Leading water and wastewater company Alpheus Environmental has called for more support for large-scale food and drink manufacturers who want to install anaerobic digestion facilities on-site.
Analysis of existing funding and incentives found that it is more cost-effective for large-scale manufacturers to offset their energy usage by purchasing off-site renewable energy assets – such as a wind farm in Scotland – than produce energy from the company’s own waste through on-site anaerobic digestion.
The opportunity cost is significant, with millions of tonnes of waste going to landfill and millions of litres of wastewater sent to drain that could otherwise be used to produce bioenergy, biosolid sludge products, and to feed large volumes of biogas to the grid.
Current funding and incentives favour farmers and small-scale food companies. Anaerobic digestion in those sectors is thriving with the number of agricultural plants across the UK rising 800% from 50 in 2012 to 450 in 2018.
Meanwhile, there are less than 50 industrial-sized factories with anaerobic digestion in the UK, marking an increase of 100% since 2012 according to ADBA data.
Steven Wilcox, Head of Business Development at Alpheus Environmental, part of Anglian Water Group, remarked:
“Large-scale manufacturers want to do the right thing and meet their sustainability targets, but at present the incentives simply aren’t there for them to choose anaerobic digestion.
“With Brexit generating uncertainty in relation to ingredient sourcing and exports over the next 5 years, manufacturers see the multi-million-pound investment needed to install anaerobic digestion technology as being a risk.
“At the risk of the UK falling behind, the government, wastewater management industry and food & beverage sector need to work together to make anaerobic digestion a more appealing and accessible option.”
In addition to increased funding and incentives, Alpheus suggests that a new green energy and circular economy product marking be considered for manufacturers who invest in on-site renewable energy production.
With consumers increasingly taking the environmental credentials of food manufacturers into account, a specific product marking to reflect a company’s commitment to produce energy from their waste would incentivise and reward companies to invest in on-site anaerobic digestion facilities.


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