Sainsbury’s set to expand AD scheme to power more stores from food waste

A scheme which sees a number of Sainsbury's supermarkets powered by renewable energy generated from food waste is to be rolled out to a further six stores, after a successful first year saw green gas produce 10% of the retailer's entire national energy consumption.

A new partnership between Sainsbury’s and food waste recycling firm ReFood saw the retailer supplied with almost 50GWh of biomethane in the past year, with the energy generated from inedible and out-of-date food providing enough carbon-neutral electricity to power the equivalent of 5,000 homes.

Since the partnership’s launch in May 2015, 10 stores have ramped up their use of renewable energy generated via the anaerobic digestion (AD) process, leading to vast reductions in energy bills.

ReFood has since confirmed to edie that, over the next 12 months, six additional Sainsbury’s stores in the UK will install on-site combined heat and power (CHP) engines that can generate energy from the green gas, significantly reducing mains consumption.

Sainsbury’s utilities buyer Paul Densham said: “Increasing the sustainability of our UK stores is a key corporate priority and we’re making great progress in our drive to reduce food waste across the business. Working in partnership with ReFood allows us to effectively recycle our food waste, creating renewable energy in result.

“What’s more, it sits well alongside our wider sustainability goals, such as working with food redistribution charities and prioritising sustainable transport strategies. The project has helped us to become a market leader in sustainability and waste reduction, ensuring that we send zero waste to landfill – a promise we’ve been able to make for some years now.”

Zero waste to landfill

The AD process sees food waste collected from Sainsbury’s’ two depots in Sherburn-in-Elmet and Haydock, before being converted into gas, heat and fertiliser at ReFood’s AD facilities. The resulting green gas is then exported to the national gas grid and finally imported to supermarket stores nationwide.

This partnership helps to deliver Sainsbury’s commitment to send zero operational waste to landfill, by finding a use for inedible food waste. A strict redistribution hierarchy sees all surplus food that is still edible discounted and sold to customers, redistributed to charity partners and sent to local farmers for use in animal feed.

ReFood commercial director Philip Simpson added: “Using our national network of processing plants, we’ve provided a truly sustainable solution for stores across the UK.

“Generating a significant volume of green gas in result, the partnership has enabled Sainsbury’s to use less fossil fuels, minimise utility bills and eliminate unnecessary food waste disposal. What’s more, with a highly effective sustainable biofertiliser also generated via the AD process, stores nationwide are working together to effectively close the food supply chain – from farm to fork and back again.”


Sainsbury’s is continually exploring ways to reduce food waste. Earlier in the year, the retailer announced it would be scrapping multi-buy promotions across its food retail outlets in an effort to ease growing customer concerns about food waste and price logistics. It is also investing £1m in a market town in Derbyshire to trial new food waste initiatives which could halve the town’s waste.

The news comes in the day that fellow retailer Marks and Spencer has launched the second edition of its Community Energy Fund – managed by via its energy supplier business M&S Energy – to offer local energy projects across the UK up to £350,000 in funding.

George Ogleby

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