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2013 Review - Charlotte Morton

More than two years on from the government’s Anaerobic Digestion Strategy and Action Plan, the sector is still experiencing encouraging growth – the number of plants grew by 36% over the last 12 months, with 120 operational anaerobic digestion (AD) plants in the UK at the time of writing.

Thanks to this growth, AD is now playing a vital role in a wide range of sectors – including food producers, manufacturers and distributors, and the farming community. Of the 120 plants, 52 use agricultural feedstocks such as slurries and purpose grown crops, 44 treat food waste from various sources including supermarkets and households, and the remaining 24 are based on industrial sites, treating on-site waste such as brewery effluent.

This impressive growth looks set to continue – in September 2013, a further 110 plants had received planning permission with 21 of these already under construction and set to add 46MW to the sector’s 155MW operating capacity. And these numbers don’t even include AD for waste water treatment, where there is also significant investment.

Getting hold of food waste, from both businesses and councils, is a major obstacle to many projects getting off the ground. In England, only 27% of councils offer separate food waste collections, which is heavily contributing to the fact that only 7% of food waste is currently being treated through AD, while 35% is still dumped in landfill.

AD is clearly a sector on the up – helping to stimulate economic growth, cut carbon emissions and contribute to our energy and food security, but there shouldn’t be any complacency in emphasising the challenge that these two obstacles present.

It is therefore vital that government makes every effort to join up waste and energy policy, offering strong support for councils to source segregate their waste, while offering effective long term financial support to properly incentivise the development of AD infrastructure to deal with this valuable organic waste stream.

Charlotte Morton, chief executive, Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association (this article is taken from the MRW handbook)

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