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Growth in AD sector continues apace

Figures published by WRAP show a 34% year-on-year increase in the number of operational anaerobic digestion (AD) facilities set up in 2013.

Its annual UK AD industry survey found there were 117 operational AD sites in 2013 compared to 87 in the previous year.

Overall operating capacity has increased by 55%, from 2.07 to 3.20 million tonnes.

An analysis of the types of feedstock showed food and drink waste remains the largest single source. Separated solid food accounted for 38% and liquids 30%.

Food manufacturers and processors supplied the greatest volume of material, but material sourced from local authority collections increased by more than a third to 230,000 tonnes.

The figures also revealed:

  • 36% increase in employment in the AD sector to around 482 full-time-equivalents
  • 51% more organic material is being processed
  • four reportable accidents occurred at AD sites

Ian Wardle, head of organics and energy at WRAP, said: “Each year we are seeing the sector grow and this year’s data shows the AD industry is starting to make a marked contribution to the UK economy.

“Industry has always supported this survey and this year’s excellent response is testament to that.” 

But Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA) chief executive Charlotte Morton said the AD sector could grow even faster if more food waste was collected separately.

“The UK is already one of the European leaders on food waste AD facilities and technology, with over 80 plants in operation,” she said.

“But with only about 7% of our food waste recycled through AD the potential is far greater, and can only be delivered by government policy which supports segregated food waste collection schemes.

“If we were to recycle all the food waste which is unsuitable for consumption, the AD industry could be five times bigger than it is today. Overall we could generate enough green energy to meet over 10% of the UK’s domestic gas demand, reduce carbon emissions by 2%, recycle essential nutrients for food production and deliver new high value biotechnology products, such as biochemicals and bioplastics.”

The report was commissioned by WRAP in partnership with ADBA, the Renewable Energy Association’s Organics Recycling Group, and the Environmental Services Association.

Data collated by ADBA recently showed the volume of biomethane supplied to the national grid has quadrupled this year.

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