AD ‘Essential Service’ In Time Of Coronavirus Pandemic
Anaerobic digestion (AD) plants in the UK are an essential part of the waste disposal infrastructure and care needs to be taken to ensure they are able to operate at their full capacity during the Coronavirus crisis.
Technical support manager at the Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA) Sam Hinton, recently wrote an article for Circular, detailing how important the sector is for the UK’s waste management.
He explained that there have been two main issues relating to food waste highlighted in the media since the UK went into lockdown to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The first is that there could be a boost in the amount of food waste people are throwing away after stockpiling goods that they’ve been unable to eat or store effectively.
However, the other issue that could lead to shortages of waste for AD plants to deal with is issues with collections caused by staff self-isolating or being forced to take time off work due to illness.
For instance, Mr Hinton cited Luton Borough Council as one example where services are being disrupted as a result of staff absences. In this instance, the council was experiencing “significant disruption to services” because 134 of its staff were self isolating.
This is a potential problem although not one that’s necessarily widespread across the country, with many local authorities reporting no or minimal disruption to their collection activities. Mr Hinton added that one of the big challenges ahead will be reducing food waste from households and ensuring that what food waste there is goes to AD, rather than landfill or to be incinerated.
Mr Hinton also explained that the other reason AD plants could face a shortage of material is because waste isn’t only generated by households. Hospitality, manufacturing and retail all generate food waste that often goes to AD plants.
With many businesses currently closed or unable to operate, there will be considerably less waste coming from these sources than you would normally expect.
This means that the AD industry needs to be flexible in its approach and consider using alternative feedstock types to make up any shortfall, which is currently projected to be as much as ten to 15 per cent for some operators, even when allowing for a greater amount of waste coming from households.
“Operators should ensure the process and bacteria are closely monitored and transitioned at a steady rate to prevent biological instability, which can lead to operational and health and safety issues,” Mr Hinton asserted.
The government has recently announced a £3.25 million fund to help with the redistribution of food to prevent too much going to waste during the Coronavirus pandemic. Food Navigator reported on the new grants, which will be shared among food redistribution organisations across England.
CEO of Sheffield-based food redistribution organisation The Food Works Rene Meijer told the publication that they have “doubled the amount of food we redistribute, as many tonnes of food goes spare from businesses closing and people changing their shopping habits”.
Make sure your AD plant is ready for whatever the coming months bring by installing the best pressure vacuum relief valves at your facility.