Skip to main content

Council’s autumn leaves sweep up will generate enough electricity to boil more than 5 million kettles

Leaves swept into a pile beside a broom

This autumn, Westminster Council has extended its street cleaning service once again to accommodate the substantial leaf fall from the city's 19,000 trees. The peak period of leaf fall typically spans from October 1 to November 30, influenced by strong winds, rainfall, and freezing temperatures. 


The council anticipates gathering approximately 1,000 tonnes of leaves, equivalent to around 200,000 bags, this autumn. This quantity is comparable to the weight of a cargo ship, nine adult blue whales, or 148 elephants. Approximately 1,000 tonnes of leaves can generate 530,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity, enough to power an estimated five million hours of television or boil 5.3 million kettles. 


Due to the presence of heavy metals resulting from traffic pollution, leaves collected in Westminster cannot be used for composting. Consequently, the leaves are transported to the South East London Combined Heat and Power (SELCHP) Energy Recovery facility, where they contribute to generating energy for local homes. 


During this period, Westminster is employing 11 additional agency staff and utilizing two extra collection vehicles to bolster the street cleaning endeavour. Street cleaning teams are collaborating closely with gully cleaners to prevent leaves from obstructing drains and potentially causing localised flooding.


Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg, Westminster City Council Cabinet Member for City Management and Air Quality said:

“Autumn leaves fill our streets with colour, but they make our pavements slippery and pose a flood risk by blocking drains. Our street cleaning teams are working hard to prioritise leaf sweeping to keep our streets free from hazards for residents and visitors.”

Helder Branco, General Manager for Veolia Westminster, said:

"We are proud to play a crucial role in Westminster Council's autumn leaf clean-up initiative. Our commitment to ecological transformation drives us to find creative solutions, and I am excited to witness the implementation of sustainable energy solutions such as our electric vacuums which reduce noise and increase efficiency to address the challenges posed by the annual leaf fall."

Published: 1 December 2023