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The pioneering spirit

This year’s National Recycling Award for Recycling and Waste Management Business of the Year (small) went to Biogen. Andrea Lockerbie looks at why it won

Biogen designs, builds, owns and operates commercial-scale anaerobic digestion (AD) plants which recycle food waste to generate renewable energy for the grid and a fertiliser for farmland.

To date it has been responsible for the design and build of 16 AD plants in the UK, including plants for the waste water industry and farming sector, as well as its core focus of food waste plants. Biogen currently owns and operates two food waste AD plants: Twinwoods in Milton Ernest, Bedfordshire and Westwood near Rushden in Northamptonshire.

The judges praised the company for leading the way in food waste recycling: “This is increasingly the ‘go to’ company for anaerobic digestion. Biogen is a pioneer and has been exemplar in digestate back to land and the science and technology behind it. It is also a great business story.”

Its AD technology processes the food waste, captures the methane and uses it as a fuel to generate renewable electricity and heat. Once this has taken place the remaining liquid mixture is used as a nutrient rich biofertiliser to grow more crops, so absolutely nothing is wasted.

The company’s operational capacity provides a food waste treatment service to local authorities, supermarkets, restaurants and food manufacturers in England and Wales.

From 2011 to 2012 the company’s AD plants processed 85,000 tonnes of food waste and generated nearly 5 MW of renewable electricity. Since then it has tendered for and won new contracts, secured finance for new plants and been granted permission to expand processing capacity at its existing Westwood and Twinwood AD plants. Biogen saw strong growth in 2012. As a result of new contracts secured, tonnages of food waste processed increased by 14% and the renewable electricity generated during the year increased by 12%. This led to an increase in operating revenue of nearly 10% and in turn an improvement in underlying profitability of over 50%.

It believes it has taken a fresh approach to reporting to dealing with its clients and customers and aims to “speak the same language”. It promotes the use of waste transfer stations, so food waste can also be collected from smaller companies, bulked up, and then delivered for treatment at one of its AD plants. Rather than just generating standard invoices and reports, the company sets out for customers what their food waste recycling means in terms of carbon emissions saved, renewable energy generated and how much crop has grown a result of the fertiliser produced by the AD process.

As well as this, it continues to conduct its own research with pilot scale digestion trials. These investigate the effect of different methods of pre-treating food waste in order to determine whether the particular technology yields a greater amount of biogas, or produces a more beneficial biofertiliser.

“For me, it is a recognition of all the work the team has put in since 2005 when we really started the business. We keep going and we keep driving the business forward and it is great that everyone can see an award on the shelf.”

Richard Barker, chief executive, Biogen

 

Category Finalists:

Axion Polymers

Binn Waste Management

J & B Recycling

Simply Waste Solutions

 

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