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Mayor says: Use London’s food waste for fuel

anaerobic-digestionLondon Mayor Boris Johnson, today launched a major initiative to cut both landfill rates and carbon emissions by converting London’s food waste into eco-fuel.

Currently, London produces nearly three million tonnes of organic waste, mainly from food. Nearly two-thirds of this waste is burnt in incinerators or buried in landfill, which results in greenhouse gas emissions.

Launched at a waste industry conference, the mayor’s “Foodwaste to Fuel Alliance” will bring together developers, food producers, energy companies and others key parties to provide the new infrastructure needed in London to extract fuel from the capital’s leftover food. This will provide an alternative to fossil fuels and a greener energy source for heating and powering homes as well as fuelling public transport and other vehicles.

Johnson says he wants the alliance, supported by London’s Waste and Recycling Board, to deliver five exemplar new biofuel plants in the capital by 2012. These could include anaerobic digestion plants, bio-diesel refineries, hydrogen-from-waste operations or the use of compost material for the city’s allotments.

The Waste and Recycling Board has £84 million to spend over the next three years to reduce waste and boost recycling, with £31 million earmarked for projects that will create energy. Officials say they hope the 2012 Olympic Games in London will also offer opportunities to convert food waste into energy.

“London is currently throwing away valuable food waste that could be used instead to produce an eco-fuel for businesses and homes,” Johnson said. “Whilst we can all take steps to throw less food away in the first place, it is extraordinary that we are losing this resource by simply chucking it out. I am absolutely determined to see that London’s reservoirs of used oil and mountains of leftovers are converted into a greener fuel saving millions of pounds off energy bills.”

He added, “This will also save tonnes of the climate changing gases that are damaging the planet.”

BAA, Keystone and Sainsbury’s are the first to join the Foodwaste to Fuel Alliance, and both BAA and Sainsbury’s are working with the mayor to investigate the possibility of developing anaerobic digestion facilities in and around London.

Heathrow airport alone produces around 8,000 tonnes of food waste each year and BAA wants to investigate whether it is feasible to convert this into bio-gas to generate low-carbon energy or fuel for vehicles.

“Heathrow is committed to reducing its impact on the environment,” said Emma Alexander, head of waste and water at BAA. “We have strict aims to achieve zero waste to landfill by 2020, as well as increasing recycling to 70 per cent.”

Sainsbury’s is exploring anaerobic digestion as part of a planned wider portfolio of waste facilities that will help the company deliver its “zero waste to landfill” goal.

“We began investing in waste-to-energy technology over a year ago,” said Alison Austin, Sainsbury’s environment manager. “Progress has been so quick that by the end of this summer, all of the food waste from our 500 supermarkets around the country will be connected to our Zero Food Waste to Landfill network, meaning it will be diverted from landfill and used to generate electricity.”

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