Anaerobic digestion is ‘way forward’, says Defra

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An anaerobic digestion plant in Ludlow, which takes food waste from the town and turns it into electricity and compost, was described as ‘the way forward’ by Minister for Waste, Joan Ruddock when she visited the site last week.

The plant is part of Defra’s £30 million New Technologies Demonstrator Programme which tests innovative technology that could offer alternatives to landfill.  The Ludlow partnership attributes some of its success to good communication with the local community, which has led to 70 percent of residents taking part in the voluntary food waste collection scheme which supplies the plant.

Anaerobic digestion breaks down organic matter to produce biogas which can be used as a renewable energy source for heat and power, and as a transport fuel. It produces a nutrient-rich digestate which can be used as fertiliser, and importantly it keeps organic waste out of landfill, which cuts greenhouse gas emissions. At its full potential it is thought anaerobic digestion could produce enough electricity to power 2 million homes.

Visiting the Ludlow plant, Joan Ruddock said:

“Anaerobic digestion is extremely attractive. Why would we go on throwing food waste into holes in the ground when we could generate our own electricity and end up with a product that can be returned to the soil?

“It seems to me that a plant on this scale would fit into any industrial estate in the country. While the decision has to be taken locally – and in consultation with residents – I am sure this is the way forward.”

Defra is now making a further £10 million available for a programme to test the full range of applications and benefits of anaerobic digestion. This will be delivered through a capital grant competition run by the Waste and Resources Action Programme with assistance from the Carbon Trust. Between three and six projects will be selected, and bids will be invited in the autumn.

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