Alternatives to sending waste to landfill has been a hot topic in recent months, as the question of what to do with significant levels of food waste becomes an increasingly challenging problem – this is a key issue for Beacon customers and suppliers…
This week, two counties within the UK have favoured anaerobic digestion (AD) as their waste disposal method of choice. The Caterer reports that both Essex County Council and County Durham have opted for AD as a major means of disposing of their commercial food waste. This comes as part of a commitment to adopting more sustainable disposal methods and creating more ecologically-friendly fertiliser, energy and heat.
Essex Country Council has signed a £1.7m deal with Tamar Energy that will see it manage more than 54,000 tonnes of local food and garden waste via its composting and AD plant network.
A new Essex plant is expected to be completed by mid-2014, which will aim to process more than 7,000 extra tonnes a year. This is intended to help the council maintain and improve its existing waste collection goals and also create bio-fertiliser and green energy for local farms and homes.
In Durham, an £8m AD plant, from agriculture company Emerald Biogas and land management firm Agricore, has opened, with an aim to process over 50,000 tonnes of the region’s restaurant and caterer food waste. It is expected that this will generate enough energy for around 2,000 local homes a year, provide farmers with sustainable fertiliser and save thousands of tonnes from landfill.
Speaking about the new Durham plant, waste minister Dan Rogerson MP said: “Dealing with waste properly not only benefits the environment but will also help create jobs and build a stronger economy.”
Both regions’ AD plants will provide energy to the national grid.
So what is anaerobic digestion?
Anaerobic digestion (AD) is a series of natural biological processes whereby organic waste material – known as feedstock – is broken down by micro-organisms and converted into energy, known as biogas (a mixture of carbon dioxide and methane). The biogas is used in a combined heat and power plant or cleansed of carbon dioxide and injected into the National Grid.
It is also estimated by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) to cost £40 less per tonne to process than more traditional methods.