Lucrative food waste 'there to be taken' if AD capacity increases
The amount of food waste in the UK available to anaerobic digestion (AD) developers and investors represents a "major opportunity" for the sector if it can be captured.
This is according to a report from Eunomia which suggests there is 6.5M tonnes a year of food waste which is already source-segregated at a regional level across the municipal, commercial and industrial sectors.
Of the 8M tonnes a year of food waste available across all sectors in the UK, Eunomia's modelling shows that 2.2M is from household sources, 5.2M from commercial outlets and 0.6M from industrial sites.
The study modelled existing food waste treatment capacity (both AD and in-vessel composting) to estimate a food waste 'capacity gap' at regional level which was quantified at 6.5M tonnes per annum.
Providing the collection infrastructure is forthcoming and projects can secure feedstock under the right terms to enable funding to be raised for new facilities, it could be harnessed for maximum benefit.
One of the report's co-authors, Eunomia director Dr Dominic Hogg said: "Unlocking this feedstock is a significant challenge, particularly as only around 12% of local authorities in the UK currently offer source-separated food waste collections and commercial collections of food waste are only in their infancy.
"The quantity of food waste being captured is not currently sufficient to justify a rapid escalation in facilities. If there is to be significant roll-out of new AD infrastructure, collection and treatment systems must develop in tandem.
"Furthermore, developers will need to work closely with companies collecting commercial and other food wastes where they do not engage in this activity themselves."
The report also identifies finance as another major stumbling block when it comes to getting new plant off the ground. It suggests that major lenders should work with project developers to reduce the level of transaction costs.
In addition, a significant proportion of industrial food waste is being managed through means other than landfill such as land-spreading, or use as pet food and animal feed, at relatively low cost.
A future revision of the waste hierarchy could be important if it were to imply that some widely land-spread wastes should be moved into management routes such as AD. Duty of Care obligations might then encourage large generators of food waste to switch their feedstock to AD.