106 AD plants, but still not enough?

THERE ARE now over 100 anaerobic digestion (AD) plants in the UK, outside those used by the water industry.


The official figures, gathered by bioeconomy consultants NNFCC and WRAP, reveal that the number of AD plants in the UK has nearly doubled since September 2011, when a comprehensive baseline report was published.


The 106 plants process up to 5.1 million tonnes of food and farm waste every year, and have an installed electrical capacity of more than 88MWe (megawatts of electricity). There are also more than a dozen other plants currently under construction, said the NNFCC.


Lucy Hopwood, head of biomass and biogas at NNFCC, said the 100 mark is a “significant milestone” for the AD industry.


Nearly half the AD plants currently in operation are “community” digesters, where food waste is collected from multiple sources, like supermarkets, hospitality providers and households, to be converted into heat, power and fertiliser.


However, concerns remain that capacity will have to rise much further to divert more food waste from landfill.


The Hospitality Carbon Reduction Forum, which has 12,000 restaurant and pub members, has found that more than half the food waste created by the hospitality sector ends up in landfill because there are no AD plants to send it to. This is costing companies thousands in landfill taxes and wasting food that could have been used to generate energy.


Carbon management company, Carbon Statement, has been commissioned to come up with the plan to help save businesses money and meet the targets set by WRAP.


Having mapped all members’ sites across the UK against existing and planned AD capacity to optimise the waste collection process and to consider the siting of new AD plants, it is clear that “there is little co-ordination between the supply of food waste, collection and the positioning of sites”, said Carbon Statement’s Peter Charlesworth.


  • For more on this story see April’s Footprint, out later this month.