Defra minister David Heath has called on more water companies to develop anaerobic digestion (AD) plants after the UK’s first food waste facility in a sewage treatment works opened in Bristol.
Heath launched the facility at Wessex Water’s treatment works in Avonmouth which will be used to treat 40,000 tonnes of food waste a year into renewable energy.
The plant, built and operated by the water company’s subsidiary Geneco, will provide 10 GWh of energy a year from food waste from households, supermarkets and businesses across the south west. It also produces a nutrient-rich organic fertiliser to help local farmers reduce their costs and reliance on non-organic chemical fertilisers.
The plant is the first food waste AD plant to be built in an sewage treatment works, and Heath encouraged water companies to make the most of their AD experience with sewage.
“Water companies can provide a significant boost to the expansion of waste food anaerobic digestion in this country by using their expertise from treating sewage,” he said.
“This could potentially create thousands of new jobs and generate significant amounts of renewable energy, while solving a major environmental issue in the disposal of waste food.”
Geneco general manager Mohammed Saddiq said that the plant was a logical extension of using AD technology to treat sewage sludge.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
“Anaerobic digestion has a huge role to play in the closed loop economy and the new facility at Avonmouth is an excellent demonstration of that, taking local food waste and generating extremely low carbon energy and a quality fertiliser to return to food production.
Wessex Water said it was building anaerobic digestion plants at other sites in its region to help tackle growing electricity and waste disposal costs, one of the main reasons it invested in Geneco.
ADBA chief executive Charlotte Morton, said: “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.
Heath added: “The government is actively supporting this sector, and in the past year alone the UK has doubled the amount of food waste converted into renewable energy. Growth in this sector not only provides jobs in construction and waste industries, but helps British companies develop export opportunities.”