The energy crisis, schools, and food waste

Nine million children throughout the UK returned to school last week. Every day, these children consume lunches provided by the school or a packed lunch from home. Consequently, data from the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) show that UK primary and secondary schools waste 96,000 tonnes of food yearly. Yet, few formal food waste recycling programmes are available to schools, other academic institutions, army barracks, hospitals, and more extensive kitchen facilities.

The energy crisis, schools, and food waste

The benefit of recycling non-household food waste through the AD process is evident: reducing harmful Green House Gas (GHG) emissions, producing renewable energy, providing a sustainable transportation fuel, and creating a nutrient-rich fertiliser. These benefits contribute positively to some of the more prominent issues the UK faces today, including the energy crisis, cost of living and the preservation of soil quality.

Schools might be wise to review their waste collection in terms of economics. Gas prices have risen after Russia invaded Ukraine, making AD economics more favourable. Furthermore, AD plants have become more efficient, and as a result, the cost of recycling food has decreased, making recycling food waste more affordable. The Green Gas Support Scheme (GGSS) has also meant that new plants need fifty per cent waste-derived gas, meaning waste that once commanded a gate fee now often attracts a fee. In an era where green is no longer seen as trendy but essential, not recycling waste from schools and other prominent government bodies is wasteful and not the right message for younger generations. The new Truss government need to mandate food recycling in all publicly controlled bodies and make it clear that we are serious about the green agenda.

Due to the current energy crisis, it is inherent that the UK have independent and locally produced gas and electricity sources. Biogas derived from recycling food waste through Anaerobic Digestion makes a valuable contribution to our quest for net zero. When biogas is upgraded into a more versatile fuel called biomethane, it can be sold and injected directly into the UK national gas grid for use by homes and businesses. Additionally, biogas can be upgraded to liquid bio-LNG or compressed bio-CNG and used throughout the transport sector. Because bio-LNG and bio-CNG have almost an identical chemical composition to LNG and CNG, they can be used in cars, lorries, and heavy-duty transport vehicles as renewable energy sources.

In conclusion, recycling school food waste and waste from other academic institutions would provide economic benefits directly to schools, government, and local authorities. In addition, there are environmental advantages in the form of renewable energy and biofuel and reducing GHG emissions. However, we need to do better in capturing and recycling these wastes.

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