushed the vehicles even further. This involved heftier cargo loads, evaluating charging capacity, extended driving distances, enduring drastic temperature fluctuations, and even conducting double shifts. These double shifts entailed collections from 06:00 to 14:00, a brief recharge at the depot for two to three hours, and then another eight-hour shift. 

The battery charge on the vehicles showed great resilience when faced with the drops in temperature over the previous winter, proving great vehicle reliability. Adding these extra layers of testing helped to prove the stability and credibility of the vehicles and showed that they could become a full replacement for their diesel counterparts.

Sustainability Journey - Infographic

March 2021 – Sustainable Pedal Power

Whilst testing and refining continued for the vehicles, we decided to branch out and invest in some sustainable pedal power.

We initiated trials of two electric pedal tricycles tailored for on-street waste collection. These electric vehicles, equipped with batteries to assist the rider in managing the tipping body tank’s added weight, transformed waste collection dynamics. Contrasting a conventional barrow with a 20kg capacity, the e-tricycle effortlessly accommodated up to 150kg. Their compact size facilitated access to pedestrian zones and confined spaces. 

The trial, spanning three months, deployed one e-tricycle in Victoria and another in the West End, offering a sustainable and efficient solution to street waste collection.

October 2021 – Electrifying the West End

Our partnership with Veolia continued and culminated in the unveiling of a remarkable fleet of 60 electric vehicles. These vehicles initiated street cleansing services in the West End, ushering in an era of sustainable operation and steering us towards carbon neutrality. 

The introduction of this fully electric fleet resulted in an astounding 89% reduction in CO2e emissions compared to their diesel counterparts. This alignment with Westminster City Council’s ambitious carbon net-zero target by 2030 signalled a resounding victory for sustainability. But we still had a way to go…

July 2023 – A Grand Finale

Westminster Council’s forward-thinking commitment materialised in a £20 million investment, with 45 new zero-emission trucks. This groundbreaking initiative promises to reduce vehicle noise, improve air quality, and provide a significant drop in carbon emissions. Embarking on the most extensive decarbonisation initiative of its kind by a UK local authority, Westminster is now gradually phasing out its 80-strong truck fleet. 

The introduction of these electric vehicles is complemented by a cutting-edge fully electric depot at Landmann Way, near Bermondsey. The trucks will recharge using electricity drawn from an adjacent energy recovery facility, effectively harnessing energy from the waste collected from Westminster’s homes and businesses. This trailblazing journey exemplifies our commitment to sustainability and sets a precedent for other municipalities to follow.

As we reflect on our journey towards a greener and fairer future, the heart of our efforts beats with the same message as it did in 2019: sustainability isn’t a choice, it’s an imperative. This isn’t just about waste collection; it’s a testament to the power of innovation, collaboration, and the impact that we can all have when taking a sustainable approach. 

So, as we turn the page on this chapter of our journey, we encourage businesses in Westminster to consider not only the sustainability of your waste collectors but also how can you integrate closed-loop solutions into your businesses. We’re always happy to help, so get in touch if you’d like advice on where to begin.

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