Closing the loop: Sainsbury's powers supermarket entirely by food waste

Sainsbury's in Cannock has today (21 July) become the UK's first supermarket to run on electricity generated solely from food waste.

Sainsbury's achieved its zero-waste-to-landfill target within three years

Sainsbury's achieved its zero-waste-to-landfill target within three years

The supermarket giant has partnered with leading waste management firm Biffa to convert food waste from Sainsbury's stores across the UK into energy, using Biffa's anaerobic digestion (AD) facilities.

Waste from Sainsbury's stores is turned into bio-methane gas, which is then used to generate electricity at the Biffa plant, which is also in Cannock.

Electricity for Sainsbury's Cannock store will then be directly supplied to the supermarket via a new, 1.5km-long electricity cable which will go live on 21 July. This new power supply means the Cannock store will come off the national grid for day-to-day electricity consumption. 

"Sainsburys sends absolutely no waste to landfill and we’re always looking for new ways to reuse and recycle," said the group's head of sustainability Paul Crewe. "We’re delighted to be the first business ever to make use of this linkup technology, allowing our Cannock store to be powered entirely by our food waste."

Biffa's I&C division managing director Jeff Anderson added: "Biffa has provided Sainsbury's with a food collection and processing service for many years. By converting food waste to renewable energy demonstrates our commitment to innovation and the environment.

Sustainable supermarkets

Sainsbury's is already the UK's largest retail user of anaerobic digestion, generating enough energy to power 2,500 homes each year. Last June, Sainsbury's achieved its 20x20 sustainability target of putting all its store waste to positive use - and diverting it from landfill.

At the end of 2013, Sainsbury's opened its most environmentally-friendly store in Leicester. The supermarket emits zero carbon from all operational energy used, sends zero waste to landfill and has zero impact on the water usage of the local catchment area. 

All general waste from Sainsbury's stores is recycled or turned into fuel. Surplus food that can't be used by charity partners is now processed into animal feed to support British farmers or used to generate energy through anaerobic digestion.

AUDIO: Supermarket food waste

In the following audio extract, BBC Radio 4 investigated the issue of food waste in the UK, with British supermarkets engaged in a spat with critics; accused of wasting too much food.  

The European Federation of Food Banks suggested that supermarkets were giving less food to charity than in other European county's, but Sainsbury's boss Justin King says that comparison is unfair. Listen to the full report below.

Sainsbury's Cannock is being powered by food waste as of Monday, 21 July.

Luke Nicholls


anaerobic digestion | food | Food waste | gas | Innovation | retail | zero waste


Waste & resource management
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