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Bristol’s first food waste recycling plant that will produce enough renewable energy to power around 3,000 homes has officially been opened today (3 Dec) by Defra minister David Heath.
The plant operated by Wessex Water subsidiary GENeco will treat 40,000 tonnes food waste from homes, supermarkets and businesses across the south west – preventing it from going to landfill.
Based at Bristol sewage treatment works in Avonmouth, the plant can produce 10 GWh of energy a year from biogas generated through anaerobic digestion treatment – a process in which bugs break down biodegradable material to produce methane gas.
David Heath, Minister of State for Agriculture and Food, Defra, said:
We see here the ideal balance between good business sense and environmental protection. The GENeco plant is unique by being the first food waste anaerobic plant in Britain to be built in a sewage treatment works. Water companies using their expertise in treating sewage can provide a significant boost to the expansion of waste food anaerobic digestion in this country.
This could potentially create thousands of new jobs, generate significant amounts of renewable energy, while solving a major environmental issue in the disposal of waste food.
Wessex Water has operated anaerobic digestion at Bristol sewage treatment works for many years and generates around 30 GWh of renewable energy from sewage sludge and produces 250,000 tonnes of high-nutrient fertiliser which is used by farmers instead of expensive in-organic fertilisers.
The amount of energy produced allows Bristol sewage treatment works – the largest in the south west – to be carbon neutral and self-sufficient from an energy perspective, which helps to drive down operating costs – benefiting Wessex Water customers.
The GENeco food waste investment will produce even more energy which can be fed in to the national grid.
Mohammed Saddiq, general manager, GENeco said:
The opening of the food waste plant builds on the success and experience of using anaerobic digestion to treat sewage sludge and generate power.
Through this investment we will produce significantly more renewable energy, while also providing a sustainable solution for dealing with food waste which traditionally goes to landfill.
Dealing with food waste in the this way is better for the environment as it prevents greenhouse gases, by capturing methane which can be used to produce power.
It is the first time a food waste plant has been located at a sewage treatment works in the UK. The plant was built in less than a year and local companies and organisations have contracted to use the facility.
Colin Skellett, chairman, Wessex Water, said:
Anaerobic digestion of sewage sludge is an important part of turning waste material into useful by-products.
We are building anaerobic digestion plants at other sites in our region due to the environmental benefits they offer and because they help tackle the problem of growing electricity and waste disposal costs.
GENeco provides the opportunity to extend this to food waste so that what we all produce – whether in the form of sewage or food – is being put to good use and helping to generate renewable energy.
Bristol treatment works treats waste from around 1 million people living in Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset.
Charlotte Morton, chief executive, The Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association said:
This is an excellent example of the entrepreneurial potential of the UK’s water sector, demonstrating just how much can be produced from our waste food through anaerobic digestion, not only helping Wessex Water to significantly reduce its carbon footprint but also making a valuable contribution to improving the UK’s energy and food security.
ADBA looks forward to seeing many more businesses across a variety of sectors following the lead of GENeco and Wessex Water in improving the sustainability of their operations whilst making the most from their food waste through anaerobic digestion.
AD has the potential to deliver 10% of the UK’s domestic gas demand, with remarkably 60% of this coming from the food waste we have historically sent to landfill.
It is projects like these that will help to build the UK’s reputation as a world leader in the digestion of food waste – and what’s particularly exciting is that we can all help in this by supporting separate food waste collections.