East of England Co-operative is introducing a scheme which will recycle food waste from its 135 stores into energy and soil conditioner.
Following a successful pilot, the society phased the first 26 stores into its anaerobic digestion programme this June. The rest will follow this year.
The anaerobic digestion process produces methane, which is harveted and sold to energy companies, and a soil conditioner, which is used in agriculture. East of England's Energy Manager Glyn Lee said: “Our food waste will help provide the fertiliser to grow new food crops, which could potentially be sold in our food stores and by other local outlets.” The society works with over 125 suppliers across the region through its 'Sourced Locally' initiative.
Food waste from East of England is being treated by Adnams Bio Energy at its new plant in Suffolk. “We’ve established that we have no high risk foods,” added Mr Lee. “The plant we’re using can accept all our waste as its processes are approved to pasteurise incoming materials. The waste is de-packaged at the plant so our team members can get on with taking care of the store.”
Initial funding for anaerobic digestion came from the society, but Mr Lee said it will get its money back and more. “Our pilot study indicated we should save approximately £70,000 in the first full year of operation, which is over 15 per cent of our annual waste disposal costs,” he commented. “That’s far in excess of the funding for the project. We hope to exceed the £70,000 target, but we remain early in the project.
“We’ve investigated grant funding, but most of this is not directed at the kind of waste management we are undertaking,” he added. “Besides which, the project stands on its own feet in terms of both financial and environmental credibility.”