Treating our food waste
Burying food waste in landfill creates methane. This powerful greenhouse gas harms our environment.
Landfill, is no longer an option.
We have to start making the most of the food we throw away.
Food is a valuable resource
An estimated 400,000 tonnes of food is wasted every year by households in Wales. We need to manage this resource wisely.
From getting creative with our ‘left-overs’, to buying only as much food as we actually need, we can all make smart consumer choices that will reduce food waste while saving us money.
But some food waste is simply unavoidable. Peelings, plate scrapings, tea bags and bones are never going to be on the menu. So we also need to make the most of the food that ends up in our bin.
Sending the food we waste to landfill is a waste of natural resources and harms our environment.
With every local council in Wales now offering a separate food waste collection service, building new food waste treatment facilities will help us to recycle the food waste that is collected into renewable energy and rich compost.
Rather than harming our environment, these new facilities will us help to protect it.
“84 per cent of people think that using food waste to produce energy is a good idea” – Waste Awareness Wales
“over £600 million of good food and drink is wasted by Welsh consumers every year, that’s around £480 per household” – WRAP
The alternatives to landfill
Anaerobic Digestion takes our food waste, digests it, and turns it into energy.
Firstly, the food waste collected in your kitchen caddy is delivered to the facility. It is pre-sorted to remove any unwanted materials like plastic packaging that would otherwise contaminate the end products. The food waste is then fed into a digestion tank.
The digestion tank breaks down, or decomposes our food waste using naturally occurring micro-organisms. Any item of food will eventually decompose over time, Anaerobic Digestion simply speeds up this natural process.
Processing the food waste produces methane. However, rather than this gas being released into our atmosphere like it is when food rots in landfill, it is captured within the sealed environment of the digestion tank.
This gas is then used to power electricity generators.
Anaerobic Digestion turns our food waste into a source of renewable energy. Up to 90 percent of the energy generated by the process can be exported to the national grid or used locally. This means our food waste can be used to benefit local homes and businesses.
There is also a very useful by-product in the form of heat. About a third of this will be used to heat the plant itself, with the remainder often being used to heat nearby buildings. This makes the whole Anaerobic Digestion process almost entirely self sufficient in power and heat.
Finally, the process also produces a rich soil improver similar to compost. This can then be used in agriculture and reduces our reliance on artificial fertilisers which require huge amounts of energy to make. Anaerobic Digestion allows us to use food waste to return vital nutrients back to the land.
This safe, tried and tested technology has been used in the UK since the early 1800’s. Every Anaerobic Digestion facility will be closely monitored to ensure it meets strict environmental standards.
In short: food waste is used to generate renewable energy and high quality compost.
View our animation on the AD process:
To learn more about the reasons behind the need to recycle our food waste and why Wales is looking to use Anaerobic Digestion as an option to treat our food waste watch our film “Anaerobic Digestion, an alternative to landfill":
“4 out of 5 people are in favour of treating food waste using anaerobic digestion” – Waste Awareness Wales
“Anaerobic Digestion provides an important opportunity to generate 100 per cent renewable energy” – Friends of the Earth
AD facility at Westwood Northamptonshire
– image courtesy of Biogen UK Ltd.
In Vessel Composting (IVC) is a process that treats food waste and garden waste at the same time.
The food and garden waste that arrives at the facility it is shredded into smaller sized piece. Any contaminants such as plastic packaging or large stones are removed.
The IVC process takes place inside an enclosed tunnel building that is designed to speed up the natural composting process. This is achieved by pumping air into the waste while the temperature is closely monitored to ensure the waste stays at a minimum of 60°C for 2 days.
The In-Vessel process provides a simple way of turning our waste into high quality compost. The compost can be used for landscaping and reclamation schemes or used by local councils to improve local parks and gardens. Throughout the process, the facility will be closely monitored to ensure that it meets strict environmental standards.
In short: food waste is turned into high quality compost
“80 percent of people agree that building new waste treatment facilities will help us manage our waste in a greener way” – Recycle for Wales
South Mimms IVC facility
- image provided courtesy of Agrivert Ltd.