Waste Not, Want Not

Mayor unveils plans to turn London's food waste into eco-fuel

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Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has launched a major initiative to convert the capital’s food waste into eco-fuel to cut landfill rates and carbon emissions.

Every year, London produces a nearly three million tonnes of organic waste, mainly from food. Nearly two thirds of this waste is currently burnt in incinerators or buried in landfill, which produces potent climate change gases.

Launched at a major waste industry conference, the Mayor’s ‘Foodwaste to Fuel Alliance’ will bring together developers, food producers, energy companies and others key parties to provide the new infrastructure needed in London to extract the fuel from the capital’s leftover food. This will act as an alternative to fossil fuels to produce a greener energy to heat and power homes and power public transport and other vehicles.

The Mayor wants the Alliance, supported by London’s Waste and Recycling Board, to deliver five exemplar new ‘bio-fuel’ plants in the capital by 2012. This could include the development of anaerobic digestion plants to produce renewable energy, bio-diesel refineries, (bio-diesel is a renewable transport fuel made from cooking oil to fuel buses, taxis and minicabs), hydrogen from waste or the use of compost material for the city’s allotments.

Boris Johnson, said, "London is currently throwing away valuable food waste that could be used instead to produce an eco-fuel for businesses and homes. Whilst we can all take steps to throw less food away in the first place, it is extraordinary that we are losing this resource by simply chucking it out."

BAA and Sainsbury's are working with the Mayor to investigate the possibility of developing anaerobic digestion facilities in and around London. Heathrow airport produces around 8,000 tonnes of food waste each year and BAA is keen to investigate whether it is feasible to convert this into bio-gas to generate low carbon energy or as a fuel for vehicles. Sainsbury's is keen to help deliver an anaerobic digestion plant in the London area, as part of a planned wider portfolio of waste facilities that will help the company deliver its ‘zero waste to landfill’ goal.

Alison Austin, Sainsbury’s environment manager, said, "We began investing in waste to energy technology over a year ago. Progress has been so quick that by the end of this summer, all of the food waste from our 500 supermarkets around the country will be connected to our Zero Food Waste to Landfill network, meaning it will be diverted from landfill and used to generate electricity. We are pleased to see that many other companies are starting to follow our lead. Food waste is a valuable resource and if it is fully used, it can cut down on fossil fuel consumption as well as use of landfill."

June 16, 2009