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British Supermarket Powered By Food Waste

GinaMarie headshotWords by Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Energy & Environment

The British supermarket chain, Sainsbury’s announced that one of its stores will be powered by its food waste. All of the electricity used by the store in Cannock, England will come from what’s called anaerobic digestion, which turns food waste into bio-methane gas that is used to generate electricity. Sainsbury’s partners with Biffa which has anaerobic digestion facilities. Through its use of bio-methane gas, the store is able to come off the national grid for its electricity use. Biffa is one of the leading waste management companies in the UK. The company operates a number of food waste treatment facilities in the UK which recycle or reuse 100,000 tons of food waste a year.

The food waste that powers the stores comes from Sainsbury’s stores across the UK. Any food waste that is not fit for charitable donations or animal feed is sent to the anaerobic digestion facility in Staffordshire and is converted into energy. The electricity for the Cannock store is sent directly through a new 1.5 km long electricity cable from the Staffordshire facility, which opened in 2011. The Staffordshire facility is the largest one in the U.K. that uses food waste, and is licensed to process 120,000 tons of food waste a year.

Sainsbury’s is the U.K.’s largest retail user of anaerobic digestion, generating enough energy to power 2,500 homes a year. Sainsbury’s started partnering with Biffa in 2005 to reduce the company’s waste. Through the partnership, Sainsbury’s achieved its sustainability goal of putting all its store waste to use and keeping it from landfill in 2013. All general waste from stores is either recycled or turned into fuel.

Food waste is a big problem

Food waste is a big problem globally. Up to half of the food produced globally ends up wasted, according to a report by the London-based Institute of Mechanical Engineers. The world produces about four billion metric tons of food a year and an estimated 30 to 50 percent is wasted (1.2 to two billion tons). Food waste has a big environmental impact because rotting food emits methane, a greenhouse gas with a warming potential 23 times greater than carbon dioxide.

Estimates by the UN Environmental Environment Program (UNEP) reveal that the amount of food wasted in rich countries is almost as much food as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa. The amount of food lost or wasted every year is equivalent to more than half of the world’s annual cereals crop. British households waste an estimated 6.7 million tons of food a year, about one-third of the food purchased. In the U.S. about 30 percent of all food is wasted and organic waste is the second largest component of landfills which are the largest source of methane emissions.

Image credit: Sainsbury

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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