Sainsbury’s using AD to power stores

Sainsbury’s sends food waste to ADTen per cent of Sainsbury’s annual national gas consumption is being provided by a partnership processing its own food waste, the supermarket says.

The retailer has partnered with food waste recycler ReFood to turn inedible food waste from two of its depots into gas, heat and fertiliser through anaerobic digestion (AD).

Nearly 50 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of biomethane gas have been produced through the partnership, according to ReFood, and in the last year enough gas has been created to continuously power 5,000 homes for 12 months, which the supermarket says equates to 10 per cent of its national gas consumption for the year.

The partnership is part of Sainsbury’s strategy to find a use for inedible waste products and reduce landfill waste. The retailer reports that 10 stores have lowered utility bills by increasing their use of renewable energy.

Methane gas is produced when food waste is treated through AD, where the organic materials contained in the waste are broken down by naturally-occurring microorganisms. The gas can help reduce fossil fuel use and greenhouses gas production by replacing more traditional fuels to produce renewable, carbon-neutral electricity for heat and power purposes.

The partnership involves inedible food waste from Sainsbury’s stores, collected at depots in Sherburn-in-Elmet and Haydock, being transported to one of ReFood’s AD plants, where it is converted to gas, heat and fertiliser. This gas is then injected into the national gas grid, with Sainsbury’s being provided with the exact equivalent by a third-party provider.

‘From farm to fork and back again’

Commenting on the project, Paul Densham, utilities buyer at Sainsbury’s, said: “Increasing the sustainability of our UK stores is a key corporate priority and we’re making great progress in our drive to reduce food waste across the business. Working in partnership with ReFood allows us to effectively recycle our food waste, creating renewable energy in result.

“What’s more, it sits well alongside our wider sustainability goals, such as working with food redistribution charities and prioritising sustainable transport strategies. The project has helped us to become a market leader in sustainability and waste reduction, ensuring that we send zero waste to landfill – a promise we’ve been able to make for some years now.”

Philip Simpson, Commercial Director at ReFood, added: “Using our national network of processing plants, we’ve provided a truly sustainable solution for stores across the UK.

“Generating a significant volume of green gas in result, the partnership has enabled Sainsbury’s to use less fossil fuels, minimise utility bills and eliminate unnecessary food waste disposal. What’s more, with a highly-effective sustainable biofertiliser also generated via the AD process, stores nationwide are working together to effectively close the food supply chain – from farm to fork and back again.”

Waste Less, Save More

As part of its ‘Waste Less, Save More’ project, Sainsbury’s has invested £1 million in the Derbyshire town of Swadlincote, where, over the course of 2016, a number of food waste initiatives will be trialled. The supermarket hopes that the ideas tested and developed will reduce food waste in the town by 50 per cent.

The project has seen £300,000 already provided to several projects across the town, while the Swadlincote District Council’s housing team has also been given £11,000 to provide items such as food waste kits and nutritional advice to new tenants in need of help.

Another £11,500 will be used to fund the ‘EcoGames’, a project, which will promote ‘food education games’ in schools, events and community venues.  Other promotional activities have also taken place including the distribution of ‘Waste Less, Save More’ bin stickers to every house in Swadlincote. 

The store hopes that lessons from the Swadlincote project could be used to develop a ‘blueprint’, with successful initiatives being trialled across other towns across the UK over the next five years.

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