When food waste is disposed of along with black bag waste, it is sent to landfill where it soon begins to biodegrade and decomposes creating methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas that causes significant damage to the environment. It is quite important to look into two green alternatives to landfill.
It is crucial to divert this type of organic waste from our landfill sites, to reduce the amount of methane gas being released into the atmosphere, because as well as damaging our environment needlessly this is a complete waste of a potentially valuable resource.
Our last blog was about food waste and so this week we thought we’d continue with this theme.
Here are two options for utilising our food waste in a much greener and more sustainable way:
Composting Food To Create Fertiliser
Food can be composted to create a natural fertiliser to enhance the soil and produce healthier crops, reducing reliance on synthetic alternatives.
Composting is a completely natural process that occurs in nature when plant vegetation falls to the ground where it decomposes, releasing a range of nutrients and minerals that are subsequently used by microorganisms, plants and animals.
The key difference when creating compost on a small scale or in a large scale facility is the need to create an environment whereby the temperature of the decomposing material becomes high enough to speed up the composting process and destroy seeds and pathogens that would not normally be destroyed through the natural decomposition process.
The main benefits of composting food waste include:
– The diversion of organic materials from landfill
– The reduction of leachate & methane production in landfill sites
– The creation of a useful & natural product
– The potential to reduce dependence on chemical fertilisers & pesticides
Anaerobic Digestion – Creating Renewable Energy
The process of anaerobic digestion is another process that occurs naturally when there is an absence of oxygen and microorganisms begin to break down organic material, such as food waste. Nowadays, anaerobic digestion is used widely as a method of managing food waste whilst creating an excellent renewable energy source – biogas – a combination of methane, carbon dioxide and small traces of several other contaminant gases.
Biogas is a clean burning fuel that can be burnt directly and when used in a gas engine, the energy in the gas can be converted into either heat or electricity. This fuel can also be upgraded to Bio methane, making it suitable for use as a transport fuel.
Currently in the UK it is primarily the processing of farm slurry and manure in sealed digester tanks that is producing Biogas. However, organic waste from homes and businesses can be successfully processed in exactly the same way.
The material that remains after the process of anaerobic digestion is complete is called digestate. This is a nutrient rich by-product, which is an excellent natural soil conditioner and a nutrient rich fertiliser.
The key benefits of anaerobic digestion include:
Anaerobic digestion plants continue to gain popularity in the UK with a growing number of farmers and business owners who are keen to reduce their dependence on utility companies by generating their own source of renewable energy whilst reducing their carbon footprint by becoming greener and more sustainable.
In addition to being environmentally friendly and cost saving, many businesses are finding that they are able to enjoy an attractive stream of income through the sale of surplus energy and digestate. It will be fascinating to see how this exciting sector of the waste management sector continues to progress over coming years.