Anaerobic Digestion: Using Food Waste As A Resource
The inefficiencies of our current economic system are hardly more pronounced than in the context of the co-existence of a global food waste problem and a world hunger problem. One third of the food produced in the world is eventually wasted, and yet more than 10% of the global population is “hungry”.
A report released last week estimated the economic value of food waste lost in just the United States annually is around $162 billion. A re-think of our global food systems is clearly necessary, but in the meantime there are at least some positive signs that the food waste that is being created might not all be wasted.
Examples of food waste utilisation and re-purposing are becoming more prevalent. Last week, a new Biogen renewable energy plant in Abderdare put out “a call” for food waste, which will be turned into electricity and fertiliser. The plant will serve as a food waste collection point for the city of Newport, Wales. In January, around 430 tonnes of food waste was collected from homes and business in Newport for use in the plant.
Meanwhile, on a national scale, the number of anaerobic digestion (AD) plants in the UK has reportedly doubled in four years and is expected to increase by ‘fourfold’ again by 2017. A report published by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) revealed that as of October 2014 there were 140 facilities operating across the country – up from 68 in 2011. An additional 200 AD projects have received planning permission in the last four years.
Food waste remains the largest feedstock for AD accounting for 38% of supply in 2013. Liquid materials from commercial good producers and processors has also seen a significant increase.
The report suggested that the AD sector had a combined capacity of around 9.9 million tonnes and that by 2017, the number of AD sites in the UK could have potentially risen to 350, of which 200 would be food waste-fed facilities.
These developments are not solutions to the problem, but while the system needs re-modelling, there economic opportunities to be taken advantage of as a result of current inefficiencies.