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First food waste collections received at ReFood’s state-of-the-art Dagenham AD plant

The first delivery of food waste has been tipped at ReFood’s new £32-million anaerobic digestion (AD) facility in Dagenham, the largest food waste recycling plant in London.

First collections received at ReFood’s state-of-the-art Dagenham AD plant
The plant was officially opened this morning (7 July) after it completed initial commissioning. The plant is now due to begin gas production later this week and when fully-operational will process more than 160,000 tonnes of food waste every year, with the capability of generating 14 million cubic metres of biogas annually – enough to power 12,600 homes.

The Dagenham site, ReFood’s third AD plant in the UK and 12th in Europe, will use state-of-the-art AD technology to convert food waste into its ReGrow-branded digestate that will be used as fertiliser by local farmers and renewable biogas that will be injected directly into the national grid.

Food waste for the plant will all be sourced within a 20-mile radius, and will initially be entirely supplied through commercial collections, mainly from the city’s hospitality and retail sectors.

ReFood’s two other UK AD plants in Widnes (opened in 2014) and Doncaster (2011) have both completed expansions to 150,000 and 160,000-tonne capacities in the last few years, but the Dagenham plant has been built from scratch at this size due to the amount of food waste available from the London area.

First collections received at ReFood’s state-of-the-art Dagenham AD plant
Opening the facility, Phillip Simpson, ReFood’s Commercial Director commented: “Opening ReFood Dagenham comes as part of a strategic ambition to recycle more than one million tonnes of food waste by the end of 2017 – a milestone that we are on track to achieve.

“Since our first year of production in 2012, national operations have grown by more than 250 per cent. ReFood Dagenham will play an important role in furthering this success, providing an environmentally-friendly waste management solution for customers in London and the surrounding areas.”

Over 2,000 tonnes of ReGrow digestate will be produced every week by the plant, and Simpson says that by branding the material, the company is changing perceptions about digestate created through anaerobic digestion, marketing it as a pure product rather than simply a useful bit of waste.

Paul Morris, Operations Director at ReFood’s parent group SARIA, which has described the site as ‘one of the most important single-site developments’ in its history, expects the site to achieve PAS 110 certification for its digestate within the next year, with the Widnes and Doncaster sites both already accredited.

The site also houses a transfer facility for ReFood’s sister company SARVAL, which processes fat and bones collected in separate bins. After moving from its base in nearby Silvertown at the end of last year, SARVAL begun operation collecting Category 3 animal by-product waste at the site six months ago. Overall, the site will support 60 new jobs when fully operational.

Site will help London meet green ambitions, says Deputy Mayor

The ReFood plant will support Transport for London’s Clean Air Action Plan by generating biomethane for gas-powered vehicles (with the potential for the installation for further gas-upgrading equipment to supply high quality road fuel on site), and the company says that the facility will displace some 73,600 tonnes of CO2 a year, the equivalent of taking nearly 14,500 cars off of the road.

London’s Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy Shirley Rodrigues, who carried out the ceremonial first food waste tip at the plant, highlighted how food waste developments like the one in Dagenham will help the capital follow through on its circular economy route map.

Launched last month, the plan outlines actions in five key areas for turning London into the world’s leading circular city, including food waste. Rodrigues added: “We’re committed to helping drive up London’s recycling rates, as well as making London zero carbon by 2050. This new facility, the first of its kind in London, is exactly the type of solution we need to help achieve this. Not only will it deal with London’s food waste, but it will also produce clean biogas to help cut the carbon emissions of the gas grid.”

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