OUT OF the 674 anaerobic digestion plants in the UK, just over 100 treat solely food waste, and over three times as many treat agricultural wastes.

Calling on the UK government to adopt a more 'Scandinavian approach' to waste policy, the Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association has highlighted the role that the technology is already playing in the British economy, and pointed to its 'enormous potential' to do more.

AD's core function is to turn what society perceives as ‘waste’ organic material – that would otherwise be causing a health hazard and emitting harmful methane emissions – into green energy and natural biofertilisers, creating a circular economy of organic wastes. By definition, it should play a central role in waste policy in the UK, but ADBA suggested there was a need to cultivate a 'better understanding' of its use, particularly as the government's latest Policy Connect report mistakenly refers to AD solely as a technology for the treatment of food waste.

"AD is a widely available circular economy technology – indeed it has been treating our sewage here in the UK for decades – which has been recognised as the preferred technology for managing residual food waste, as acknowledged in the Policy Connect report," said ADBA. "However, its role in recycling wastes to generate energy goes far beyond that. AD treats, and most importantly, recycles, a much greater range of organic wastes into green renewable energy and a low carbon biofertilizer, digestate, that recovers nutrients and organic matter to help restore our depleted soils."

The trade body pointed out that, when pledging to achieve Net Zero by 2040, the National Farmers Union identified AD as a key technology to meet its ambitious target.

“AD has a role in agriculture across all scales," said NFU chief renewable energy adviser Jonathan Scurlock, “using animal manures, crops and crop by-products to create low-carbon gas to replace fossil fuels and petrochemicals, while returning nutrients and organic matter to land – and perhaps in the future to actively remove CO2 from the atmosphere.”

AD is also a vital technology for the treatment of wastewater.

Howard Burton from pump and mixer manufacturer, Landia, said:“With the increasing amount of digester mixing equipment that we are supplying to UK water companies, we can see first-hand just how valuable a feedstock wastewater sludge is for Anaerobic Digestion plants. AD/Biogas provides a tremendous opportunity to bolster both electricity and gas supplies, whilst also recycling a wide range of organic wastes (not just food waste), and producing a valuable fertilizer.”

ADBA chief executive Charlotte Morton said: “AD and the specificity of our sector remain widely misunderstood. Since this technology by definition has application in many different sectors, AD is often grouped with other technologies under various labels – Energy from Waste, Renewables, Bioenergy, Biofuels – without a clear understanding of AD’s role at the heart of the circular economy and its enormous potential.

"Lack of awareness is often the underlying cause, therefore we at ADBA call on the Government, civil servants and local authorities to attend ADBA’s event 'Introduction to AD' on August 25 to educate themselves on this incredible technology which can deliver a 6% reduction of total UK carbon emissions today, and with it 30,000 new green jobs.”