Food waste to be used to generate electricity

Food waste will soon be put to use to generate electricity rather than going to landfill sites, supermarket giant Sainsbury's have confirmed.

From next year the chain will send all of its food waste to special plants to convert it to methane gas.

The gas can then be used to generate electricity to heat and light its 800 stores across the UK. The innovative system uses anaerobic digester plants to convert the waste into gas.

At the plants, biodegradable material is broken down by micro-organisms in a sealed container to form both fertiliser and methane that can generate electricity. A pilot has already been carried out in Northamptonshire, dealing with waste from 38 Sainsbury's stores.

A company spokeswoman said by next summer Sainsbury's plans not to send any food waste to landfill, expanding the system with a network of anaerobic digestion plants across the country.

A second target is in place for the end of 2009, when the company intends not to send any waste at all to landfill, including non-food waste, using a programme of recycling and other methods.

Sainsbury's currently sends 60,000t of food waste to landfill every year, and 20,000t of non-food waste. The spokeswoman said: "This isn't a trial or a pilot, we're basically changing the structure of how our waste is managed in all of our stores, which is about 800.

"For us it's completely changing the way waste is disposed of. It's not just a grand aspiration, we're on track to achieve it."

She said the programme would not only benefit the environment, but would also save money on energy costs and landfill taxes. "We are going to be using waste as an energy resource. It's not seeing waste as waste. It's a question of addressing our waste problems and also using them for other things."

She said as well as the pilot scheme in Northamptonshire, food waste from Sainsbury's stores in Northern Ireland was already being recycled and converted into pet food. "It's finding clever uses for food waste that would otherwise go to landfill."

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