Waste food is set to play a key role in the recycling process after work began on a renewable gas plant in Stockport yesterday.
Bosses from Stockport Council and Fairfield Bio Energy, the company behind the venture, officially began the construction this morning, helped by Hazel Grove MP Andrew Stunell.
Gas will be created using anaerobic digestion, a process which involves food being broken down at the plant by naturally occurring micro-organisms rather than air.
“It’s a natural process, it happens in your stomach and mine, even in a cow’s stomach”, said Bio Group CEO Steve Sharratt OBE, whose business ran a joint venture with British Gas for this project.
“It’s natural in and natural back out again, so it’s a sustainable process and you don’t have any nasty outputs coming from that,” he added.
Food will be taken from local restaurants, hotels and British Gas offices, and will include produce that is out of date or not used in cooking, for example vegetable peel.
This will be the second plant of its kind in the country, and the recycling initiative behind it enjoys strong government support.
“The government is moving ahead to make the country sustainable,” said Mr Stunell, who went on to describe how a new Renewable Heat Incentive provides backing for recycling projects.
“They get an extra payment for supplying gas from this source, so the government is in effect subsidising the company to do this,” he said.
Dave Goddard, Leader of Stockport Council, was enthusiastic about the launch of the new plant and what it could mean for the area.
Stockport is already the fourth best area for recycling in the country, and it boasts easily the strongest figures in the North-West.
“We want to be a clean borough, and part of my clean agenda is about reducing emissions, recycling better and getting the communities involved,” said Mr Goddard.
“From what we’ve seen this morning, which is just a piece of land, in ten months the plant will be doing the business. It’s fantastic.”
Renewable energy plants have been a controversial topic in Greater Manchester in recent days, with a proposed power station in Davyhulme successfully opposed by the Breathe Clean Air Group last week.
That plant would have burned wood to create energy, a process which campaigners said would have led to dangerous gas emissions that could potentially have contained arsenic.
Chairman of the Breath Clean Air Group Pete Kilvert welcomed the use of anaerobic digestion of food instead, saying it eliminated the risk of dangerous ‘particulate matter’ being released into the air.
“It’s far less polluting. There is no particulate matter and there are no contaminants that will go into the atmosphere,” he said.
Mr Sharratt added: “The more you burn of anything, the more greenhouse gases you’re putting into the atmosphere.”
“There’s a very good reason why we should put food waste through anaerobic digestion and not burning, and that is that most food is essentially water.”
The new plant is expected to be completed by this time next year.