DEFRA ministers yesterday met with representatives of the food, waste, energy, water and regulatory sectors to look at ways of increasing the use of the environmentally friendly technology and to disclose details of a £10m fund for proposals from the food sector and beyond for viable biogas projects.
The meeting, according to a DEFRA spokesperson, also addressed the regulatory barriers preventing industry take-up of anaerobic digestion projects.
"Universal support for the technology was evident from the feedback we received from attendees. The ministers will now consider the questions raised and convene another meeting in the autumn to discuss how to take action to reach the goal of greater anaerobic digestion capacity," said the spokesperson.
Food sector backing
Director of sustainability and competitiveness at the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), Callton Young, who represented food and drink manufacturers at the meeting, told FoodProductionDaily.com that the project fits well with the FDF's aspiration to send zero food and packaging waste to landfill from 2015.
"Preventing food and packaging waste is FDF's main priority, but where waste cannot be avoided, turning it into a resource through anaerobic digestion or composting is a key part of our strategy going forward," said Young.
He said that food manufacturer and FDF member, Greencore, is engaged with the food waste to renewable energy company, Inetec, in a project that will create enough biogas to power 39,000 homes when it is up and running next year.
"We need many more projects like this. Government action to remove barriers to the growth of the biogas sector is therefore timely, as is the funding it is providing for demonstration projects," added Young.
The Environmental Transformation Fund (ETF), which is being managed by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), will support three to six projects that can demonstrate the benefits of anaerobic digestion such as the reduction of the carbon footprint of the food supply chain.
WRAP said that it will be accepting tender proposals from September onwards and successful projects will be those that show that their scheme fits into the themes and timescales of the project, can secure the co-funding required and can provide details of the technology and how it will perform.
"A project which might fit into the programme could be the sitting of an anaerobic digestion facility at a food manufacturer's premises where there are immediate customers for the power and heat generated by the plant," WRAP project manager Claire Kneller told FoodProductionDaily.com
"Applicants are not required to submit bids in partnership but we highly recommend that they do in order to facilitate the success of the project. We will be holding some partnering workshops in early September to facilitate this," she added.
WRAP director of retail and organics, Richard Swannell, said that its research shows that anaerobic digestion can have an important role in diverting biodegradable waste, such as food waste, from landfill.
"The Environmental Transformation Fund provides a real opportunity to develop and showcase innovation in the market. It will allow us to harness the power of this technology to provide real environmental benefit," he added.
Lagoon generated biogas
Last month, McCain Foods initiated an anaerobic lagoon at one of its UK facilities to digest the water from manufacturing process in order to produce a biogas, which is then stored and used to produce electricity through a gas burning generator.
The potato chip manufacturer claims the process will provide ten per cent of its Whittlesey plant's electrical needs.