Waste management Veolia is to trial electric refuse collection vehicles which are powered by the rubbish that they collect.

The two-year trial in Sheffield in the UK will see two 26-tonne refuse lorries converted from diesel to electric power.

They are set to be charged using the electricity generated from the non-recyclable household waste that fuels the city’s Energy Recovery Facility, which generates electricity for the National Grid and heat for the city’s district heating network.

The lorries will be powerful enough to negotiate 25 per cent gradients on hills even when fully loaded, and are expected to be converted and operational by the end of the year. The project will also convert an additional two vehicles that will be used in trials in London.

The move follows Veolia’s recent introduction of electric street sweeping vehicles, which marked another first for the UK. The five new sweepers will save 78 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the environment each year.

Gary Clark, Veolia’s UK Fleet Director, said the refuse vehicle project “highlights Veolia’s strong commitment to clean air initiatives as we look to improve the environment in our cities. By recharging the vehicles from the Energy Recovery Facility, this approach also show how local authorities and the public sector can drive sustainability and use green energy to address their environmental challenges.”

The Energy Recovery Facility is a combined heat and power plant and also supplies heat and hot water to over 150 buildings including the town hall and the city’s Crucible Theatre and Weston Park Museum. Sheffield sends less than 1 per cent of its household waste to landfill – one of the lowest figures in the UK.