Dairy boss calls for national anaerobic digestion strategy

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Anaerobic digestion

Britain needs a national strategy to manage anaerobic digestion, said McInnes
Britain needs a national strategy to manage anaerobic digestion, said McInnes
There needs to be a more coherent national strategy for the siting of anaerobic digestion (AD) plants to avoid a glut of them in some areas, and none in others.

That's the view of BV Dairy’s technical and operations director Alan McInnes who said a high number of AD plants to treat food waste – either from the home or businesses – were situated in the south west, resulting in a lack of material to put in them.

BV Dairy houses a pioneering on-site AD plant at its Shaftesbury factory, which is currently providing around 30% of its energy.

The system is different to many other AD plants because the input waste from cheesemaking is relatively diluted due to its high water content. It was also designed specifically to handle the fats associated with dairy production.

Waste disposal costs

While it has been a “major success​” for the firm in terms of reducing waste disposal costs and producing energy, McInnes said he had concerns that there was inadequate central planning for the roll-out of AD as a whole.

​We are now seeing more dairy companies looking at it,”​ he said, "If you are making cheese you have this whey material that you really need to be able to dispose of and this where AD has a real benefit.

​However,​ [on a wider scale] there needs to be some sort of national strategy for dealing with AD because there is no control for where these plants are built.

​It's a young industry that has developed in some ways but really needs to develop in others.”

Waste going to landfill

In its most recent report on its anaerobic digestion strategy and action plan – the ultimate aim of which is to ​reduce the amount of food waste going to landfill​” – the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs distinguished AD sites into two camps: those which treat collected food waste separately, either from households through a local authority (LA) contract or from commercial collections; and those which treat the food waste generated by a single business.

However, it also went on to acknowledge that there were no specific targets for the adoption of AD in either category, adding that locations were ultimately a matter for LAs.

The report stated: ​The strategy did not set specific targets for the adoption of AD and the government does not wish to do so. Instead, the action plan was designed to help ensure there are no unnecessary obstacles to the development of the sector, by addressing the barriers that were identified by industry. The strategy also recognised that it is ultimately a matter for LAs, communities and industry to decide on the technologies that are most suitable for their waste and energy needs.

This approach, said McInnes, had led to ​quite a concentration of them around the south west and, as a result of that, a shortage of material to put in them​.

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