Westminster City Council’s autumn leaf sweeping service will collect around 1,000 tonnes of leaves from the streets of central London this autumn – collected leaves are then used to generate heat and energy for local homes.
Every autumn, Westminster Council expands its street cleaning service for several weeks to account for the significant quantity of leaves that are shed from the city’s 19,000 trees. The peak period of leaf fall normally occurs between 1 October and 30 November, triggered by a combination of high winds, rain, and frosts. The council hires an additional 11 agency staff and two extra collection vehicles during this period to support the street cleaning effort.
The council’s street cleaning teams also work closely with gully cleaners when there is heavy rainfall to ensure that leaves don’t block drains and cause flooding.
The council expects to collect around 1,000 tonnes of leaves this autumn – that’s about the same weight as a cargo ship, three Boeing 747s, or 72 Big Ben bells.
Due to the presence of heavy metals from traffic pollution, leaves collected in Westminster are unsuitable for composting. Leaves are therefore sent to the South East London Combined Heat and Power (SELCHP) Energy Recovery facility where they are used to generate energy for local homes.
1,000 tonnes of leaves can generate around 530,000 kilo watt hours of electricity. That is enough energy to power an estimated 5 million hours of television or boil 5.3 million kettles.
Councillor James Spencer, Cabinet Member for City Management, said:
“While leafy streets make our city very attractive, at this time of year a combination of falling leaves and wet weather can cause safety and drainage problems. That’s why we prioritise the sweeping of leaves at this time, ensuring that our road-users are kept safe and our drains are kept clear.
“Our excellent street cleaning teams will collect millions of leaves over the coming weeks, all of which can be used to generate power for our homes.”