Westminster City Council’s autumn leaf sweeping service will collect around 1,000 tonnes of leaves from the streets of Central London this autumn, with collected leaves being used to generate heat and energy for local homes.
Every autumn, the 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.
During this period, the authority hires an additional 11 agency staff and two extra collection vehicles 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 do not block drains and cause flooding.
The authority expects to collect around 1,000 tonnes of leaves this autumn, which is 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, enough energy to power an estimated five million hours of television or boil 5.3 million kettles.
Commenting, Westminster City Council’s Cabinet Member for City Management, Councillor James Spencer 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.”