London food scraps used to power homes.

Ealing has become the first London borough to recycle all its residents’ food waste into electricity.

The council, which has been collecting leftovers for the past two years, uses tiny bugs to break down the food into fertiliser. The process, called anaerobic digestion, creates gas which is converted into electricity. This is, in turn, used to power the processing plant. Any excess is sold to the National Grid.

Learn more here.

This entry was posted in Biofuels, Business, Energy, Food & Agriculture, London, Recycling, Technology, UK, Waste and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to London food scraps used to power homes.

  1. the Grit says:

    Hi matt,

    Cool! Would that our local Government would do something like that. Not, of course that it would have any great energy savings, but just think of the fabulous compost left over! And, I’d bet, they would probably give it away to who ever wanted to haul it off! I quiver in anticipation of such a bounty.

    the Grit

  2. matt says:

    I think it’s a fabulous idea; excellent closed loop system. I want to see more of these. Yes, excellent fertilizer. Apparently the Chinese have always done this on a smaller, more local scale.

  3. Baikong says:

    Great news matt! That is really interesting! Its an organic fertiliser as well as serving the local people electricity need…

  4. matt says:

    Smart isn’t it. I’m hoping to visit their business sometime soon.

  5. Baikong says:

    I think you should! I just hope that that kind of practices will be replicated all over the world. It could even help against severe impact of climate change. 🙂

  6. matt says:

    Absolutely. Methane is a lot worse than CO2.

  7. earthpal says:

    Great idea! I hope it catches on too.

  8. Pete Smith says:

    The principle is fine, the technology’s been there for decades waiting for the right social and economic environment to make it viable. It just worries me that Ealing Council has to ship this stuff all the way up to north of Bedford to get it processed. Thames Water has been running anaerobic digesters at its sewage treatment works for years. Surely there’s scope for each London Borough to have at least one site where this can happen?

  9. matt says:

    Absolutely Pete. And it will happen.

  10. the Grit says:

    Hi Pete,

    We already have several large businesses that do something similar, which is where those huge stacks of soil improving additives at Wal*Mart come from. They do composting on a massive scale and, amazingly, produce 40 pound bags of the stuff for a purchase price at the local store of around $1. I’ve seen documentaries on these firms, and it’s quite impressive. They can take a pile of scrap wood, lawn clippings, and whatever other vegetable waste they can get, that is the size of the average family dwelling, spray it with water and bacteria, turn it frequently with heavy machinery, and get results that take me several months in the garden in less than a week! Too cool!

    The key difference in the posted case is, of course, Government involvement, which will, undoubtedly, reduce efficiency and raise costs. On the other hand, I’m still betting that they’ll subsidize the end product with tax dollars, which will be a temporary boon for consumers. On the gripping hand, it still means that tax payers are getting screwed, but, what the heck, they should be used to it by now 🙂

    the Grit

  11. Pete Smith says:

    Hi Grit,
    “The key difference in the posted case is, of course, Government involvement”
    The London Borough of Ealing is an elected local government body, true, but the biogas operation is privately run. Ealing, like all government, is desperate to avoid sending its trash to landfill, which carries punitive penalties from the EU. It’s all about money; if Biogen can dispose of hitherto-unrecyclable food waste more cheaply than landfill, or burning, or composting, they get the contract. The headline bottom line (sorry for the mixed metaphor) is that the tax payers benefit from lower local taxes, or at least lower than they would have been.
    Funny how Bedford council don’t use Biogen, the biogas outfit on their doorstep, while Ealing are happy to send them 100s of tons of food waste from over 50 miles away. £££££

  12. matt says:

    There are lots of unanswered questions to the Biogen / Ealing partnership which I’m hoping our visit (if they do Saturdays) will go at least some way to answering. The whole project fascinates me I have to say.

    It’s true that the motivator here for Ealing council is the cost of the landfill tax. I want to know who pays for what with regards the waste collection and transportation. I suspect the council pays for collection to a point within the borough, then Biogen sorts out the rest (London to Bedford).

    Pete, I don’t particularly have a problem with the waste travelling 50 miles. The organic fertilizer is used on farms in the area and therefore isn’t travelling far. The waste relationship between city & country has to involve some travel and in this example I think the distance has been minimised.

    Overall, I’m interested in seeing this concept expanded and on an even bigger picture, seeing all waste dealt with on a beneficial loop.

