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Turning waste into watts
About 20 per cent of our greenhouse gas emissions are related to the production, processing, transportation and storage of food.
But a third of the food we buy in Britain ends up being thrown away.
As a nation, we waste 6.7million tonnes of food every year. In response, this month the Government taskforce Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap) has just launched a campaign to tackle food waste.
Yet it’s not just about cutting down what we chuck in the bin â€“ the way we dispose of our banana skins and coffee grinds has to change, too.
Britain is facing fines of up to Â£180million â€“ payable by taxpayers â€“ for failing to meet targets on reducing landfill waste.
Forthcoming EU legislation will ban biodegradable waste (raw food, cooked food and vegetation) from landfill sites.
The new laws will reduce levels of rubbish and tackle climate change: methane is emitted when biodegradable waste is broken down in landfill.
But what if there was a technology that broke down biodegradable waste into a biogas that could be converted into electricity or heat?
This is the potential of anaerobic digesters â€“ an advanced form of composting that’s gradually gaining prominence thanks to the combined forces of enlightened farmers, eco-entrepreneurs, pressure groups such as Friends of the Earth and Government initiatives such as Wrap.
It’s a technology being developed to help deal with our mounting waste crisis and provide a source of renewable energy.
Anaerobic digestion is a stage beyond what many of us are already doing with home composting.
It involves breaking down food waste (whether cooked, raw or half-eaten), as well as paper, cardboard, animal waste, sewage and industrial effluents, in an oxygen-free environment.
This process produces biogas, which can be used to power and heat the anaerobic digester (making it self-sufficient) and create electricity that can be fed back into the national grid.