The minister says the government is loathe to back one technology over another as it wants local authorities free to make the decisions right for them, without interference from Westminster.

But he says anaerobic digestion is one of the technologies offering hope for sustainable waste management.

Speaking on a tour of a Northamptonshire food waste processing plant, he said: “Today I’ve seen first-hand how food scraps and out-of-date supermarket food is a valuable resource that can generate energy – rather than rubbish to be thrown away,” he said.

“As we strive to be the greenest government ever, this is exactly the type of technology we should be looking at, particularly as it cuts greenhouse gas emissions.

“We’ve already had constructive discussions with industry, farmers and the financial sector.

“Teams at DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and the Department for Energy and Climate Change are now working hard to produce an action plan to examine how we can take practical steps to achieve a step change in the use of anaerobic digestion.”

The two departments are aiming to draw up their plan by the autumn. They will look at the economic potential for the anaerobic digestion industry and how government and industry can make it a reality.

Richard Barker, chief executive officer of BiogenGreenfinch, the company which runs the plant toured by the minister, believes there was great potential for wider uptake of the technology.

He said: “Anaerobic digestion is the greenest solution for dealing with food waste,” he said.

“And we believe that it significantly contributes to both the Government’s landfill diversion and energy targets.”

David Gibbs

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie