Greenergy, a privately-owned company supplying one fifth of Britain’s road fuel, has started producing biodiesel from food waste.
In partnership with Brocklesby, a specialist in recycling edible oils; unsaleable food products such as crisps and pies, which would previously have gone to landfill or compost, are now being converted for biofuel and energy production.
According to Greenergy, the itiative helps to reduce the environmental impact of the fuel it produces and creates an alternative source of fuel.
Greenergy has invested £50m in its biodiesel production facility in Immingham on the east coast of England to process used cooking oils, which are reported to be more complicated to process than oils such as rapeseed.
The company already uses significant quantities (more than 20m litres a month) of biodiesel from used cooking oil, supplied from a range of food producers.
In order to extend its use of waste-based biofuel, Greenergy is making biodiesel from high fat solid foods such as pies, sausage rolls, pastry and crisps; which are not fit for sale because they are mis-shapen, overcooked or past their sell by date.
These food products, which typically contain between 25% and 30% oil and fat, are sourced from a variety of food manufacturers nationally.
Other suitable foods include taramasalata and oil from fish frying, containing high quantities of breadcrumbs.
The oils and fats in these foods are extracted through a process developed by Brocklesby and purified by Greenergy to make the oils and fats clean enough to be suitable for conversion into biodiesel.
The finished biodiesel is then blended in small quantities into the diesel Greenergy supplies to petrol stations nationally.
Any food solids that remain after processing are dried and then either composted or used to produce energy through anaerobic digestion. In future they could be used to make solid biomass fuel pellets or briquettes, or more fuel for cars in the form of bioethanol, said Greenergy. Waste water is used as a biomass crop fertiliser.
Andrew Owens, Greenergy chief executive, said: “We’ve always tried to find ways of reducing the environmental impact of our fuel and as oil prices continue to rise, it’s obviously important to develop alternative sources of fuel. We are pleased to be at the forefront of finding new feedstocks for biodiesel production.
“The quantities of biodiesel that we’re currently producing from solid food waste are small, but we’re expecting to scale up so this soon becomes a significant proportion of our biodiesel.
“To put it into context, just one of these new facilities could handle enough waste pies or crisps to fill a cruise ship. With multiple plants, the potential for this kind of technology to reduce fuel emissions is considerable.
“It’s great to be taking these products, which would otherwise have gone to landfill or compost, and turning them into a new source of fuel.”