The power of food waste
WITH the average household throwing about a quarter of its weekly food shop in the bin, the issue of food waste is one which affects most of the population.
But for GWE Biogas Ltd in Kirkburn, food waste is not a problem but a solution.
The privately owned company began trading in 2009 and now produces about 2MW of power, 24-hours a day, 365 days of the year – enough to power approximately 3,000 homes and businesses.
This is all thanks to a pioneering process that sees GWE take organic waste from manufacturers and retailers to use as a feedstock in its anaerobic digestion process.
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After being mechanically depacked, the organic material, which includes everything from out-of-date supermarket goods to waste from food manufacturers, is then blended to create a "soup of the week".
Following pasteurisation, this 'soup' is fed into two large steel tanks containing naturally occurring bacteria which eat the soup, producing a methane-rich biogas which is then used to power two generators.
The resultant renewable electricity is then fed back into the grid.
But diverting waste from landfill and creating energy from waste food is only a part of the jigsaw, as Tom Megginson, one of the company's founders, says.
Tom said: "At the end of the digestion process, the digested organic material is classed as a safe bio-fertiliser and is then recycled to farmland as a safe organic fertiliser, displacing the requirement for energy intensive manufactured nitrogen fertilisers over about 3,500 acres of farm land."
As well as essentially being a very green process, diverting waste from landfill, recycling food waste, producing electricity and also saving on energy intensive fertiliser, the company operates within very tight EA parameters and embraces green policies throughout the business.
The project was supported by Decc and Defra as being a demonstrator of best practice in the area of waste and renewables.
Officially opened by Defra Minister Lord Henley last year, it is now one of the largest and most sophisticated biogas plants in the country, prompting a keen interest in its work from everyone from food manufacturers and farmers to local businesses and schools.
It has also resulted in a number of accolades for GWE.
The most recent of these was the Green Award and Business Of The Year award, which it won at the Chamber Bridlington And Yorkshire Coast Business Awards last Friday.