    Grit, please don’t forget big business often survives on direct or indirect subsidy (e.g. ethanol). Perfect markets don’t exist except in the production & distribution of elicit products such as recreational drugs, but then taxes are not collected so even that example doesn’t show a workable model of free market capitalism! You need to be more realistic Grit then you might stop being so pessimistic (and that might please the wife!). 🙂

  13. the Grit says:

    Hi Pete,

    I did not know that about the EU and landfills. Interesting. Over here, I suspect our politicians get paid bonuses for each landfill opened. On the other hand, landfills aren’t all bad. We have one 3-4 miles down the road and, at the rate it’s growing, in another five or six years the mound will be tall enough to ski down. A little artificial snow and we’ll have a major tourist attraction! We may even turn the farm into a lodge or bed & breakfast 🙂

    It’s also my theory that, what with growing populations and shrinking resources, it won’t be all that long before landfills switch to being mining operations. Really, once recycling technology catches up to the task, just think about what riches are being buried in these places! It’s not at all difficult to imagine generations to come being quite thankful at our foresight in storing so many vital materials for their use. Isn’t life a hoot!?

    Hi matt,

    First, I’ve been an advocate of legalizing recreational drugs for a very long time! Heck, a 5% tax on pot and cocaine would almost fund our Federal Government by itself. As to government screwing up free markets, you are, of course, absolutely correct, and that’s why our economy, and that of the rest of the world, can collapse at any moment. You misunderstand me, I think, in that I don’t have a pessimistic attitude, but, rather, am optimistic that there is some tiny chance of getting the heavy hand of government out of our lives. Really, things here have gotten so out of hand that, today, our President threatened to veto the latest farm bill that is making it’s way through Congress. The total price of said bill is 600 BILLION dollars. If I recall my last research on the subject correctly, that’s a little more than England’s total yearly budget, and our “leaders” are locked into an argument over how best to throw bundles of cash to the cheering crowds. On the happy side, our basic, insanely high, tax rate on businesses is 35%, so the Government will recover at least a third of the money it hands out next year. While a pessimist wold question the wisdom of a Government doling out money that is later going to be taxed, meaning that there will be bureaucratic overhead on both ends of the transaction, I’m trying to be optimistic in my hope that our Government will eventually achieve a size sufficient to collapse into a paperwork black hole, that can be stored in a locked file drawer in some minor Federal building in Washington.

    As to the wife, I agreed to take two more rescue dogs into our home and cooked two mighty fine meals this weekend, so she’s happy, for the moment 🙂 Speaking of which, if you feel the need to cohabitate with a vicious Chiwawa or an overly smart pit bull mix, drop me an email and I’ll arrange shipment 😉

    the Grit

  14. matt says:

    I grew up with a pet dog and sometimes think it would be nice if my kids could too. However I don’t fancy following a mutt around and picking up its rear end waste to bag it and keep it from others shoes! Maybe if I feed said dog a type of food that’s recyclable it can then eat it’s own creation …. over & over. Now that really would be closing the loop. 🙂

  15. Pete Smith says:

    “I agreed to take two more rescue dogs into our home and cooked two mighty fine meals this weekend”

    Grit, I had heard there were food problems over there, but things are obviously more desperate than I thought 🙂

  16. matt says:

    Well spotted Pete! 🙂

  17. the Grit says:

    Hi matt,

    As to dog waste, what can I say but, one more check mark in the why to live in the country column?

    Hi Pete,

    Well said! I would, however, point out that, even though the wife and I have been known to eat a bit more than we should, even our appetites wouldn’t be able to consume two canines in one weekend. Really, that sort of thing is reserved for holiday gatherings! 🙂

    the Grit

  18. derek says:

    There are other solutions available one of which is Autogenous Thermophillic AEROBIC Digestion (ATAD). Similar to AD but with the advantage that it doesnt produce methane (explosive green-house gas). Whilst methane can be converted into power it is dangerous to do this in an urban location, consequently AD plants have to be located far away. The ATAD system can be located in the urban environment and the high heat produced can be utilised for warming / cooling buildings, offices, leisure centres etc. The digestate produced is an excellent “soil conditioner” that, because of the high temperatures achieved, can be used in horticulture, agriculture and council parks and gardens without further treatment. The footprint for the plant is small in comparison to the alternatives and ATAD plants presently available are capable of processing 50 tons of food waste per day. As to whether AD. IVC or ATAD is used is dependent upon the constraints imposed and results desired. But ATAD is a very viable, efficient green system for dealing with food and other organic waste.

  19. matt says:

    Derek, many thanks for this. Sounds promising. Are there any of these plants operating in the UK metropolitan areas?

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