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It is time to understand AD, ADBA responds to Policy Connect report

Out of the 674 anaerobic digestion (#AD) plants in the UK, just over 100 treat solely food waste, over three times as many treat agricultural wastes and 164 wastewater, while the rest treat a combination of different organic wastes. All are turning what we perceive as ‘waste’ organic material that would otherwise be causing a health hazard and emitting harmful methane emissions, into green energy and natural bio-fertilisers, demonstrating AD’S role at the heart of the circular economy of organic wastes. AD, therefore, has a central role to play in waste policy in the UK. The first step is to understand this ready to use technology.

In mentioning AD, the latest Policy Connect report, which calls for a Scandinavian approach to waste policy in the UK and argues in favour of Energy from Waste (#EfW) versus landfilling, commits the mistake of referring 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. 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 bio-fertiliser, digestate, that recovers nutrients and organic matter to help restore our depleted soils.

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.

‘EFW plants certainly have a role to play in recycling some wastes,’ said Howard Burton from leading pump and mixer manufacturer, #Landia. ‘But 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 fertiliser.’

#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 –  EfW, 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 L&D event ‘Introduction to AD’ on 25 August 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.’


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