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BioNova: Our 'recycling solution' is way forward

27 October 2010

Clive Tayton, MD of BioNova – winner of Food Processing’s Energy Management Award, on his company's Biodigester and how it provides energy recovery from waste onsite

With the government-backed renewable heat incentive (RHI) set to give businesses a financial incentive to produce renewable heat, Tayton believes his ‘recycling solution’ is the way forward.

A typical conversation I (CT) currently have with a potential meat processing customer (PC) goes something like this:

PC: “We already recycle our food waste; it gets picked up and taken to an Anaerobic Digestion (AD) Plant somewhere''

CT: “Oh, and how much do they pay you?''

PC: “Erm..... they don’t pay us.................erm.................we pay them to take it away!''

CT: “So, you pay them...? – OK, what benefits do you get from the energy that is generated from your waste?.. perhaps a share of the feed-in tarrif..?''

PC: “''.

I could go on. I could point out using HGVs to transport waste from their premises (to who knows where) puts a large dent in any ‚‘we are green' argument...

Sending waste to an AD plant is obviously a positive step forward from a time not that long ago when almost everything seemed to go to landfill. But if your meat processing plant generates about 1,000 litres or more of organic waste per week you can stop spending money and start making money.

Removing say, 10 tonnes of food waste per week can cost a company more than £2,000 per month. We’ve just helped Moto, the UK's market leader in motorway service areas, reduce food waste at their Exeter site – and they are now looking to close the loop by introducing a biomass boiler so that they can generate energy from it.

This makes perfect sense, especially with the renewable heat incentive (RHI) on its way in April 2011. The installation of eligible renewable heating technologies will provide long-term, fixed payments based on the type of renewable heat installation. This will apply to heat installations of all sizes and include heat generated from solid biomass, biogas and the injection of biomethane into the gas grid.

Our latest installation is at a prestigious hotel and country club in the Midlands. Here they’ve immediately chosen the boiler option, to provide heating for their swimming pool and ancillary buildings. Kitchen food waste is fed directly into the Biodigester, which breaks it all down in 72 hours or less.

We’ve added a shredder to this machine so soft cardboard and garden waste can be added too – as well installing a separate fuel pod that converts the kitchen’s waste cooking oil into biodiesel to power some of the hotel’s vehicles and mowers.

I realise there are businesses that see waste as ‘something somebody else should deal with’, but tipping waste into a hopper isn’t that difficult; our customers at Gordonstoun School, IKEA and Honda certainly don’t think so.

There’s plenty of hype about food waste for anaerobic digestion but you don’t hear much about how long it can take to get a biogas plant working properly – and how many of them have problems or simply just don’t work. I just can’t see the logic in giving away, let alone paying someone else to remove a valuable product that you own!

High energy costs are also glossed over by some companies offering so-called environmental solutions. Our Biodigester utilises bacteria, oxygen and heat to convert food-waste into a nitrogen-rich material, using just 1kW hour to process between 10kg to 15kg (at 6p per kW hour that’s about £6 per tonne).

There’s no catch. Apart from a very high liquid (>80%) or fat (>20%) content, BioNova is suitable for virtually any organic waste application, including Category 2 & Category 3 animal waste. We’ve had a couple of instances where over-enthusiastic personnel thought it easier to try and feed the Biodigester a day’s waste all at once – and not surprisingly, just like a human stomach, it took longer to digest!

During the past 18 months, many of our enquiries have come from hotels and catering companies at large schools, but increasingly we’re hearing from food producers who are realising it’s a no-brainer not to recycle their waste onsite and introduce a biomass boiler for heating. It’s a joined-up environmental solution that makes sense and makes savings.

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