Sainsbury’s to investigate closed loop AD model

Sainsbury's is looking closely at opportunities to use the energy generated from its food waste via anaerobic digestion (AD) to power its stores or nearby low cost housing.

The retailer is examining the feasibility of building new stores around existing AD plants where it can directly feed these facilities with its own food waste. In turn, the outputs could provide low cost heat and power back to the store.

Talking exclusively to edieWaste, Sainsbury’s Head of Climate Change & Environment, Jack Cunningham, said that such a closed loop model could become a win-win situation for all the stakeholders involved.

He said: “Often when we build new stores there’s a planning requirement to use renewable energy or to build low-cost housing nearby. So we have looked quite closely at opportunities where we can site new stores to feed AD plants … powering both the store and possibly even low cost heat and power to housing units.”

Sainsbury’s is working with a number of partners, including Imperial College London on projects such as these, where different operating models are being test-bedded. Cunningham believes such a development “could become a reality within the next year” in terms of rolling out such a model.

He added that Sainsbury’s had only considered existing AD facilities, but didn’t rule out the possibility of collaborating with AD technology providers when building future new stores. The retailer has already had talks with its own-brand supply chain to see what types of feedstock might be available.

“We’re keen not to build a network of isolated AD plants around the country, that doesn’t feel strategic to us, but where there’s an opportunity … if there’s a way of creating some input from our own suppliers and also our own stores, and working with an AD partner there – we’re certainly looking at it as a model,” added Cunningham.

Last week, Sainsbury’s announced it had joined forces with Biffa to send all food waste from its distribution centres to AD facilities over the next three years, making AD the retailer’s preferred recovery route for its food waste.

A more in-depth interview with Jack Cunningham on how Sainsbury’s is tackling waste and packaging under its new 20 by 20 Sustainability Plan will appear on edieWaste shortly.

Maxine Perella

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